The Maiden of Ludmir: A Jewish Holy Woman and Her World

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University of California Press, Oct 6, 2003 - Biography & Autobiography - 329 pages
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Hannah Rochel Verbermacher, a Hasidic holy woman known as the Maiden of Ludmir, was born in early-nineteenth-century Russia and became famous as the only woman in the three-hundred-year history of Hasidism to function as a rebbe or charismatic leader in her own right. Nathaniel Deutsch follows the traces left by the Maiden in both history and legend to fully explore her fascinating story for the first time. "The Maiden of Ludmir "offers powerful insights into the Jewish mystical tradition, into the Maiden s place within it, and into the remarkable Jewish community of Ludmir. Her biography ultimately becomes a provocative meditation on the complex relationships between history and memory, Judaism and modernity. History first finds the Maiden in the eastern European town of Ludmir, venerated by her followers as a master of the Kabbalah, teacher, and visionary, and accused by her detractors of being possessed by a "dybbuk, " or evil spirit. Deutsch traces the Maiden s steps from Ludmir to Ottoman Palestine, where she eventually immigrated and re-established herself as a holy woman. While the Maiden s story including her adamant refusal to marry recalls the lives of holy women in other traditions, it also brings to light the largely unwritten history of early-modern Jewish women. To this day, her transgressive behavior, a challenge to traditional Jewish views of gender and sexuality, continues to inspire debate and, sometimes, censorship within the Jewish community.
 

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Contents

1 A Dybbuk Trilogy or How the Maiden of Ludmir Became a Literary Figure
12
2 Writing the Maiden
34
Remembering the Maiden
46
Ludmir Before the Maiden
60
5 Birth and Childhood
75
6 Love and Death
87
Illustrations
100
7 The Maiden Possessed
101
9 The Witchhunt in Ludmir
144
10 The Wedding and Its Aftermath
173
11 In the Holy Land
190
Tracing the Maiden
211
Journey to Ludmir
227
NOTES
241
BIBLIOGRAPHY
285
INDEX
299

8 False Male and Woman Rebbe?
124

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About the author (2003)

Nathaniel Deutsch is Professor of Literature and History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of Guardians of the Gate: Angelic Vice Regency in Late Antiquity (1999) and The Gnostic Imagination: Gnosticism, Mandaeism, and Merkabah Mysticism (1995), and the coeditor with Y. Chireau, of Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism (2000).

Janusz Bardach is a world-renowned plastic and reconstructive surgeon. He lives in Iowa City with his family. Kathleen Gleeson is a graduate of the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program and also lives in Iowa City. Adam Hochschild is the author of "King Leopold's Ghost".

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