On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at [her] predestined time and who before [her] time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by upheaval, who by plague, who by strangling, and who by stoning.” – From the prayers said on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
Many of our readers and contributors spent all of yesterday and the night before in Yom Kippur services. In many synagogues, people often read the stories of a group known as the 10 Martyrs. These are very compelling accounts of ten Jewish Rabbis who were killed during Roman rule by Emperor Hadrian (you know, the guy who built the pretty little walls in England and also murdered Jews in his spare time). All of them are very graphic, and include fates that I would not wish on most of my worst enemies (I’d be perfectly fine if someone like Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot were killed in some of these fashions).
Anyways, just as I walked out of services this year personally not at all pleased with myself or my repentance (while everyone else walked out relieved) and with the feeling that I need more time to atone as I suddenly remembered things I had done poorly in the past year after the Shofar had sounded and the “gates” had closed, I feel that while these stories we read are compelling, there are so many more stories that could be read if we really just wanted to make ourselves miserable all day (which I’m clearly into). Other people have expressed this, especially after the Holocaust, and such thinking got wider accounts from later times in Jewish history incorporated into the service in the Conservative movement.
The absence I noticed the most, other than the absence of stories from the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and other important catastrophic events in which many Jewish people were killed, was the absence of any women martyrs, even though I am sure there were women martyrs. Below is a list of women I would include in a supplement to the services for people who would want to include women when these stories are being read. I want to say that this is not a definitive “top 10 list,” but just as there is room for expansion on the original ten, there is infinite room for expansion on this list, since there are literally millions of female Jewish martyrs. See the list, after the jump.