Tikva Frymer-Kensky, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School and a pioneer in feminist biblical scholarship, died August 31 at her home in Wilmette, Ill. She was 63. The cause of death was breast cancer, the university announced.
A specialist in Assyriology and Sumerology, she was best known for her work in women’s Bible studies. Her book “Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of Their Stories” (Schocken Books, 2002) won a Koret Jewish Book Award in 2002 and a National Jewish Book Award in 2003.
Frymer-Kensky was also a leading advocate of interfaith dialogue, and was one of the initiators of “Dabru Emet,” a call for Jewish-Christianity reconciliation issued in 2000 and signed by 120 rabbis.
Her groundbreaking books included “In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth” (Free Press, 1992) and “Motherprayer: The Pregnant Woman’s Spiritual Companion” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995). At the time of her death, she was said to be working on a commentary on Ruth, a book on biblical theology and a book on Genesis.
Born in 1943, Frymer-Kensky received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Yale University and served on the faculties of Wayne State University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Yale University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where she was director of biblical studies. She joined the University of Chicago in 1995.
She was honored in 1996 by the Alumni Association of the Albert A. List College, along with the Graduate School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, which presented her with a citation for her role as an author, a teacher and “a powerful advocate for Jewish feminism.”
She is survived by her husband, Rabbi Allan Kensky, and her children Eytan and Meira. Her funeral was held September 3 at her husband’s synagogue, Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah in Wilmette, Ill.