“Matronita” — from the Latin matrona, a woman of high social and moral status — is a term appearing dozens of times in the Talmud to refer to a woman who engages in discussions with the rabbinic sages. The word, which can also mean a queen or a partner of a king, is the title given to the first major exhibition in Israel of feminist art by women from an observant Jewish background.
With the endless headlines out of Israel about women being excluded from the public sphere, this show could not be more timely. Matronita: Jewish Feminist Art opened January 27 at the Mishkan Le’Omanut/Museum of Art in Ein Harod.
Curated by Dvora Liss and David Sperber, Matronita engages familiar feminist subjects, like power and oppression, body image and menstruation. Interwoven in the artwork are themes unique to the Jewish experience: niddah and ritual immersion, hair covering, agunot, women’s study and Jewish legal issues surrounding infertility.