elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Savina J. Teubal (July 25, 1926 – November 20, 2005)

Savina Teubal grew up in Argentina in what she described as a "tight-knit" and sophisticated Syrian Jewish community that celebrated learning and the preservation of tradition—for sons. Savina became her own woman as she made her way to England and then to America, applying her natural understanding of the imperative of social activism and community building to create connections in her new home. In her thirties, she began to study, and claimed as her own the Biblical legacy of her people. Her ground-breaking work, Sarah the Priestess, (first published in 1984), was Savina's first gift to the world. Her reading of the Hebrew Bible's account of the first matriarch opened hearts and minds to the power of women's stories in shaping a collective consciousness. Her pioneering work opened the way to teachers, rabbis, and writers across the world to create midrash [interpretation] that would enable modern readers to reconsider the biblical narratives as living stories of real women and real choices. In 1990, her readers welcomed her second book, Hagar the Egyptian. Anita Diamant might never have imagined The Red Tent without Savina Teubal's work, and thousands who have returned to Judaism were beckoned by her recasting of ancient narratives that illuminate contemporary dilemmas.

Savina's contribution to Judaism was not limited to her books, articles, and her rich works of fiction. Harnessing the power of ritual, she boldly created a ceremony for becoming an elder. Her intention and keen understanding of the interconnections of time, space, language, and sacred objects enabled her to fashion her Simchat Hochmah ["Joy of Wisdom"], a ritual that marked the transition of an individual in the context of community that itself was transformed in the process. She was partnered by a composer, a poet, and rabbis who helped her to create a ceremony that became a model for "celebrations of wisdom" across the Jewish world. Savina chose Shabbat Lech Lecha [the Sabbath on which the Torah portion about Abraham's journey is read] for her "simcha," and as she ascended to the Torah for the first time in her life, she compared her own journey to that of Sarai and Avram as they went forth to a new and unknown future. After leading her congregation in prayer, in preparation for the Torah service, Savina donned a kittel, a traditional burial shroud, to acknowledge that this celebration was also the beginning of the last chapter of her life. Many of who joined her that brilliant Shabbat morning in November 1986 in Los Angeles were stunned by the dissonance between Savina's vitality and this symbol of death. With clarity and strength, Savina reminded all of us of the imperative of "numbering our days." On that Shabbat morning, Debbie Friedman introduced "Lechi Lach," written with Savina, a song that encourages each of us be a source of, and an agent for blessing.

Savina reclaimed the stories of Sarah and Hagar through her writing, and through her life. Like Sarah, Savina went forth into new lands, without maps or mentors to guide her. Like Sarah and Hagar, Savina lived in a patriarchal world, challenging that world with her choices and her clarity about the work she was called to complete. The last week of Savina's life was the week in which Jews around the world read the portion VaYera, which tells of Abraham and Sarah's gracious welcome to the strangers revealed as God's messengers. Savina was one the founders of a long-standing Shabbat minyan, "Shabbat Sheni," and of the vibrant community, "Sarah's Tent." Savina's home, like Sarah's, was open to those who gathered to celebrate Shabbat, to welcome the new month, to study Torah, or to plan for the feminist transformation of the world. (by Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell)

Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell has been teaching and writing about Jewish women's history and feminist spirituality for the past 20 years. The Founding Director of the Los Angeles Jewish Feminist Center and a founder of B'not Esh, Elwell edited the new Reform haggadah The Open Door, and Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation. For more information on Rabbi Elwell, see the Jewish Women's Archive exhibit "Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution."

Source: http://jwa.org/weremember/teubal

Savina J. Teubal, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1125714)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)

Further Readings:

Sarah The Priestess: The First Matriarch Of Genesis by Savina Teubal
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Swallow Press (July 15, 1984)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0804008442
ISBN-13: 978-0804008440
Amazon: Sarah The Priestess: The First Matriarch Of Genesis

Hagar, Sarah, and Their Children: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives by Phyllis Trible and Letty M. Russell
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (March 2, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0664229824
ISBN-13: 978-0664229825
Amazon: Hagar, Sarah, and Their Children: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives

In different ways, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all trace their beginnings to Abraham. His wives, Hagar and Sarah, though also pivotal in the story, have received far less attention. In this book, however, noted Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars focus on Hagar, Sarah, and their children, from Ishmael and Isaac to their many descendents through the centuries.

Moving from ancient and medieval sources to contemporary appropriations of the Sarah and Hagar story, the authors begin with an overview of the three religions--from their scriptural beginnings to their contemporary questions. They then explore how the story was developed after its canonization, in rabbinic interpretations, in the stories of Islam, and in the teachings of the early church fathers. They also present contemporary womanist and feminist perspectives. Timely, relevant, and provocative, this book provides an entree into interreligious discussion and understanding.

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

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Tags: essayist: savina j. teubal, particular voices

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