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Reproductive Authority among Haredi Women

Raucher Book.jpg

Date: Monday, December 07, 2020

Time: 07:00pm

Funded by the Sagner Family Foundation

Michal Raucher in conversation
with Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt

Conceiving Agency: Reproductive Authority among Haredi Women, (forthcoming Indiana University Press Fall 2020).

Conceiving Agency explores the ways Israeli Haredi Jewish women make decisions about their reproductive lives. Although they must contend with interference from doctors, rabbis, and the Israeli government, Haredi women find space for—and insist on—autonomy from them when they make decisions regarding the use of contraceptives, prenatal testing, fetal ultrasounds, and other reproductive practices. Drawing on their experiences of pregnancy, knowledge of cultural norms of reproduction, and theological beliefs, Raucher shows that Haredi women assert that they are in the best position to make decisions about reproduction.

Conceiving Agency puts forward a new view of Haredi women acting in ways that challenge male authority and the structural hierarchies of their conservative religious tradition. Raucher asserts that Haredi women’s reproductive agency is a demonstration of women's commitment to Haredi life and culture as well as an indication of how they define religious ethics.

Recording of the Discussion


Avital headshotAvital Chizhik-Goldschmidt is a writer living in New York City. She is the life editor at The Forward, and was previously a reporter for Haaretz. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Vox, and Salon, among others. Avital has taught journalism at Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women, and does pastoral work alongside her husband Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

RaucherMichal Raucher is an assistant professor and Undergraduate Director in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. Her research lies at the intersection of Israel studies, religious ethics, and the anthropology of women in Judaism. As a Fulbright Fellow, Dr. Raucher conducted ethnographic research on reproductive ethics of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish women in Israel. She has been awarded grants from the Wenner Gren Foundation for anthropological research, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the Crown Family Foundation. Drawing on this research, Michal published her first book, Conceiving Agency: Reproductive Authority among Haredi Women with Indiana University Press. Michal has degrees from Columbia University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate from Northwestern University. She is currently researching the ordination of Orthodox Jewish women in Israel and America with the support of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the American Academy of Religion, the University of Cincinnati, and the Israel Institute.


Interview in The Times of Israel on January 6, 2021
Article in Jewish Link on December 3, 2020

Article in Jewish Standard on December 2, 2020

Click to read a piece in 
The New York Jewish Week