Shoshana Gugenheim: For social practice artist, Shoshana Gugenheim, cultivating change through collaboration is the primary medium. As a young woman developing her artistic self, Shoshana felt called to learn how to scribe the core, sacred text of the Jewish people, the sefer Torah (the Hebrew bible). Over time, she came to understand that, of the groups of people whose scribal work would be considered unfit for public use, only one group held a status that could never change, thereby making them forever ineligible to scribe: women. Ten years ago, unwilling to continue living under this prohibition, Shoshana began scribing her first Torah scroll, thereby opening the gate for other women to enter.
For Shoshana Gugenheim, the act of writing a sefer Torah was only one aspect of what would become her medium for change. Understanding that traditional midrash (interpretive commentary) has primarily been written by men, Shoshana felt compelled to address the absence of women’s voices from the very text she was copying. She envisioned a vast group of women artists, each voicing her own commentary on one parasha (weekly portion). The sum of these women’s voices would render a complete visual commentary of the Torah. Thus, Women of the Book was born.
Shoshana aimed to have this global in-gathering of Jewish women artists infuse Judaism with a balancing, feminine voice. The challenges of joining creative endeavor with traditional text, media and methods fulfills the essence of Social Practice Art and serves as the basis of Women of the Book.
Judith Margolis: Artist and essayist Judith Margolis, co-curator of Women of the Book, has been representing the project abroad, recruiting and mentoring artists since its inception. As Art Editor of NASHIM: Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues (University of Indiana), she has written about Jewish feminist art for many years. A number of her subjects are also participants in the project. Judith’s art and writing explore the notion of “creative response to infirmity,” and chronicle tensions between social consciousness, feminism, and religious ritual tradition, especially, but not exclusively, in Judaism.
Dr. Ronit Steinberg: Art historian and theorist, Dr. Ronit Steinberg, (Bezalel Academy of Art and Design; Schechter Institute) brings a knowledgeable, critical perspective to the historical development of Jewish art to Women of the Book. Her doctoral research on gender, feminism, and Jewish identity deepens Ronit’s articulation of Women of the Book’s historic importance. Her curatorial work helped shape the project into a groundbreaking opportunity for Jewish women artists across the globe to express their voices and visions.
Yair Medina: Founding Director of Jerusalem Fine Art Prints, Yair Medina, integrates the soul and business of aesthetic enterprise. Foremost an artist—trained professionally as a photographer—he possesses a brilliant eye and keen insight. Yair provides crucial consultation and support to the artists he publishes, both in Israel and across the globe. Yair understood the visionary power of Women of the Book early on. Through his masterful design, he has addressed the unique beauty and potential of the project. His foresight, hard work, and persistence has been instrumental to making Women of the Book’s debut exhibit a success in the heart of his beloved Jerusalem. Yair and his team at Jerusalem Publishing Atelier will be overseeing the reproduction of the project through fine art limited edition prints, an art book and more.
Benyamin Lichtenstein, Ph.D.: Advises regarding business and social entrepreneurial aspects of Women of the Book. He is an Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship for the College of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Benyamin has been applying the non-linear sciences to help understand organizational emergence, new venture creation and growth, as well as the dynamics of leadership, management, collaboration, and sustainability. He is the author of Generative Emergence. www.generativeemergence.org
Bonna Devora Haberman z”l: Provided consult and direction for research on related women’s issues. Bonna earned her doctorate in Ethics and Education at the University of London. Having grown up in Canada, studied in the USA and England, her work in and out of the academy fused critical interpretation of texts and culture with passion for social betterment. She taught at the Hebrew University, at Harvard and at Brandeis University where she founded and directed the Mistabra Institute for Textual Activism, addressing difficult social problems with creative strategies. Bonna was the co-founder of Y-Theater and a founder of Women of the Wall, an Israeli movement for women’s public participation and leadership. Her two books, Israel Spirit Matters: A Text-based Approach to Zionism in Crisis and Blood and Ink: Liberating Religion were released to great acclaim in 2013. Her work is carried forward by a global community of activists, academics and artists.