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    The Plight of the Agunah in America: An Examination of the Institution of Orthodox Jewish Marriage and Its Repercussions
    (2022) Wolfer, Hannah; Guangtian, Ha
    I came to this topic of the agunah ("chained woman") after grappling with my own connection to religion and whether there is only one path to experiencing the divine. I turned to Orthodox Judaism because of my own personal connection to the religion and my sense that the insularity suggested that there was a lack of understanding as I saw it. Orthodox Judaism straddles the line between embracing modernity and maintaining the integrity of religious traditions, which is where the problem of the agunah comes into focus. In exploring the insularity of Orthodox Judaism, it has been made clear why the agunah issue is not widely known. In this thesis, my aim is to shed light on this topic in order to initiate a conversation to a wider audience. My methods for exploring this topic were researching the foundation of Orthodox Judaism, which led me to a conversation with the rabbi of my synagogue, investigating the personal stories of agunah, as well as these women's activism in creating a platform and gaining support to free themselves from their dead marriages. What I found through my research and writing of this thesis was how the power of the rabbinical court strips women of their decision-making capacity especially when it comes to exiting marriage. I also discovered how activism around the agunah issue is on the rise, which led me to ascertain that this is a conversation that should be normalized outside the Jewish community. My hope is that with the opening up of the conversation, that the agunah issue will someday come to be resolved and women will be unshackled from these religious restraints.
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    Walking in the Footprints of the Past: Embodied Experience at the Jewish Museum Berlin
    (2022) Stern, Trevor; Ghosh, Pika
    In October 2021, I visited the Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) while on a research trip. My experience in the museum's belowground section, in a set of hallways known as "axes," made me feel as if I was adopting the identity and emotional state of a Holocaust victim through a bodily interaction with spatial and sensorial stimuli. In particular, I felt connected to my German Jewish ancestors who were forced into exile and killed by the Nazi regime. I use the term "embodiment" for this visceral and poignant phenomenon. Adopting an autoethnographic approach, I highlight my own family history during the Holocaust. This contributes to my narrative of my embodied experience while moving through the various parts of the museum axes. In particular, I discuss the way that various architectural and curatorial choices led to sensory and physical engagement that heightened my sense of embodiment. Through examining various pilgrimages which feature similar embodied elements, I raise questions about the role of physical location in cultivating the experience. Similarly, an analysis of embodiment in the Passover Seder leads to discussion of who can participate in such an encounter at the JMB. I conclude by giving voice to others who discuss the morality of personal engagement with the Holocaust, and the implications of their ideas with regard to my embodied experience.
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    "May God Continue to Bless the United States of America": Christian Logics in Rhetorical Justifications for Humanitarian Military Missions
    (2021) Schmidt, Sonia E.; Farneth, Molly B.
    Wars require rhetorical justification, and this justification often comes from the mouths of politicians. Humanitarian military missions– wars conducted with the expressed intentions of helping or saving the people who are being invaded – require particular justification. In the case of the United States, when analyzing these justifications, it becomes clear that U.S. politicians rely on Christian ideas and logics – that is, logical justifications based on Christian theological concepts – in order to give their arguments rhetorical might, even when these logics are couched in apparently secular terms. In this thesis, I contend that Christian logics have remained pervasive as parts of justification for humanitarian military missions, though their articulation has transformed through time from overt calls for the conversion of others to Christianity, to a conversion to the values of Human Rights. I focus on three Christian logics at work in these justifications: conversion through a type of loving violence, calls on the dignity of humans, and a paradigm of good and evil, wherein whomever the United States is working against is evil, and the United States is good. To demonstrate how these logics work in practice, I analyze the rhetoric surrounding two different humanitarian military missions conducted by the United States, one hundred years apart: the annexation of the Philippines, and the war in Afghanistan. Ultimately, acknowledging the pervasiveness of these Christian logics must encourage thought about the ethical validity of these types of military missions.
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    (2021) White, Lauryn; Wiley, Anthony Terrance, 1979-
    In this thesis I look at E. Patrick Johnson's Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women as a primary text that offers a complex, deep understanding of the religious and spiritual lives of Black sapphics in the American South. This discussion is framed by a description of my personal connection with the material; specifically how the book helped me reframe my experience as a Black queer person who grew up in the South. By discussing non-normative scholarly accounts of Black religious experiences, I provide the reader with the necessary background information to acclimate readers to Honeypot. I explore the narratives of Alpha, Michelle, Lynn, Darlene, Sangodare, and Nancy and Malu in Honeypot to represent the wide range of understandings of sexuality, Blackness and religion showcased in the book. The themes emerging from this exploration are forgiveness, how one's identity as a Black lesbian can impact their connection with the church, the relationships between African religious practices like Ifá and the Black church in theSouth, and motherhood as religious. I finally use my analysis of these themes to propose changes the Haverford College Religion Department could make in their program to better support work like Honeypot.
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    Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's Defense of Judaism: From the Nineteen Letters to Biblical Commentary
    (2021) Spar, Daniel; Koltun-Fromm, Ken
    Hirsch wrote his Nineteen Letters on Judaism as a response to Jewish emancipation in Europe and the start of Reform Judaism. While emancipation of Jews had not reached Germany at the time of writing, other European countries had already emancipated their Jewish populations and the same was to happen to Germany in the next decade. Emancipation brought a new challenge to the Jewish communities of Europe: what would Judaism look like given these new freedoms? For many the answer lay in Reform Judaism, in leaving behind what some saw to be outdated practices and "modernizing" Judaism to better fit the new status of its members. The Nineteen Letters are Hirsch's response to the questions on Judaism's role in Germany moving forward. Hirsch's commentary on the Torah is a continuation of the arguments that he made in the Nineteen Letters. Published thirty years after the Nineteen Letters, Hirsch's commentary brings forward the same defenses. In his reading of the different biblical narratives, Hirsch reads his defenses of Judaism into the stories. The Bible serves as a tool for Hirsch to discuss the different strengths of Judaism and why it is relevant inthe modern world. Hirsch makes this argument by defining the difference between Jew and Gentile nations, defending the nature and purpose of Jewish Law, and a defense of relationship with God through the stories of Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his familial relationships, and the Binding of Isaac, respectively.