Accessing help from beyond
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Accessing help from beyond

“The Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints & Sages” features men and women, Jews and gentiles, ancients and moderns.

In a class presented not long ago at Teaneck’s Temple Emeth – scheduled to be repeated in February at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades – author Judika Illes focuses on three relatively modern Jewish holy women.

The oldest is Asenath Barzani (1590-1670) of Kurdistan, “considered by many to be the first pre-modern woman to be awarded the title ‘rabbi,'” says Illes.

She was a student of her father, Rabbi Samuel Barzani, who had no sons.

“When she got married, her father stipulated in the ketubah [marriage contract] that she must never be troubled by housework so she would have time to continue her studies,” says Illes.

Asenath Barzani was said to perform miracles of fertility and healing using the power of touch and blessings. Her grave in Amadiyah, in present-day Iraq, was a pilgrimage site for centuries.

Save the date
Judika Illes will present her program, “Forgotten Jewish Holy Women,” for REAP (Retired Executives and Professionals) at the JCC on the Palisades on Feb. 28, 2012.

Better known among Ashkenazim is the Maid of Ludomir, born in 1806 in present-day Ukraine.

“In a lot of ways, she was very much a forerunner of women in the modern Orthodox community who want to be community leaders. She taught men and women, but was always Orthodox. She had a mechitzah; she just put men in the back,” says Illes.

An only child, she received an education befitting a wealthy Jewish boy instead of a girl’s. When her parents died, “she inherited their fortune and she built herself a yeshiva. She was reputedly a wonderful healer and created amulets. People came from far and wide for her cures.”

She was “always a controversial person,” says Illes.

The third woman, Solica Hatchoel, known as Lalla Solica, was born in 1817 in Morocco and died, a martyr, in 1834. (See encyclopedia excerpt for details.)

“These women led unique lives,” says Illes.

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