Jewish Women in Ancient Synagogues: Archeological Reality vs. Rabbinical Legislation

Hannah Wortzman

Abstract


Several ancient synagogues, active from the fourth to the sixth century of the Common Era, contained images of women with exposed body parts, against which the Talmudic sages legislated and deemed licentious. This paper suggests that despite the rabbinic legislation requiring women to cover certain parts of their body, segments of the Jewish society held different views as to what was considered indecent. Moreover, the fact that these images were discovered in synagogues proposes an even bolder assumption, that is, that these women’s images were tolerated during the services.

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