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Mothers Reading 1 Kgs 3:16­–28, by Nancy Tan.

This project is inspired by Avaren Ipsen’s Sex Working and the Bible in which she reads select biblical texts with sex workers in the San Francisco Bay area. After reading the story of Solomon and the two prostitutes (1 Kings 3.16-28), these sex workers (unlike the majority of biblical commentators) concluded that Solomon’s wise judgment was “a dispensation of violence rather than justice”, and “unrealistic” in depicting a quarrel between two sex workers over a baby. We have replicated a reading of this same story with Hong Kong sex workers and have listened to how they interpret this text. This presentation offers a glimpse into the lives of Hong Kong sex workers and into their interpretations of the story, interfacing these with interpretations from biblical academia and compelling us to re-think the implications and significance of this story. This presentation situates the Hong Kong sex workers’ interpretations in dialogue with those of biblical commentators, and by prioritizing the former, re-interprets the significance of this story in the light of Solomon’s narratives in 1 Kings 1–11. It also points to crucial cultural and contextual issues which have often been ignored

About Nancy:

Nancy Tan is Associate Professor in Hebrew Bible in the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She works on interpretations of women in the Hebrew Bible. Her current interests lie in promoting Contextual Interpretations for the marginalized in her community. She is currently working on a project of re-interpreting the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27) for the disabled, as well as on a bilingual book on feminist interpretations of the Bible for Hong Kong. She is now on sabbatical leave and has taken up the post of Visiting Research Fellow with the University of Leeds.

“v’et Parshandata v’et Dalphon v’et Aspatha…” The 10 sons of Haman and the problematics of Post-Holocaust theology, by Nechama Hadari

Drawing on the recent proliferation of feminist analyses and reworkings of traditional fairytales, I offer a feminist reading of the Book of Esther, examining in particular the connections between power, food and drink, body and property. Threading together these themes, I reflect on the way the text raises questions regarding notions of “inheritance” and “legacy” – in both their physical and spiritual senses.

Because of way in which this Biblical story about an attempt to kill all the Jews – men, women and children – tends to evoke analogy and comparison with the narrative of the Holocaust, I then explore the way in which the themes I have identified in the text if Esther arise again and again in the context of media representations of the post-Holocaust lives of the NaziKinder – the children and identifiable descendants of prominent figures in the Third Reich.

Upon returning to the text of Esther, I find myself deeply disturbed by the account of the hanging of the ten sons of Haman and the seemingly excessive retributive violence dealt out by the Jewish community on their erstwhile enemies at the end of the story. On the other hand, I am acutely aware of the anti-Semitism expressed in the comments and commentaries of others similarly disturbed (most notably Martin Luther). Finally, then, I will offer some suggestions as to how the fairy-tale genre of Esther and the placing of its performance within the Jewish calendar might, far from validating depictions of the Jewish community as vengeful and violent, actually open up new possibilities for a more nuanced and moral relationship (for all of us) with the continuing aftermath of post-conflict trauma.

About Nechama:

Nechama Hadari gained her PhD in Religions and Theology from The University of Manchester in 2012. Her doctoral thesis – on the rabbinic understanding of the human will in the context of Jewish Divorce Law – was awarded the International Council of Jewish Women’s annual prize for academic research in 2013 and was published as a monograph “The Kosher Get: A Halakhic Story of Divorce”. During the first half of 2013, she was a Polonsky Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Her continuing interest in probing what Jewish religious texts may have to contribute to a discussion of autonomy, gender and post-conflict have led to her write on subjects as seemingly varied as: the halakhic status of coercive treatment for anorexia nervosa sufferers, the problem of attributing criminal blame in the wake of war crimes, different philosophies of conversion to Judaism and the legal and moral problems created by Vanessa Lapa’s recent documentary about Heinrich Himmler.