Rachel Rafael Neis

A public lecture by Rachel Rafael Neis: "When a Woman Gives Birth to a Raven: Rabbis and the Reproduction of Species in Late Antiquity " will take place on Monday, January 27th, at 4:30pm in Swift Hall Common Room (1st floor).

The biblical idea of the human as an image of God is often touted as a quintessentially Jewish, Christian, or “Judeo-Christian,” tradition. This talk traces an alternate approach to the human, one that travels through late ancient rabbinic reproductive and zoological science, and that was formed in a world of reproductive unpredictability. Ostensibly unrelated rabbinic sources – including tractates on women’s menstrual purity, animal donations to the temple, and the forbidden mixings of species – point to a rabbinic gynecology intertwined with zoology. These intertwined ideas, we will show, provide the basis for broader considerations about the coming into being of creaturely life, and the distinctions and overlaps between humans and other species.

Rachel Rafael Neis holds the Jean and Samuel Frankel Chair in Rabbinics and is an associate professor appointed in History and Judaic Studies. Serving as core faculty in the Interdepartmental Program in Greek and Roman History at the University of Michigan, Neis is also affiliated faculty with the STS Program, the Institute of Research on Women and Gender, and the Department of Comparative Literature. Neis has a PhD in Jewish Studies from Harvard University, a Masters in Religious Studies from Boston University, and a law degree from the London School of Economics. Neis's first book The Sense of Sight in Rabbinic Culture: Jewish Ways of Seeing in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2013) won the Salon Baron Prize for best first book in Jewish Studies and an honorable mention for the Jordan Schnitzer Award. Neis's second book project is at the intersection of rabbinics, the history of ancient science, animal studies, and science studies.