The Ambiguity of Virtue
Bernard Wasserstein Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress D804.6.W3713 2014 | Dewey Decimal 940.531809492352
Working with the Nazi-appointed Jewish Council in Amsterdam, Gertrude van Tijn helped many Jews escape. But she faced difficult moral choices. Some called her a heroine; others, a collaborator. Bernard Wasserstein's haunting narrative draws readers into this twilight world, to expose the terrible dilemmas confronting Jews under Nazi occupation.
After a century of critical neglect, poet and writer Amy Levy is gaining recognition as a literary figure of stature.
This definitive biography accompanied by her letters, along with the recent publication of her selected writings, provides a critical appreciation of Levy’s importance in her own time and in ours.
As an educated Jewish woman with homoerotic desires, Levy felt the strain of combating the structures of British society in the 1880s, the decade in which she built her career and moved in London’s literary and bohemian circles. Unwilling to cut herself off from her Jewish background, she had the additional burden of attempting to bridge the gap between communities.
In Amy Levy: Her Life and Letters Linda Hunt Beckman examines Levy’s writings and other cultural documents for insight into her emotional and intellectual life. This groundbreaking study introduces us to a woman well deserving of a place in literary and cultural history.
Anzia Yezierska Duke University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS3547.E95A89 1996 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
The target of intense critical comment when it was first published in 1927, Arrogant Beggar’s scathing attack on charity-run boardinghouses remains one of Anzia Yezierska’s most devastating works of social criticism. The novel follows the fortunes of its young Jewish narrator, Adele Lindner, as she leaves the impoverished conditions of New York’s Lower East Side and tries to rise in the world. Portraying Adele’s experiences at the Hellman Home for Working Girls, the first half of the novel exposes the “sickening farce” of institutionalized charity while portraying the class tensions that divided affluent German American Jews from more recently arrived Russian American Jews. The second half of the novel takes Adele back to her ghetto origins as she explores an alternative model of philanthropy by opening a restaurant that combines the communitarian ideals of Old World shtetl tradition with the contingencies of New World capitalism. Within the context of this radical message, Yezierska revisits the themes that have made her work famous, confronting complex questions of ethnic identity, assimilation, and female self-realization. Katherine Stubbs’s introduction provides a comprehensive and compelling historical, social, and literary context for this extraordinary novel and discusses the critical reaction to its publication in light of Yezierska’s biography and the once much-publicized and mythologized version of her life story. Unavailable for over sixty years, Arrogant Beggar will be enjoyed by general readers of fiction and be of crucial importance for feminist critics, students of ethnic literature. It will also prove an exciting and richly rewarding text for students and scholars of Jewish studies, immigrant literature, women’s writing, American history, and working-class fiction.
Beyond the Synagogue Gallery recounts the emergence of new roles for American Jewish women in public worship and synagogue life. Karla Goldman's study of changing patterns of female religiosity is a story of acculturation, of adjustments made to fit Jewish worship into American society.
Goldman focuses on the nineteenth century. This was an era in which immigrant communities strove for middle-class respectability for themselves and their religion, even while fearing a loss of traditions and identity. For acculturating Jews some practices, like the ritual bath, quickly disappeared. Women's traditional segregation from the service in screened women's galleries was gradually replaced by family pews and mixed choirs. By the end of the century, with the rising tide of Jewish immigration from Russia and Eastern Europe, the spread of women's social and religious activism within a network of organizations brought collective strength to the nation's established Jewish community. Throughout these changing times, though, Goldman notes persistent ambiguous feelings about the appropriate place of women in Judaism, even among reformers.
This account of the evolving religious identities of American Jewish women expands our understanding of women's religious roles and of the Americanization of Judaism in the nineteenth century; it makes an essential contribution to the history of religion in America.
Religious women in liberal democracies are “dual citizens” because of their contrasting status as members of both a civic community (in which their gender has no impact on their constitutional guarantee of equal rights) and a traditional religious community (which distributes roles and power based on gender). This book shows how these “dual citizens”—Orthodox Jewish women in Israel, Muslim women in Kuwait, and women of both those faiths in the U.S.—have increasingly deployed their civic citizenship rights in attempts to reform and not destroy their religions. For them, neither “exit” nor acquiescence to traditional religious gender norms is an option. Instead, they use the narrative of civic citizenship combined with a more authentic, if alternative reading of their faith tradition to improve their status.
Cosella Wayne: Or, Will and Destiny
Cora Wilburn, edited and introduced by Jonathan D. Sarna University of Alabama Press, 2019 Library of Congress PS3309.W485C57 2019 | Dewey Decimal 813.3
The first novel written and published in English by an American Jewish woman
Published serially in the spiritualist journal Banner of Light in 1860, Cosella Wayne: Or, Will and Destiny is the first coming-of-age novel, written and published in English by an American Jewish woman, to depict Jews in the United States and transforms what we know about the history of early American Jewish literature. The novel never appeared in book form, went unmentioned in Jewish newspapers of the day, and studies of nineteenth-century American Jewish literature ignore it completely. Yet the novel anticipates many central themes of American Jewish writing: intermarriage, generational tension, family dysfunction, Jewish-Christian relations, immigration, poverty, the place of women in Jewish life, the nature of romantic love, and the tension between destiny and free will.
The narrative recounts a relationship between an abusive Jewish father and the rebellious daughter he molested as well as that daughter’s struggle to find a place in the complex social fabric of nineteenth-century America. It is also unique in portraying such themes as an unmarried Jewish woman’s descent into poverty, her forlorn years as a starving orphaned seamstress, her apostasy and return to Judaism, and her quest to be both Jewish and a spiritualist at one and the same time.
Jonathan Sarna, who introduces the volume, discovered Cosella Wayne while pursuing research at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem. This edition is supplemented with selections from Cora Wilburn’s recently rediscovered diary, which are reprinted in the appendix. Together, these materials help to situate Cosella Wayne within the life and times of one of nineteenth-century American Jewry’s least known and yet most prolific female authors.
In Crossing Borders, Claiming a Nation, Sandra McGee Deutsch brings to light the powerful presence and influence of Jewish women in Argentina. The country has the largest Jewish community in Latin America and the third largest in the Western Hemisphere as a result of large-scale migration of Jewish people from European and Mediterranean countries from the 1880s through the Second World War. During this period, Argentina experienced multiple waves of political and cultural change, including liberalism, nacionalismo, and Peronism. Although Argentine liberalism stressed universal secular education, immigration, and individual mobility and freedom, women were denied basic citizenship rights, and sometimes Jews were cast as outsiders, especially during the era of right-wing nacionalismo. Deutsch’s research fills a gap by revealing the ways that Argentine Jewish women negotiated their own plural identities and in the process participated in and contributed to Argentina’s liberal project to create a more just society.
Drawing on extensive archival research and original oral histories, Deutsch tells the stories of individual women, relating their sentiments and experiences as both insiders and outsiders to state formation, transnationalism, and cultural, political, ethnic, and gender borders in Argentine history. As agricultural pioneers and film stars, human rights activists and teachers, mothers and doctors, Argentine Jewish women led wide-ranging and multifaceted lives. Their community involvement—including building libraries and secular schools, and opposing global fascism in the 1930s and 1940s—directly contributed to the cultural and political lifeblood of a changing Argentina. Despite their marginalization as members of an ethnic minority and as women, Argentine Jewish women formed communal bonds, carved out their own place in society, and ultimately shaped Argentina’s changing pluralistic culture through their creativity and work.
“Many memories, many myths”—this is how Wendy Doniger begins the story of her parents’ origins in Europe and sharply bifurcated life in America. Recalling their contrasting attitudes toward Judaism and religion in general—and acknowledging the mythologized narratives that keep bubbling up in those recollections—Doniger tells the story of their childhoods, their unusual marriage, their life in the post–World War II Jewish enclave of Great Neck, New York, and her own complex relationship with each of them.
The End of Free Love
Susan Steinberg University of Alabama Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3619.T4762E53 2003 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
The End of Free Love evokes the schizophrenia of our times, a community of voices at the zero point. Like the voices that splinter from Marguerite Duras's work, these characters are neurotic, taking refuge in comics, food, music, sex, 'locking' and lies. Violence is everywhere: within, without, in every emotion, in every word. But often hidden emotions rise to the surface, where self-consciousness, shame, and rage, to name a few, are permitted, voiced, and, eventually, set free. Throughout The End of Free Love Steinberg creates a hybrid text, blending poetry and fiction in writing as much about its form as its content. This is fiction that offers itself up for our delight, while remaining as elusive and unpredictable as language itself.
Laura Esther Wolfson’s literary debut draws on years of immersion in the Russian and French languages; struggles to gain a basic understanding of Judaism, its history, and her place in it; and her search for a form to hold the stories that emerge from what she has lived, observed, overheard, and misremembered.
In “Proust at Rush Hour,” when her lungs begin to collapse and fail, forcing her to give up an exciting and precarious existence as a globetrotting simultaneous interpreter, she seeks consolation by reading Proust in the original while commuting by subway to a desk job that requires no more than a minimal knowledge of French. In “For Single Mothers Working as Train Conductors” she gives away her diaphragm and tubes of spermicidal jelly to a woman in the Soviet Union who, with two unwanted pregnancies behind her, needs them more than she does. “The Husband Method” has her translating a book on Russian obscenities and gulag slang during the dissolution of her marriage to the Russian-speaker who taught her much of what she knows about that language.
In prose spangled with pathos and dusted with humor, Wolfson transports us to Paris, the Republic of Georgia, upstate New York, the Upper West Side, and the corridors of the United Nations, telling stories that skewer, transform, and inspire.
In Gender and American Jews, Harriet Hartman and Moshe Hartman interpret the results of the two most recent National Jewish Population Surveys. Building on their critical work in Gender Equality and American Jews (1996), and drawing on relevant sociological work on gender, religion, and secular achievement, this new book brings their analysis of gendered patterns in contemporary Jewish life right to the present moment. The first part of the book examines the distinctiveness of American Jews in terms of family behavior, labor-force patterns, and educational and occupational attainment. The second investigates the interrelationships between “Jewishness” and religious, economic, and family behavior, including intermarriage. Deploying an engaging assortment of charts and graphs and a rigorous grasp of statistics, the Hartmans provide a multifaceted portrait of a multidimensional population.
Following the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Palestine (1917–1918), the small Jewish community that lived there wanted to establish an elected assembly as its representative body. The issue that hindered this aim was whether women would be part of it. A group of feminist Zionist women from all over the country created a political party that participated in the elections, even before women’s suffrage was enacted. This unique phenomenon in Mandatory Palestine resulted in the declaration of women’s equal rights in all aspects of life by the newly founded Assembly of Representatives. Margalit Shilo examines the story of these activists to elaborate on a wide range of issues, including the Zionist roots of feminism and nationalism; the ultra-Orthodox Jewish sector’s negation of women’s equality; how traditional Jewish concepts of women fashioned rabbinical attitudes on the question of women’s suffrage; and how the fight for women’s suffrage spread throughout the country. Using current gender theories, Shilo compares the Zionist suffrage struggle to contemporaneous struggles across the globe, and connects this nearly forgotten episode, absent from Israeli historiography, with the present situation of Israeli women. This rich analysis of women’s right to vote within this specific setting will appeal to scholars and students of Israel studies, and to feminist and social historians interested in how contexts change the ways in which activism is perceived and occurs.
What does it mean to be a religious conservative, particularly for women, in America today? While it appears that people are returning to conservative religion because they are fed up with the excesses of liberalism, including feminism, a closer look at the lives of religious conservatives reveals a more complex reality. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research in Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant communities, Christel Manning explores the diversity among women who have returned to tradition. Arguing that America has undergone profound cultural and economic changes in the last thirty years, which create tension between women's lives and traditional gender roles, she demonstrates that conservative Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and Evangelical Protestants negotiate those tensions in different ways. Manning also shows that women in conservative religious communities share many of the same concerns as secular women.
Manning looks at how the religious communities profiled have been influenced by feminist values and describes the ways in which these women negotiate gender roles at work, religious services, and at home. She explains how they deal with the inconsistencies created by their attempts to integrate feminist and traditionalist norms. In highly accessible prose, Manning examines their attitudes towards the feminist movement, its impact on American culture, and the extent to which the women seek to resist it. God Gave Us the Right explains how these different views of feminism reflect the diverse theologies and historical experiences of the three communities.
The first comprehensive history of the oldest national religious Jewish women's organization in the United States.
"A comprehensive history of the oldest religious Jewish women's organization in the US, exploring the council's uniquely female approach to such issues as immigrant aid, relationships between German and Eastern European Jews, and the power struggle between the Reform movement and more traditional interpretations of Judaisms." —Reference and Research Book News
"Rogow clearly has mastered the history of American women and the history of the Jewish people in America, and she has laid out the story of one of the most significant and certainly enduring Jewish women's organizations." —American Historical Review
Hadassah: An American Story
Hadassah Lieberman Brandeis University Press, 2021 Library of Congress E184.37.L53 | Dewey Decimal 305.488924
Born in Prague to Holocaust survivors, Hadassah Lieberman and her family immigrated in 1949 to the United States. She went on to earn a BA from Boston University in government and dramatics and an MA in international relations and American government from Northeastern University. She built a career devoted largely to public health that has included positions at Lehman Brothers, Pfizer, and the National Research Council. After her first marriage ended in divorce, she married Joe Lieberman, a US senator from Connecticut who was the Democratic nominee for vice president with Al Gore and would go on to run for president.
In Hadassah, Lieberman pens the compelling story of her extraordinary life: from her family's experience in Eastern Europe to their move to Gardner, Massachusetts; forging her career; experiencing divorce; and, following her remarriage, her life on the national political stage. By offering insight into her identity as an immigrant, an American Jew, a working woman, and a wife, mother, and grandmother, Lieberman’s moving memoir speaks to many of the major issues of our time, from immigration to gender politics. Featuring an introduction by Joe Lieberman and an afterword by Megan McCain, it is a true American story.
Ellen Steinberg’s Irma, painstakingly crafted out of Irma Rosenthal Frankenstein’s voluminous writings, gives us an inspiring and richly rewarding account of the life and times of an active, socially engaged woman who devoted herself to her family and her community over the course of a long and full life. Irma (1871-1966) was born in Chicago—just before the Chicago Fire—of German Jewish parents who had come to the U.S. shortly after the Civil War. Irma attended public schools and the University of Chicago, participated energetically in Jewish women’s and social-welfare activities, raised her family, and published one poem and a small book.
Irma’s journals and diaries were private accounts in which she chronicled the rhythm of her days and the shape of her life. She recorded her thoughts and short quotations from her reading, jotted down her own poems and short stories, constructed dinner-party menus, and wrote biographical sketches of her family. Interspersed among the records of what she did when and with whom are a number of lengthy reflections on Chicago history, her early life, religious beliefs, education, her aspirations, disappointments, sorrows, and successes. She documented her family’s activities during the Chicago Fire, the city’s rebuilding, early educational curricula in the city’s schools, what it was like to participate in the suffrage movement and vote for the first time, the effect of the Great Depression on the middle class, and World War II as seen from her perspective.
In each chapter, Ellen Steinberg has set Irma’s contemporary entries and later memoirs against the context of the Chicago history that Irma knew so well. Irma’s story will fascinate those interested in diaries and autobiography, women’s history, and Chicago history. From a plethora of rich source materials—including over half a million words of Irma’s writings alone—Steinberg has created a seamless, fascinating narrative about a Chicago woman who, although “nobody famous” (in her words), lived a vital life in a vibrant city.
Israeli women do not enjoy the equality, status, and power often attributed to them by the media and popular culture. Despite significant achievements and progress, as a whole they continue to earn less than their male counterparts, are less visible and influential in the political arena, do not share equal responsibilities or privileges in the military, have unequal rights and freedoms in family life and law, and are less influential in shaping the nation's self image and cultural orientation.
Bringing together classic essays by leading scholars of Israeli culture, this reader exposes the hidden causes of ongoing discrimination and links the restrictions that Israeli women experience to deeply entrenched structures, including colonial legacies, religious traditions, capitalism, nationalism, and ongoing political conflict. In contrast, the essays also explore how women act creatively to affect social change and shape public discourse in less ostensible ways.
Providing balanced perspectives from the social sciences and the humanities, this comprehensive reader reflects both an emerging consensus and exciting diversity in the field. It is the definitive text for courses in Israeli women's studies.
In The Feminine Mystique, Jewish-raised Betty Friedan struck out against a postwar American culture that pressured women to play the role of subservient housewives. However, Friedan never acknowledged that many American women refused to retreat from public life during these years. Now, A Jewish Feminine Mystique? examines how Jewish women sought opportunities and created images that defied the stereotypes and prescriptive ideology of the "feminine mystique."
As workers with or without pay, social justice activists, community builders, entertainers, and businesswomen, most Jewish women championed responsibilities outside their homes. Jewishness played a role in shaping their choices, shattering Friedan's assumptions about how middle-class women lived in the postwar years. Focusing on ordinary Jewish women as well as prominent figures such as Judy Holliday, Jennie Grossinger, and Herman Wouk's fictional Marjorie Morningstar, leading scholars explore the wide canvas upon which American Jewish women made their mark after the Second World War.
This fascinating interdisciplinary collection of essays brings gender issues to the foreground in order to redress a profound imbalance in the historiography of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, and in the early years of the State of Israel. Although male discourse still dominates this field, some initial studies have begun to create an authentic and multifaceted Hebrew-Israeli voice by examining the activities and contributions of women. This research has led to a number of basic questions: What was the reality of life for women in Jewish society in Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine (Eretz Israel), and in the early years of the State? What was the contribution of women to the renewal of Israeli society and culture? What is the place of gender perceptions in the study of the new local identity? The original articles in this anthology forge an innovative response to one or more of these questions, and reflecting the state of research in the field.
This poignant and humorous collection of stories offers a fresh perspective on current issues such as homosexuality and anti-Semitism and lends a unique voice to those experiencing growing pains and self-discovery. Newman’s readers accompany her quirky Jewish characters through all types of experiences from an initial lesbian sexual encounter to being sequestered in a college apartment after paranoid Holocaust flashbacks. In these stories characters anxiously discover their lesbian identities while beginning to understand, and finally to embrace, their Jewish heritage. The title story, "A Letter to Harvey Milk," was the second place finalist in the Raymond Carver Short Story Competition.
Ruth Linden's bold, experimental book explores the interconnected processes of remembering, storytelling, and self-fashioning. Juxtaposing autobiography and ethnography, Linden begins this study by situating herself in the context of her assimilated Jewish family, where the Holocaust was shrouded in silences.
Urged forward by these silences, Linden, a feminist and sociologist, began to interview Jewish Holocaust survivors in 1983. As Linden interprets survivors' accounts of the death camps and the resistance, she reveals complex ways in which selves are constructed through storytelling. The stories that unfold are continuously fashioned and refashioned—never stripped of context or frozen in time. What emerges is an unexpectedly elegant montage in which interviewee, interviewer, and author are intertwined.
Linden's meetings with survivors and her encounters with their stories transformed her as a feminist, a Jew, and a social scientist. Her analysis reveals the intimate connections between an ethnographer's lived experience and her interpretations of others'. Linden's reflections on the process of ethnography belie the rhetoric of positivism in the social sciences. They will inspire other scholars to break free of research and writing practices in their own disciplines that efface the ineluctable bond between knower and known. All readers will be challenged to reexamine the Holocaust in an intensely personal light and to reconsider the meanings of survival in our own time.
Cutting across the boundaries of ethnography and autobiography to create a new kind of text, Making Stories, Making Selves offers a significant contribution to interpretive social science and the literature of the Holocaust. Linden's original and courageous work is vital reading for Holocaust scholars, students of modern Jewish life, sociologists, feminist theorists, and all readers seeking to understand their own relationship to the Holocaust.
Israel currently has two recognized systems of law operating side by side: civil and religious. Israeli religious courts possess the exclusive right to conduct and terminate marriages. There is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel, irrespective of one’s religious inclinations. All Muslims must marry and divorce in accordance with shariya laws, all Catholics in accordance with canon law, and all Jews in accordance with Torah law (halakha). The interpretation and implementation of Torah law is in the hands of the Orthodox religious establishment, the only stream of Judaism that enjoys legal recognition in Israel. The rabbinic courts strenuously oppose any changes to this so-called status quo arrangement between religious and secular authorities. In fact, religious courts in Israel are currently pressing for expanded jurisdiction beyond personal status, stressing their importance to Israel’s growing religious community. This book shows how religious courts, based on centuries-old patriarchal law, undermine the full civil and human rights of Jewish women in Israel. Making a broad argument for civil marriage and divorce in Israel, the authors also emphasize that religious marriages and divorces, when they do occur, must benefit from legislation that makes divorce easier to obtain. Making this issue their focal point, they speak to a larger question: Is Israel a democracy or a theocracy?
Honorable Mention from the American Sociological Association Race, Gender, and Class Section Book Awards Committee
The 1946 publication of Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care signaled the pervasive influence of expert 'medicalized motherhood' in mid-twentieth-century America. Throughout the previous two decades, pediatricians and women's magazines alike advised mothers of the importance of physicians' guidance for the everyday care of their children, and Spock's book popularized this advice, particularly among white, middle-class women.
When Jacquelyn S. Litt interviewed African-American and Jewish women who raised their children in the 1930s and 1940s, she found that these women responded to experts' advice in ways uniquely shaped by their ethnicity, race, and class. For middle-class African-American and Jewish women, medicalization took place in ethnically/racially segregated networks and functioned as a collectively held strategy for social advance as much as a set of technical practices for raising healthy children. For poor, single African-American mothers, everyday networks offered limited access to medical institutions or mainstream norms. Medical discourse was largely controlled by white women and men, which left these women disempowered in medical institutions and marginal to dominant definitions of acceptable mothering.
Litt's book is enriched with many narratives from the mothers themselves. Both the women's voices and her acute sociological research bring to light how medicalized motherhood, while not the single cause of difference and inequality among the women, was a site where they were produced.
The Miriam Tradition works from the premise that religious values form in and through movement, with ritual and dance developing patterns for enacting those values. Cia Sautter considers the case of Sephardic Jewish women who, following in the tradition of Miriam the prophet, performed dance and music for Jewish celebrations and special occasions. She uses rabbinic and feminist understandings of the Torah to argue that these women, called tanyaderas, "taught" Jewish values by leading appropriate behavior for major life events.
Sautter considers the religious values that are in music and dance performed by tanyaderas and examines them in conjunction with written and visual records and evidence from dance and music traditions. Explaining the symbolic gestures and motions encoded in dances, Sautter shows how rituals display deeply held values that are best expressed through the body. The book argues that the activities of women in other religions might also be examined for their embodiment and display of important values, bringing forgotten groups of women back into the historical record as important community leaders
The Mortal Storm
Phyllis Bottome Northwestern University Press, 1998 Library of Congress PR6003.O66M67 1998 | Dewey Decimal 823.912
A highly acclaimed anti-fascist novel, The Mortal Storm was Phyllis Bottome's dramatic warning against the warmongering, antisemitism, and misogyny of the Nazis. The story pits the developing political and feminist consciousness of Freya Roth against the Nazi machine that will destroy the fabric of her family and nation. In its combination of adventure and love story, political analysis and history, The Mortal Storm remains a powerful reminder of the greatest crisis of the twentieth century, as well as a riveting personal saga.
'My son, the doctor' and 'my daughter, the teacher' were among the most cherished phrases of Jewish immigrant parents," writes Ruth Markowitz in recounting this story of Jewish women who taught school in New York. Teaching was an attractive profession to the daughters of immigrants. It provided status, security, was compatible with marriage, and licenses did not require expensive training. In the interwar years, Jewish women in New York entered teaching in large and unprecedented numbers. In fact, by 1960 the majority of all New York teachers were Jewish women. By interviewing sixty-one retired teachers, Ruth Markowitz re-created their lives and the far-reaching influence they had on public education.These women faced many barriers--from lack of parental and financial support to discrimination--as they pursued their educations. Those women who completed their training still had difficulty finding teaching positions, especially during the Depression. Once hired, the teachers' days were filled with overcrowded classes, improperly maintained facilities, enormous amounts of paperwork, few free periods, and countless extracurricular obligations. They also found themselves providing social services; Markowitz finds a large number of teachers who took a special interest in minority children.The teachers Markowitz interviewed often agree with the assessment others have made that the 1930s were in their own way a golden age in the schools. The retired teachers remember the difficult times, but also their love of teaching and the difference they made in the classrooms. Their energy, initiative, and drive will help inspire teachers today, who face the serious problems of drugs, teenage pregnancy, and violence in their classrooms.
Oy Pioneer!: A Novel
Marleen S. Barr University of Wisconsin Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS3602.A836O9 2003 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
What would happen if a feminist Jewish wit and scholar invaded David Lodge’s territory? Marleen S. Barr, herself a pioneer in the feminist criticism of science fiction, provides a giddily entertaining answer in this feisty novel. Oy Pioneer! follows professor Sondra Lear as she makes her inimitable way through a world of learning—at times fantastic, at times all too familiar, often hilarious, and always compulsively interesting.
As if Mel Brooks and Erica Jong had joined forces to recreate Sex and the City for the intellectual set, the story is a heady mix of Jewish humor, feminist insight, and academic satire. Lear is a tenured radical and a wildly ambitious intellectual, but is subject nonetheless to the husband-hunting imperatives of her Jewish mother. Her adventures expand narrative parameters according to Barr’s term "genre fission."
Mixing elements of science fiction, fantasy, ethnic comedy, satire, and authentic experience of academic life, Oy Pioneer! is uncommonly fun—a Jewish feminist scholar’s imaginative text boldly going where no academic satire has gone before—and bringing readers along for an exhilarating ride.
This volume, an amazing act of historical recovery and reconstruction, offers a comprehensive examination of Jewish women in Europe during the High Middle Ages (1000–1300). Avraham Grossman covers multiple aspects of women’s lives in medieval Jewish society, including the image of woman, the structure of the family unit, age at marriage, position in family and society, her place in economic and religious life, her education, her role in family ceremonies, violence against women, and the position of the divorcée and the widow in society. Grossman shows that the High Middle Ages saw a distinct improvement in the status of Jewish women in Europe relative to their status during the Talmudic period and in Muslim countries. If, during the twelfth century, rabbis applauded women as "pious and pure" because of their major role in the martyrdom of the Crusades of 1096, then by the end of the thirteenth century, rabbis complained that women were becoming bold and rebellious. Two main factors fostered this change: first, the transformation of Jewish society from agrarian to "bourgeois," with women performing an increasingly important function in the family economy; and second, the openness toward women in Christian Europe, where women were not subjected to strict limitations based upon conceptions of modesty, as was the case in Muslim countries. The heart of Grossman’s book concerns the improvement of Jewish women’s lot, and the efforts of secular and religious authorities to impede their new-found status. Bringing together a variety of sources including halakhic literature, biblical and talmudic exegesis, ethical literature and philosophy, love songs, folklore and popular literature, gravestones, and drawings, Grossman’s book reconstructs the hitherto unrecorded lives of Jewish women during the Middle Ages.
Ava Kadishson Schieber Northwestern University Press, 2016 Library of Congress PS3619.C357Z46 2016 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Present Past is a collection of stories, artwork, and poetry by Ava Kadishson Schieber. Like her debut work, Soundless Roar, this multi-genre collection creates rich and varied pathways for readers to approach Schieber as well as the absorbing events and transformations in her life as a Holocaust survivor.
The focus of Present Past is her life after the Shoah. Rejecting stereotypes of survivors as traumatized or broken, Schieber is stark yet exuberant, formidable yet nuanced. The woman who emerges in Schieber’s Present Past is a multifaceted, heterogeneous figure—poet, artist, and survivor. In it, she plays the passionate observer who dispassionately curates the kaleidoscopic memories of her tumultuous personal and professional life in Belgrade, Prague, Tel Aviv, New York, and Chicago.
Organized into thirteen chapters, each a blend of images, poems, and narrative, this moving new work offers myriad points of entry to readers of these genres, those fascinated in the relationship between the Holocaust and art, as well as readers interested in memory and survivorship.
Edited by Derek Rubin Brandeis University Press, 2010 Library of Congress PS648.J4P76 2010 | Dewey Decimal 813.008092870899
This vibrant anthology showcases new, unpublished short stories by a rapidly growing crop of highly talented young Jewish American fiction writers. Cohering around the core Jewish theme of the Promised Land, all the stories were written especially for this volume. With the kind of depth and imagination that only fiction allows, they offer striking variations on the multivalent theme of the Promised Land and how it continues to shape the collective consciousness of contemporary American Jews. This anthology provides a rich reading experience and a unique window onto Jewish American life and culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century. A scholarly introduction by Derek Rubin provides literary context, discusses the organization of the volume, and illuminates expected and unexpected connections among the stories. Promised Lands features 23 stories by Elisa Albert, Melvin Jules Bukiet, Janice Eidus, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Lauren Grodstein, Aaron Hamburger, Dara Horn, Rachel Kadish, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Joan Leegant, Yael Goldstein Love, Rivka Lovett, Tova Mirvis, Lev Raphael, Nessa Rapoport, Jonathan Rosen, Thane Rosenbaum, Joey Rubin, Edward Schwarzschild, Steve Stern, Lara Vapnyar, Adam Wilson, and Jonathan Wilson.
"An engrossing account of the appeal of religious orthodoxy to formerly secular women, many of them once feminist, radical members of the counterculture. . . . This outstanding work of scholarship reads with the immediacy of a novel."ÐÐCynthia Fuchs Epstein, author of Deceptive Distinctions: Sex, Gender, and the Social Order
Debra Kaufman writes about ba'alot teshuva women who have returned to Orthodox Judaism, a form of Judaism often assumed to be oppressive to women. She addresses many of the most challenging issues of family, feminism, and gender. Why, she asks, have these women chosen an Orthodox lifestyle? What attracts young, relatively affluent, well-educated, and highly assimilated women to the most traditional, right-wing, patriarchal, and fundamentalist branch of Judaism? The answers she discovers lead her beyond an analysis of religious renewal to those issues all women and men confront in public and private life.
Kaufman interviewed and observed 150 ba'alot teshuva. She uses their own stories, in their own words, to show us how they make sense of the choices they have made. Lamenting their past pursuit of individual freedom over social responsibility, they speak of searching for shared meaning and order, and finding it in orthodoxy.
The laws and customs of Orthodox Judaism have been formulated by men, and it is men who enforce those laws and control the Orthodox community. The leadership is dominated by men. But the women do not experience theologically-imposed subordination as we might expect. Although most ba'alot teshuva reject feminism or what they perceive as feminism, they maintain a gender consciousness that incorporates aspects of feminist ideology, and often use feminist rhetoric to explain their lives.
Kaufman does not idealize the ba'alot teshuva world. Their culture does not accommodate the non-Orthodox, the homosexual, the unmarried, the divorced. Nor do the women have the mechanisms or political power to reject what is still oppressive to them. They must live within the authority of a rabbinic tradition and social structure set by males. Like other religious right women, their choices reinforce authoritarian trends current in today's society. Rachel's Daughters provides a fascinating picture of how newly orthodox women perceive their role in society as more liberating than oppressive.
Ritual Medical Lore of Sephardic Women preserves the precious remnants of a rich culture on the verge of extinction while affirming women's pivotal role in the health of their communities. Centered around extensive interviews with elders of the Sephardic communities of the former Ottoman Empire, this volume illuminates a fascinating complex of preventive and curative rituals conducted by women at home--rituals that ensured the physical and spiritual well-being of the community and functioned as a vital counterpart to the public rites conducted by men in the synagogues.
Isaac Jack Lévy and Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt take us into the homes and families of Sephardim in Turkey, Israel, Greece, the former Yugoslavia, and the United States to unravel the ancient practices of domestic healing: the network of blessings and curses tailored to every occasion of daily life; the beliefs and customs surrounding mal ojo (evil eye), espanto (fright), and echizo (witchcraft); and cures involving everything from herbs, oil, and sugar to the powerful mumia (mummy) made from dried bones of corpses.
For the Sephardim, curing an illness required discovering its spiritual cause, which might be unintentional thought or speech, accident, or magical incantation. The healing rituals of domesticated medicine provided a way of making sense of illness and a way of shaping behavior to fit the narrow constraints of a tightly structured community. Tapping a rich and irreplaceable vein of oral testimony, Ritual Medical Lore of Sephardic Women offers fascinating insight into a culture where profound spirituality permeated every aspect of daily life.
Rivington Street: A NOVEL
Meredith Tax University of Illinois Press, 1982 Library of Congress PS3570.A9255R5 2001 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
This sprawling historical novel follows the fortunes of four enterprising, courageous Jewish women on New York's Lower East Side. Hannah Levy masterminds her family's escape, despite her radical husband's objections, from czarist Russia after the Kishinev pogroms; elder daughter Sarah becomes a union organizer and a socialist while the younger Ruby rises to the top of the fashion design world; their friend Rachel abandons her ultra-Orthodox background to go to work for the Jewish Daily Forward. Through their lives, loves, and convictions, Meredith Tax draws the reader irresistibly into the explosive events that shaped women's possibilities in the early twentieth century.
An absorbing, epic novel, Rivington Street is also suitable for use as a classroom text.
Salome of the Tenements
Anzia Yezierska University of Illinois Press, 1951 Library of Congress PS3547.E95S35 1995 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
The story of a young, aspiring Jewish woman from the ghetto who will do anything to get her man in this case an upper-class WASP. When she discovers he is not really what she wanted, she will do anything to get away. Based on the real-life story of the Jewish immigrant activist Rose Pastor's fairytale romance with the millionaire socialist Graham Stokes, the novel also reflects Yezierska's own doomed romance with the famous educator John Dewey. Passionate and engagingly sardonic, it criticizes the concept of the American "Melting Pot" in the language of the Lower East Side and exposes the hypocrisy of the "good works" of the privileged class and their so-called dedication to the poor. Gay Wilentz's introduction discusses Anzia Yezierska's life and work.
Originally published in 1923.
This collection of essays examines an important and under-studied topic in early modern Jewish social history”—the family life of Sephardi Jewish families in the Ottoman Empire as well as in communities in Western Europe. At the height of its power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, controlling much of southeastern Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. Thousands of Jewish families that had been expelled from Spain and Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century created communities in these far-flung locations. Later emigrants from Iberia, who converted to Christianity at the time of the expulsion or before, created communities in Western European cities such as Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Livorno. Sephardi communities were very different from those of Ashkenazi Jews in the same period. The authors of these essays use the lens of domestic life to illuminate the diversity of the post-Inquisition Sephardi Jewish experience, enabling readers to enter into little-known and little-studied Jewish historical episodes. Contributors include: Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld, Hannah Davidson, Cristina Galasso, David Graizbord, Ruth Lamdan, and Julia Lieberman
Using testimonies, Nazi documents, memoirs, and artistic representations, this volume broadens and deepens comprehension of Jewish women’s experiences of rape and other forms of sexual violence during the Holocaust. The book goes beyond previous studies, and challenges claims that Jewish women were not sexually violated during the Holocaust. This anthology by an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars addresses topics such as rape, forced prostitution, assaults on childbearing, artistic representations of sexual violence, and psychological insights into survivor trauma. These subjects have been relegated to the edges or completely left out of Holocaust history, and this book aims to shift perceptions and promote new discourse.
A moving story of German Jews saved by the firebombing of Dresden.
February, 1945. After heavy bombing by Allied air forces, Dresden was on fire and in ruins. Ironically, for the few Dresden Jews who had not yet been deported and murdered by the Nazis, the destruction meant rescue. With the Gestapo order for the family to report for deportation still in hand, Henny Wolf Brenner and her parents ran for their lives. They went into hiding and waited for the end of the war. Despite the family’s fears, the Gestapo did not succeed in tracking down the city’s last few Jews, and the family survived.
At the end of the war the Red Army liberated Dresden. But instead of the desired release from terror into a resumption of a peaceful, productive life, different forms of repression awaited Brenner and her parents. In the new communist-run East Germany, she was refused advanced schooling because she was not a Party member. Under the communist regime, it was clear the Jewish population was not welcome, and consequently normal life was impossible. With heavy hearts, the family decided to abandon their beloved home and risk the dangers of flight from East Berlin to West Berlin. With the help of good friends, they were successful in their venture.
Soundless Roar introduces a distinctive new voice to Holocaust literature. Ava Kadishson Schieber, author, poet, and artist, spent her teenage years hiding from the Nazis on a Serbian farm. Her cultured speech and city-bred body language could have betrayed her, so she was forced into near isolation. Schieber began drawing while in hiding, and she continues to express herself today with the same urgency. The drawings and writings in Soundless Roar are the culmination of many years of artistry. In her work, she shares her memories of loved ones killed in the Holocaust: they are "friendly ghosts" that will always be a part of her.
Schieber's drawings, paintings, poetry, and prose are all intimate reflections of one another. Her experience forged the unusual sense of time that shapes Schieber's stories. In her preface, Phyllis Lassner writes: "The timetable of Ava's stories often consists of circles within circles, of patterns of an intertwined past, the past present of hiding, and the present looking back at those distinctly separate but inseparable pasts."
This riveting and utterly unique memoir chronicles the coming of age of Cynthia Shamash, an Iraqi Jew born in Baghdad in 1963. When she was eight, her family tried to escape Iraq over the Iranian border, but they were captured and jailed for five weeks. Upon release, they were returned to their home in Baghdad, where most of their belongings had been confiscated and the door of their home sealed with wax. They moved in with friends and applied for passports to spend a ten-day vacation in Istanbul, although they never intended to return. From Turkey, the family fled to Tel Aviv and then to Amsterdam, where Cynthia’s father soon died of a heart attack. At the age of twelve, Sanuti (as her mother called her) was sent to London for schooling, where she lived in an Orthodox Jewish enclave with the chief rabbi and his family. At the end of the school year, she returned to Holland to navigate her teen years in a culture that was much more sexually liberal than the one she had been born into, or indeed the one she was experiencing among Orthodox Jews in London. Shortly after finishing her schooling as a dentist, Cynthia moved to the United States in an attempt to start over. This vivid, beautiful, and very funny memoir will appeal to readers intrigued by spirituality, tolerance, the personal ramifications of statelessness and exile, the clashes of cultures, and the future of Iraq and its Jews.
In Taking Root, Latin American women of Jewish descent, from Mexico to Uruguay, recall their coming of age with Sabbath candles and Hebrew prayers, Ladino songs and merengue music, Queen Esther and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Rich and poor, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, Jewish immigrant families searched for a new home and identity in predominantly Catholic societies. The essays included here examine the religious, economic, social, and political choices these families have made and continue to make as they forge Jewish identities in the New World.
Marjorie Agosín has gathered narratives and testimonies that reveal the immense diversity of Latin American Jewish experience. These essays, based on first- and second-generation immigrant experience, describe differing points of view and levels of involvement in Jewish tradition. In Taking Root, Agosín presents us with a contemporary and vivid account of the Jewish experience in Latin America.
Taking Root documents the sadness of exile and loss but also a fierce determination to maintain Jewish traditions. This is Jewish history but it is also part of the untold history of Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, and all of Latin America.
The authoritative biography of Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, introduces a new generation to a remarkable leader who fought for women’s rights and the poor.
Born in Baltimore in 1860, Henrietta Szold was driven from a young age by the mission captured in the concept of tikkun olam, “repair of the world.” Herself the child of immigrants, she established a night school, open to all faiths, to teach English to Russian Jews in her hometown. She became the first woman to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and was the first editor for the Jewish Publication Society. In 1912 she founded Hadassah, the international women’s organization dedicated to humanitarian work and community building. A passionate Zionist, Szold was troubled by the Jewish–Arab conflict in Palestine, to which she sought a peaceful and equitable solution for all.
Noted Israeli historian Dvora Hacohen captures the dramatic life of this remarkable woman. Long before anyone had heard of intersectionality, Szold maintained that her many political commitments were inseparable. She fought relentlessly for women’s place in Judaism and for health and educational networks in Mandate Palestine. As a global citizen, she championed American pacifism. Hacohen also offers a penetrating look into Szold’s personal world, revealing for the first time the psychogenic blindness that afflicted her as the result of a harrowing breakup with a famous Talmudic scholar.
Based on letters and personal diaries, many previously unpublished, as well as thousands of archival documents scattered across three continents, To Repair a Broken World provides a wide-ranging portrait of a woman who devoted herself to helping the disadvantaged and building a future free of need.
Voices of the Diaspora offers, for the first time, representative works by major Jewish women writers from Austria, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Russia. These stories and essays, written over the last twenty-five years, speak to the challenges confronting the post-Shoah generations of Jews living in Europe: a need to commemorate the lives extinguished in the camps; a desire to repair a ruptured culture; and a determination to reclaim a Jewish identity resistant to assimilation and the threats of anti-Semitism.
At the same time, these writers address themes specific to their national contexts. Berlin-born Barbara Honigmann questions the possibility of Jewish life in the country responsible for the "final solution." Maghreb-born Marlène Amar and Reina Roffé address the experiences of displacement and emancipation as Sephardic women in Western, post-colonial societies. Clara Sereni describes how Jews in post-Fascist Italy reemerged with a self-assertiveness that troubled a society that had found comfort in amnesia. Ludmila Ulitskaya portrays a Jewish girlhood on the eve of Stalin's death empowered by the religious traditions of Jewish resistance.
From the unique perspective of women's literary voices, this volume reveals to English-speaking readers the extraordinary vivacity and diversity of European Jewry, and introduces them to a new generation of women writers.
Honorable Mention for the Robert K. Martin Prize 2019
Media portrayals of Orthodox Jewish women frequently depict powerless, silent individuals who are at best naive to live an Orthodox lifestyle, and who are at worst, coerced into it. Karen E. H. Skinazi delves beyond this stereotype in Women of Valor to identify a powerful tradition of feminist literary portrayals of Orthodox women, often created by Orthodox women themselves. She examines Orthodox women as they appear in memoirs, comics, novels, and movies, and speaks with the authors, filmmakers, and musicians who create these representations. Throughout the work, Skinazi threads lines from the poem “Eshes Chayil,” the Biblical description of an Orthodox “Woman of Valor.” This proverb unites Orthodoxy and feminism in a complex relationship, where Orthodox women continuously question, challenge, and negotiate Orthodox and feminist values. Ultimately, these women create paths that unite their work, passions, and families under the framework of an “Eshes Chayil,” a woman who situates religious conviction within her own power.