The world’s first female rabbi finally gets her moment, 350 years after her death

A page from Osnat and Her Dove.

On Oct. 17, at the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards, Montrealer Sigal Samuel won an award for her new children’s book, Osnat and Her Dove: The True Story of the World’s First Female Rabbi. It tells the real-life story Osnat Barzani, a Kurdish-Jewish scholar who lived about 400 years ago in Mosul—and had an unconventional upbringing.

Barzani’s father ran a yeshiva, but didn’t have sons to share his knowledge with. Instead of forcing his daughter to do chores and get married young, he taught her Torah, the Talmud, midrash, Kabbalah and Hebrew, leading Barzani to eventually become the head of her father’s yeshiva.

Sigal Samuel could empathize with Barzani’s story: her Orthodox father also taught her Jewish studies, although despite her training, she didn’t become a rabbi. The author and journalist’s first novel The Mystics of Mile End also won a Canadian Jewish Literary Award in 2016.

Samuel joins today with Rabbi Lila Kagedan, the first-ever Canadian born Orthodox female rabbi, to discuss Barzani’s life and its implications for women rabbis centuries later.

What we talked about:


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