About "Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia"

About the Online Encyclopedia

In 2006, Alice and Moshe Shalvi of Shalvi Publishing Ltd. released the CD-ROM version of Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Professors Paula Hyman of Yale and Dalia Ofer of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This Encyclopedia incorporated the contents of a 1997 work, Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, a project initiated by publisher Ralph Carlson and Dr. Michael Feldberg, then Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society on behalf of the Society, and brought to fruition by co-editors Hyman and Deborah Dash Moore.

The Encyclopedia represents a departure for the Jewish Women's Archive, which otherwise focuses on North American Jewish women. Because the Encyclopedia is an unmatched resource for anyone interested in Jewish women anywhere, at any time, and because the field of women's history is moving away from national boundaries, JWA embraced the opportunity to sponsor its publication.

As both the editors and publisher of the CD-ROM edition note in their prefaces, this is a revolutionary work. Never has so much well-researched and well-written material about Jewish women been available in one place. Being online means an exponential increase in access to that information. Any encyclopedia is an unfinished work. By putting this one on line, the Jewish Women's Archive is making it possible for scholars and more casual readers to add links, comments, and suggestions for new content.

In soliciting readers' active participation, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia shares some features with Wikipedia. However, unlike Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia started with a core of approximately 2,000 carefully researched, written, and edited articles, all vetted by an Editorial Board.

At the top of each article, to the right of the title, you will find what you need to email the link to a friend or to use various social networking sites to share the article. There are also links to related content elsewhere on the Jewish Women's Archive website and on the World Wide Web. The number of these links is growing every day. Each article is accompanied by a "Discuss" page designed to solicit suggestions for updates, further research, and additional links (including links to audio, video, and visual resources). Educators are also encouraged to share how they have used the Encyclopedia with students. To participate, one fills in a form very similar to the "comment" form found on most blogs.

This initial edition of Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia contains all of the text from the original CD-ROM and all images for which we have been able to secure permission to use on the Web. Over time, more images will be available.

As with all websites, the online version of the Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia is an ongoing experiment. Changes and refinements will surely follow as we learn what works best. In particular, we expect to learn a lot from those of you who use the site.


Editors' Preface

by Paula E. Hyman and Dalia Ofer

This encyclopedia seeks to make available to all who are interested in Jewish history and culture the varied accomplishments of Jewish women and their many contributions to the Jewish historical experience over the course of the past three millennia. Women have been largely absent from most accounts of the Jewish past, because male experience served as the guide to historical significance. Only recently have women begun to be integrated into Jewish encyclopedias, but not yet in proportion to their demographic and social importance and their public activity. The prize-winning encyclopedia Jewish Women in America, which was published in 1997, marked a major advance but was limited to one geographic location and historical period. In general reference works, Jewish women are most often not noted as Jews because their Jewishness is not considered relevant to their accomplishments. As editors we strove to recover the Jewish women who remained invisible in standard reference works. We were ambitious: our vision embraced the whole Jewish world and all of Jewish culture from the Hebrew Bible to the present. Although we privileged Jewish women as actors in history, we also addressed the representations of Jewish women, particularly in classical biblical and rabbinic texts.

Because there is still relatively little scholarship on Jewish women, this encyclopedia includes a great deal of new research. We tried to be comprehensive as regards Jewish communities but were not; we hope to rectify our omissions as new scholarship appears. Jewish Women generates new knowledge and interpretations of the history of Jewish women and their contributions to society and culture. We expect that scholars and non-specialist readers of this work will discover unknown dimensions of Jewish history. Many of the topical articles, as well as the biographies of individual women, demonstrate that women were hardly on the margins of Jewish history and culture. The range of women's activities, particularly in the modern period for which our documentation is comparatively rich, emerges clearly from the biographies.

We took the time from our personal research agendas to undertake this project because we recognized its significance. It provided an opportunity to shape a field of knowledge. We also considered Jewish historiography to be both incomplete and skewed due to its ignorance of women's experiences. Believing that knowledge empowers, we were particularly eager to provide this and future generations of women the tools to become, as much as possible, agents of their own situations. We also recognized the importance of this knowledge for Jewish men.

It is no easy matter to create an encyclopedia. In the case of an encyclopedia of Jewish women, basic difficulties of definition immediately pose themselves. Defining who was a Jewish woman was challenging. We did not limit ourselves to a conception of Jewishness based on Jewish law, which accepts as Jewish the child of a Jewish mother but not of a Jewish father if the child's mother is not a Jew. Any woman with a Jewish mother was a Jew as was the daughter of a Jewish father who defined herself as a Jew and was perceived by others as a Jew. Even when women who met the above criteria converted from Judaism as adults or otherwise dissociated themselves from the Jewish community, we considered them for inclusion in the Encyclopedia because conversion is part of the Jewish experience. However, daughters of Jews who were converted as children and raised as Christians, are generally not included in the Encyclopedia. Converts to Judaism, regardless of the affiliation of the rabbi performing the conversion, are Jews. Women whose Jewish origins were remote are subjects of an entry primarily when they were raised in converso families.

No encyclopedia can be truly comprehensive. Recognizing that we would have to exclude some women who deserved to be in the Encyclopedia, we developed criteria that emphasized accomplishment. Since this is a historical encyclopedia, we gave preference to women whose lives were over. Our guidelines called for limiting entries on living women to those fifty or above. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. In the fields of sports and entertainment, individuals often achieve fame at a relatively early age. We also occasionally included a woman slightly younger than fifty when we were sure that she had secured a place in history. We also made exceptions for women in national politics. But we recognize that any selection process is subjective and that some individuals who merited inclusion in the Encyclopedia were overlooked.

We made an effort to survey Jewish women's participations in many countries and in various fields where many of them were active, such as literature, film, and scholarly disciplines. Unfortunately, we were unable to find contributors for every society and field we sought to survey because these include areas where basic research still remains to be done. However, biographies are indexed by country and field as well as by name so that readers can identify individuals from a particular place and a particular area of endeavor. Although we were specifically concerned with the perspectives of feminist scholarship, each entry reflects the individual viewpoint of its author.

A project of this scope could not have been completed without the valuable assistance of many people. We are extraordinarily grateful to the hundreds of contributors from several countries who generously volunteered their time and expertise to research and write entries. Our board of editors helped us with the formidable task of shaping the contours of the Encyclopedia. Alice Shalvi was a masterful stylist, who provided us and subsequent readers with clear prose. Finally, no words can express our gratitude to our publisher, Moshe Shalvi, who had the vision to create this majestic reference work, the enthusiasm and stamina to secure its funding, and the determination and wisdom necessary to shepherd it to completion. Working with Moshe was a joy. As editors we found our responsibilities in creating this encyclopedia challenging but also enormously rewarding. We learned a great deal as we encountered a panoply of extraordinary women who span the thousands of years of Jewish history and culture and represent the manifold role of women in Jewish communities and in the general societies in which they lived. We expect that readers will share our excitement in meeting these women and exploring their lives.


Editorial Board

Ziva Amishai-Maisels*
Judith R. Baskin**
Deborah Bernstein***
Daniel Boyarin**
Deborah Dash Moore*
Sergio Dellapergola**
Arnold Eisen***
Harriet Pass Freidenreich**
Nurit Gertz***
Galit Hasan-Rokem***
Judith Hauptman**
Dafna (Nundi) Izraeli*
Sara Japhet***
Ruth Kartun-Blum***
Carol Meyers**
Frances Raday*
Chana Safrai**
Margalit Shilo**
Shaul Stampfer***
Chava Turniansky*

* Biographical entry

** Contributors

*** Editorial Board


CD-ROM Publisher's Preface

Tam aval lo nishlam!

by Moshe Shalvi

Finished but not completed—five and a half years of creative work on Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia together with a small devoted staff of women and 1,071 contributors.

An encyclopedia is a living organism which has to be periodically revised and updated. Living women who appear in this encyclopedia continue to create and contribute to society. Younger women reach the age and stage where they become worthy of inclusion in the Encyclopedia. The ongoing blossoming of gender research adds to our knowledge about female personalities and gender related subjects that should be included in the Encyclopedia.

I met Ralph Carlson, president of Carlson Publishing Inc., in 1993 at a conference at Radcliffe College where he was selling his recently published two-volume work, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. It was a most impressive production. Based on the success of Black Women in America Carlson undertook the publication of a similar work, Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia which was published in 1997.

I had, in the meanwhile, developed the idea of a comprehensive historical encyclopedia of Jewish women on CD-ROM, which would include the whole world and range from biblical women until the present day. There were a number of reasons for the choice of CD-ROM as the medium:

  • The flexibility of the computer medium, which enables random input of articles of unlimited length (i.e. no printed page/volume constrictions) and last minute updating.
  • The outstanding possibilities for cross-reference, linkage, indexing and keyword retrieval.
  • Considerably lower production costs.
  • The relatively inexpensive possibility of producing a partial update or complete revision whenever deemed necessary.

I prepared a proposal and began seeking the necessary finance for the project. I was fortunate in finding a feminist woman donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) who most generously agreed to fund the entire project.

I obtained the academic sponsorship of the Institute of Jewish Studies and the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Organization Sponsorship of the Jewish Women's Archive. Professors Paula E. Hyman and Dalia Ofer agreed to co-edit the work. Professor Hyman was the co-editor of Jewish Women in America and her experience at that task, coupled with her extraordinary range of knowledge stood us in good stead.

I could not have begun my work on the Encyclopedia without the publishing knowledge and experience that Ralph Carlson shared with me and for this I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

I began the work in January 2000 with Sarah Lemann, my administrative assistant. Her contribution to the project warrants the equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor. It comprised general correspondence and correspondence with the 1,071 contributors, control of the Master Title List database, receipt of the articles and entries, filing them in folders, producing a hard copy for editing, correcting the edited copy in its various revisions and finally working on the index.

As the volume of work increased, Rahel Jaskow joined us in February 2002 doing corrections and fact checking. She was followed by Yael Ehrenpreis Meyer in April 2004 and Hadassa Kurtz Orbach in October 2004. Yael used her writing skills to update many of the entries and articles from Jewish Women in America. She also became the de facto illustrations editor, maintaining correspondence with the various copyright holders and skillfully surfing the Internet for suitable illustrations which were in the public domain.

During the final months of work on the Encyclopedia I was fortunate to find another capable young woman, Rebecka Goldman, to assist in preparing the index.

Pnina Shalvi was responsible for the tree logo design, the graphic work, scanning and retouching photographs where necessary. Last but not least, the Associate editor Alice Shalvi read some two million words, styled them and checked the corrections, translated from German, French, and Hebrew when necessary, wrote entries and finally checked the entire text of the first stage of the Indexing process.

In the early stages of our work Joan Roth was most helpful in obtaining a large batch of illustrations and was also very generous in allowing us to use many of her wonderful photographs. Harriet Feinberg was superb in sleuthing addresses of contributors.

In 1986 Eitan Ben-Noah designed a database for my work as Project Coordinator of the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. It contained all the information related to the articles and entries in the Master Title List and a means of traffic control as the articles went through the various stages of processing. He adapted this database for use in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Women and made various adjustments during the course of our work on the Encyclopedia to meet ongoing needs.

The fact that we were able to operate a network of five computers for a period of five and a half years with almost zero downtime is due to the skill and availability of Dani Deitch, our Computer Network and Systems Engineer.

We all hope that our efforts will prove worthwhile and that users of the Encyclopedia will find their knowledge and appreciation of Jewish women's contributions to society in general and to Jewish culture in particular deepened and enriched.

—March 2006



The Encyclopedia contains 330 topical essays (1,399,000 words) and 1,690 biographical entries (1,901,000 words). It has 846 female and 225 male contributors.


Place-Names and Proper Names

The Encyclopedia Judaica (1972); the CD-ROM edition (1997) and the forthcoming revised edition is the largest and most comprehensive Jewish reference work and we used the Judaica spelling and transliteration from the Hebrew of place-names (in Ereẕ Israel) and proper names. (see Transliteration Table).

Transliteration Table

Consonants   Notes
א ' The aleph should be transcribed as a geresh (apostrophe) when it follows a sheva naẖ (silent sheva) e.g. יִגְאָל Yig'al. When the aleph comes between two vowels a geresh should be used to avoid combining the two vowels and to indicate that they are to be pronounced separately e.g. נֶאֱמָן Ne'eman, מֵאִיר Me'ir. The geresh is not used when the aleph is the first letter of the word e.g. אַהֲרֹן Aharon nor when it is unpronounced e.g., גֶּרָא Gera, רִאשׁוֹן Rishon.
בּB b
בV v
ג גּG g
ד דּD d
הH hThe ה is transliterated when it is unpronounced e.g., שָׂרָה Sarah.
וV vThe ו will not be transliterated when it is unpronounced e.g. יוֹסֵף Yosef.
זZ z
חH ẖ
טT t
יY yThe י will not be transliterated when it is unpronounced e.g., גִּיל Gil. When it is a vowel it is transliterated as a y, e.g., אַיָּלוֹן Ayyalon and at the end of words as an i, e.g. בְּנֵי bnei.
כּK k
כKh kh
לL l
מM m
נN n
סS s
ע'The ע should be transcribed as a geresh when it follows a sheva naẖ (silent sheva) e.g. גִדְעוֹן Gid'on. When the ע comes between two vowels a gerash should be used to avoid combining the two vowels and to indicate that they are to be pronounced separately e.g. יָעֵל Ya'el. The geresh is not used when the ע is the first letter of the word or the final letter e.g. עֱטָרָה Atara, גֶּבַע Geva.
פּP p
פF f
צẔ ẕ
קK k
רR r
שׁSh sh
שׂS s
ת תּT t
Vowels   Notes
(ַ) פתח   
(ָ) קמץ גדול}A a
(ֲ) חטף פתח 
(ֶ) סגול   
(ֵ) צירי}E e
(ֱ) חטף סגול
(ְ) שווא נע 
The sheva na (sounded sheva) should be transliterated in those words where the sheva is pronounced and is indicated by an "e" e.g. כְּפַר מְנַכֵם Kfar Menaẖem.
(ִ) חיריק}I i
(ֹ) חולם
(ָ) קמץ קטן}O o
(ֳ) חטף קמץ 
(וּ) שורק}U u
(ֻ) קיבוץ 
}J j
}Zh zh
}Ch ch
The dagesh ẖazak (forte) is indicated by doubling the letter except for the letter ש, e.g. רִנָּה Rinna, אַיָּלוֹן Ayyalon.
The definitive article ה is written separately from the word and is joined by a hyphen and the letter with a dagesh which follows the ה is not doubled e.g. הַבּוֹנִים Ha-Bonim, רָמַת הַשָּׁרוֹן Ramat ha-Sharon.



The following abbreviations are used for sources that are frequently cited in the bibliographies to the entries.

AJA Hebrew Union College—American Jewish Archives. American Jewish Archives. Volume 1 (1948) to present.

AIAmerican Israelite

AJHAmerican Jewish Historical Society. American Jewish History. Volume 68 (1978) to present.

AJHQ American Jewish Historical Society. American Jewish Historical Quarterly. Volumes 51–67. 1961–1978

AJYB Jewish Publication Society of America. The American Jewish Year Book. Philadelphia: American Jewish Committee, 1899 to present.

BDEAJ Rosenbloom, Joseph R. A Biographical Dictionary of Early American Jews. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1960.

BEOAJ Glassman, Leo M., ed. Biographical Encyclopaedia of American Jews. New York: Maurice Jacobs & Leo M. Glassman, 1935.

CCARYB Central Conference of American Rabbis. Yearbook of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1891–.

DAB Johnson, Allen et al., eds. Dictionary of American Biography. New York; Scribners’, 1946–.

EJEncyclopaedia Judaica. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd, 1971–1972.

JE Singer, Isidore, ed. The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1901–1906.

NAW James, Edward T., et al., eds. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971.

NAW: modern Sicherman, Barbara and Carol Hurd Green, eds. Notable American Women, The Modern Period, A Biographical Dictionary. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

NYTimesNew York Times

PAJHS American Jewish Historical Society. Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society. Volumes 1–50. 1893–1960.

UJE Landman, Isaac, ed. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 1939–1943.

WWIAJ (1926) Who’s Who in American Jewry, 1926. New York: Jewish Biographical Bureau, Inc., 1927.

WWIAJ (1928) Who’s Who in American Jewry, 1928. 2nd ed. New York: Jewish Biographical Bureau, Inc., 1928.

WWIAJ (1938) Simons, John, ed. Who’s Who in American Jewry, Volume 3, 1938–1939. New York: National News Association, Inc., 1938.

WWWIAWho Was Who in America. Volumes 1–8. Chicago: Marquis, 1943–1985.


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "About "Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia"." (Viewed on January 18, 2020) <https://qa.jwa.org/encyclopedia/about>.


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