In the biblical Book of Genesis 1:27, it says: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
In 2017, the Jewish Museum Hohenems poses a challenging question to the monotheistic religions: Is it possible to view the—according to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim tradition—“one and only God” as other than male? The exhibition “The Female Side of God”—a project of the Jewish Museum Hohenems in cooperation with the Museum of the Bible, Washington D.C., and the Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main—thus takes a critical look at concepts of God in the Abrahamic religions. It also addresses the impact of these notions on traditional religious and social practice and the self-assertive attempts to break out of these roles.
In the Ancient Near East, female deities were usually perceived only in close conjunction with their male partners. This is also reflected in the formation of Yahwism. Although strict rejection of anthropomorphic images of God proscribed the question of concrete gender attribution, in the monotheistic world religions, the notion of God “the Lord” was clearly defined as male.
The possibility of a sexually—sometimes more, sometimes less—female-defined dimension of God flashes up in the Hebrew Bible, in extracanonical writings, and in rabbinic literature. Especially in Jewish mysticism, it lives on explicitly—only to be rediscovered in the 20th century with momentous consequences.
The exhibition “The Female Side of God” casts a glance at the sources that generated the monotheistic notion of God, at its cultural tradition in writing and imagery. It scrutinizes ideas of the female as negative antithesis to the male, and presents Jewish and other women who have been and still keep searching for their own dimensions of the divine—also in their artistic examinations of traditional notions of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
An exhibition by xhibit.at ►, Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek and Michaela Feurstein-Prasser for the Jewish Museum Hohenems in cooperation with the Museum of the Bible, Washington D.C., and the Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main.
Photo: Ursula Beiler, “Grüss Göttin,” 2009