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“What Sort of Sermon is This?”: Leadership, Resistance and Gender in a Communal Conflict

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines incident of confrontation between a head of a community and a member of the community during a Sabbath sermon. This incident, reveals a remarkable encounter between someone attempting to assert authority and the local resistance to such an attempt. Nominated by the center, the judge sought to assert his authority and leadership by pointing out faults in his flock. Focusing on issues concerning public morality, especially involving gender and women's presence in the public sphere, seemed like a safe bet. Abū l-Ḥasan's disturbance did not challenge the essential prerogatives of leadership but disputed the judge's attempt to construct his authority at the expense of the community's reputation by spreading general unconfirmed hearsay. Many other communal conflicts and instances of public disorder are found in Geniza documents and await investigation.

Keywords: Abū l-Ḥasan; communal conflicts; gender issues; Geniza documents; local resistance; Sabbath sermon



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