Monday, September 13, 2010

First woman rubbi was Kurdish

12 September 2010

Asenath Barzanî from South Kurdistan was the first known woman rabbi in Jewish history

There are not many female rabbis in the Jewish history. The first known female rabbi in the history is Asenath Barzanî, a Kurdish woman from South Kurdistan.

Regina Jones who was officially declared rabbi in the German capital Berlin in 1935 used to known as the first female rabbi in the Jewish history. However, this information corrected recently by historian who unveiled documents indicating that a woman called Asenath of Barzani region in South Kurdistan was declared as rabbi in the 17th century.

Asenath Barzanî was born in 1590. She was the daughter of the Rabbi of the Jews in the south Kurdistan Samuel Barzanî, who trained his daughter and taught her the mystic secrets of Judaism which he never revealed to anyone. According to the historians, Asenath Barzanî wrote in his biography: “During my entire life I did not step out of the house. I was the daughter of the King of Israel. I was educated by rabbis. My father was focusing too much on me that he did not teach me any art or handicraft but divinity.”

Director of the Seminary in Mosul

Asenath was married to rabbi Jacop ben Îbrahîm Mîzrahî Amêdî by her father with one condition that she would not do any housework and would continue Kabalah education, which rabbi Îbrahîm Mîzrahî complied with.

After they got married Jacop ben Îbrahîm Mîzrahî Amêdî became the responsible of the Jewish religious school in Mosul called Yeshivan Seminary. While they were living in Mosul Asenath gave birth to a son and a daughter. After Îbrahîm Mîzrahî passed away in an early age Asenath became the director of the seminary in Mosul which was a beginning in the Jewish history. Similarly, the death of her father Asenath also undertook many duties of her father and travelled through out South Kurdistan in order to gather Jews.

The Miracle in Amêdî

The legend of Asenath started from than and on. She was not only famous among the Jewish community but across the region and among the Kurds, especially in Amêdî. The people would take her patients to Asenath and seek cure.

One night, Asenath dreams of her deceased father who wanted her to go to Amêdî and celebrate Rosh Hodes fest with the Jewish community there. It was the time when the Jewish in Amêdî were facing threats, but Asenath obeyed her father’s request and went to Amêdî.

Although the Jewish in Amêdî under threat and scared, Asenath managed to gather them in the synagogue to celebrate the Rosh Hodes fest. During the mass yelling and screams arose and a fire starts in the synagogue. Although there was no one in the building it was full of holy books and texts. At this moment Asenath starts reciting unheard invocations and houris appear in the air, who distinguish the fire and then disappear. The ruin of the synagogue which was given Asenath’s name today still remains in Amêdî.

Known for poetry

Apart from her miracles Asenath was also famous for the poetry that she wrote. Her poetry, written in Hebrew, has a special place in the Jewish literature in which does not have many female poets.

Asenath passed away in Amêdî in 1670 where she was also buried. Her tomb is still visited by the Jews from Israel.

Kurdish Jews are Orthodox

Jewish historians state that the Kurdish Jews follow Orthodox tradition. The traditions which were broke by Asenath in the 17th century became influential in South Kurdistan again in the 20th century. While there were no other female rabbis in the region the women were also suppressed by the male culture. Due to threats faced by the Kurdish Jews they are known for being orthodox as a result of self-protection instinct.

The link between Jewish from Barzani region and the Barzani family still remains as a matter of curiosity. The Jewish historians find these allegations baseless. According to the Barzani surname reflects the region where the people originate from however, it does not mean that these people are related to each other more than a neighbourhood.

All the Jewish Kurds with Barzani surname abounded the region and immigrated to Israel between 1920- 40 where they took part in Zionist movement. Barzani Jewish also have specific sub-dialect. The last Barzani-Hebrew speaker this dialect died in 1998. There are only 20 persons in Israel who can speak but not write Barzani Hebrew in Israel.

There are only 30 Jews currently living in South Kurdistan. Before 1948, the foundation a Jewish state in Israel the number of the Jews in South Kurdistan was 100 thousand.