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Dr Lea Taragin-Zeller

Research Fellow


Lea Taragin-Zeller is a Research Fellow at the Woolf Institute. Her main research interests lie at the intersection between gender, text, body and religion.

At the Woolf Institute, she is currently working on a comparative study about female authority and leadership in contemporary Judaism and Islam.

Her research project Religious Sisterhood: Encounters of Gender, Religion and Belonging in the UK focuses on the emergence of grassroots female interfaith initiatives, analysing the creative ways religious women negotiate their challenges and struggles as women of faith, together.

Lea also organises a by-monthly reading group entitled: Gender and Everyday Life in Contemporary Religion.

Lea completed her BA, MA and PhD at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was also a fellow at the interdisciplinary programme of "Human Rights and Judaism" at the Israeli Democracy Institute. Her Master's thesis focused on modesty practices among female teenagers in ultra-orthodox communities in Israel while stressing the relationship between body practices, gender, text interpretation and religious authority.

Her PhD explored the nexus of reproduction and religion in contemporary Israel. It offers an ethnographic account of the ways Jews struggle, question and debate about the meaning of reproduction in a hyper-idealised context of national and religious reproduction. By bringing reproduction studies in conversation with anthropology of religion, it demonstrates unique technologies of self that emerge in the everyday reproductive decisions of religious members. It also highlights the various roles religious authority and gender play in intimate decision making.

Selected Publications


Reporting from the 2018 conference of Jewish-Muslim women's network, Nisa-Nashim. The panel on head covering provided an open and inspiring space for dialogue about freedom and choice. We spoke to panel chair Reina Lewis as well as panel guests Lindsay Simmonds, Elizabeth Arif-Fear and Rabia Mirza.

Selected Publications

Taragin-Zeller, Lea 2019,'"Conceiving God's Children": Toward a Flexible Model of Reproductive Decision-Making', Medical Anthropology, Online Version here.

Taragin-Zeller, Lea, 2019, 'Towards an Anthropology of Doubt: the Case of Religious Reproduction in Orthodox Judaism', Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 43: 1-23

Taragin-Zeller, Lea, 2017, "Have Six, Seven, or even Eight Children": On the Daily Encounters between Rabbinical Authority and Personal Freedom In: Judaism, Sovereignty and Human Rights, 3:113-138

Taragin-Zeller, Lea and Stadler, Nurit, 2017, Like a Snake in Paradise: Fundamentalism, Gender and Taboos in the Haredi Community, Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions, 177:133-156.

Taragin-Zeller, Lea, 2015, 'Between Modesty and Beauty: Reinterpreting Female Piety in the Israeli Haredi Community', In: Fishman Barack, Sylvia (ed.), Love, Marriage, and Jewish Families Today: Paradoxes of the Gender Revolution, Waltham, Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press, pp. 308-326.

Taragin-Zeller, Lea, 2014, 'Modesty for Heaven's Sake: Authority and Creativity among Female Ultra-Orthodox Teenagers in Israel', Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues, 26, Spring 5774:75-96.

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