Dina Ripsman Eylon, founder and editor of the feminist online journal Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal calls it her labour of love.
Founded 11 years ago, the journal, at www.womeninjudaism.org, is devoted to scholarly debate on gender-related issues in Judaism.
A Israeli native who has been here 27 years, Eylon is a writer and mother of three adult children who teaches Hebrew at the University of Toronto. She received her PhD at U of T in Near and Middle Eastern civilizations.
The journal, she said, is intended to discuss and bring to the forefront gender inequalities within Jewish religion, culture and society, both ancient and modern.
The seeds of the journal were planted, she said, when she was living in Israel and doing research for an article on women in the military in pre-state Israel.
“It dawned on me that despite the fact that [certain women] were instrumental in military organizations, nothing was mentioned in the history books or textbooks of the period. Growing up in Israel in the ’60s and ’70s, I was not aware of any women except for Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi, the wife of the second president of Israel,” Eylon said.
“This realization hit me hard. I decided that I needed to take some action to rectify the situation.”
When she started the journal, she said, the Internet was just coming into the mainstream. “I was a trendsetter. I didn’t have the funds to publish a print journal, which would have a limited audience. By being online – the site is hosted by U of T– millions of people can access it.”
As well as featuring works by prominent scholars, Eylon said, she also promotes young and emerging scholars, and she makes it a priority to “give voice to materials that would never by published by ‘malestream’ Jewish periodicals. We welcome a diversity of points of view, conflicting or harmonizing, in order to develop a genuine dialogue.”
Submissions – the journal comes out twice a year – can include book and film reviews, biographical and academic essays, and fiction such as short stories or poetry.
The journal has male readers and non-Jewish readers, and they are welcome to contribute, “as long as their work serves our purpose. By reaching out to Jewish and non-Jewish men and women alike, I know that we are able to bring on a change,” she said.
“We have guidelines on our site for those who want to contribute, and every article goes through a blind review process. There are 60 people on the editorial board, and they all work for free.”
She feels fulfilled every time a new issue comes out, she said. “I feel that years of contemplation, introspection and ideological formation stand behind every published word.”
She puts a lot of time into the journal, she said, “but I love it. It is a service to the community.”
When she started it 11 years ago, she had to solicit articles, “but now that the journal has taken off my in box is full of submissions. I have enough to fill at least the next two or three issues.”