Prostitutes in Jewish Literature
Dan Rabinowitz has written a post at Seforim about prostitutes and prostitution in Jewish literature. I didn’t wanted to make a comment which I wrote too long, so I’ll just write it below. Louis Epstein, in his book Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism, relates the following:
Interesting is a legal question that arose in Egypt in the last century, about Jewish prostitutes who donated a Torah cover and other holy objects to the synagogue; the authorities wanted to know whether they might be accepted or used in the synagogue. The rabbis did not like the idea but could cite no legal objection. However, one of the harlots, in making her contribution to the synagogue, had had her name woven into the Torah cover in golden letters. This was too much for the rabbis. They felt it would have a demoralizing effect on young people, because apparently her name was well known, especially among those who visited her. The cover was ordered to be put away and never used. (p. 163)
The responsum which Epstein refers to can be found in R. Aharon ben Shimon’s Nehar Mitzrayim, p. 12a. Also see the discussion by Tzvi Zohar in his book האירו פני מזרח, pp. 134-137 and the literature cited in the notes.