Religion: Judaism-Orthodox

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Rachel Adler

Rachel Adler

The writings of Rachel Adler on Jewish law and ritual have catapulted her into the center of modern Jewish religious discourse, and she is unquestionably among the leading constructive Jewish theologians, translators and liturgists of the modern era, garnering attention from Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, women and men alike.

The Second Graduating Class of the Bais-Yaakov in Lodz, Poland, 1934

Agudat Israel: Interwar Poland

Agudat Israel, the world movement of orthodox Jewry, was founded in May 1912 at a conference held in Kattowitz, Upper Silesia (now Katowice, Poland). The movement’s founders, mostly from the separatist orthodox community of Frankfurt am Main, wanted to enlist the large masses of orthodox Jews in Eastern Europe and their spiritual leaders in the struggle against Zionism and other secular ideologies.

Artists: Contemporary Anglo

By focusing on Jewish women artists working in Britain today, whose Jewishness and gender are central to their artistic output, it offered valuable insights into the diverse ways in which women perceive their Jewishness in contemporary Britain. Aware of their complex “otherness” as women, Jews and artists, they put that awareness to good creative use; and in so doing, proved that art has a crucial role to play in exploring—and perhaps crystallizing—issues of identity.

The Orthodox Congregation B'nai David Sisterhood of Detroit, Michigan, circa 1950

Assimilation in the United States: Twentieth Century

Jewish women began to assimilate into American society and culture as soon as they stepped off the boat. Some started even earlier, with reports and dreams of the goldene medine, the golden land of liberty and opportunity. Very few resisted adapting to the language and mores of the United States; those who did often returned to Europe. Well over ninety percent stayed, even those who cursed Columbus’s voyage and subsequent European settlement in North America.

Esther Abrahams

Australia: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Since the beginning of British colonialization of New South Wales in 1788, when between eight and fifteen Jews were among the convicts who arrived with the First Fleet, several waves of immigration have brought the Jewish population up to its present size.

Esther Jungreis

Ba'alot Teshuvah: American Jewish Women

The Ba’alot Teshuvahs’ decision to explore Orthodox Jewish ways of life represents one possible solution to current widespread questions about women’s proper roles. The structural changes in American society in the past thirty years, in particular the changing demographics of women’s educational, occupational, marital, and childbearing patterns, have occasioned a debate in our culture about women’s nature and social roles similar to the late nineteenth-century “woman question” that followed the Industrial Revolution.

Re-dedication Ceremony of Sarah Schenirer's Gavestone, 2005

Bais Ya'akov Schools

Founded by Sarah Schenirer as a way of combating assimilation among her contemporaries, Bais Ya’akov is an Orthodox Jewish educational movement for girls and young women that began in Cracow, Poland in 1917 and spread rapidly throughout much of the Ashkenazic Jewish world.

Annual Bat Mitzvah in Jamaica

Bat Mitzvah: American Jewish Women

The bat mitzvah ritual was introduced into American Judaism as both an ethical and a pragmatic response to gender divisions in traditional Judaism.

Hinde Bergner

Though not a published writer in her time, Hinde Bergner holds a special place in Yiddish literature by virtue of the fact that her memoir of family life in a late nineteenth century Galician (Yiddish) Small-town Jewish community in Eastern Europe.shtetl is one of few extant Yiddish memoirs to describe the traditional Jewish family on the edge of modernity told from the perspective of a woman. Her intimate portrayal of matchmaking and marriage customs, the education of girls, Jewish occupations, information about period clothing and home furnishing, the spiritual life of Jewish women, generational tensions, and cross-cultural contacts results in a valuable document of Jewish social, family, and women’s history.

Rayna Batya Berlin

Born into a family of distinguished lineage, whose members were the intellectual and spiritual leaders of Lithuanian Jewry, Rayna Batya Berlin, like the men in her family, viewed Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah study as the loftiest means of worship of God.

Tombstone of Hannah de Leon

Caribbean Islands and the Guianas

To sum up, the life of Jewish women in the Caribbean and the Guianas differed from that elsewhere in the Jewish world, since Jewish life had to adapt itself to the jungle, to isolated plantations and to small islands, with only limited contact with the outside world.

Phila Franks

Colonial Period in the United States

More so than some of their counterparts in England’s Caribbean colonies, Jewish women in colonial North America occupied traditional positions and played traditional roles within the Jewish community as well as in the larger society. They could not serve in positions of leadership in either the Jewish or the general community, and they are not known to have had their own social organizations. Their primary occupation was that of homemaker, although, in an extension, several kept lodgings in which poorer Jewish individuals lived at the Jewish community’s expense.

Rebecca Gratz

Education of Jewish Girls in the United States

The secular and religious education of Jewish girls in America has very modest roots. Initially perceived as seamlessly bound together, over the course of nearly three and a half centuries, the general and Jewish education of Jewish girls took separate paths, which crossed and on occasion entered into conflict with each other. Secular education of Jewish girls has consistently expanded, but the path of Jewish education has been inconsistent.

Wedding Ceremony of Lybian Jews

Ethnic Dance in the Yishuv and Israel: 1900-2000

In order to examine the subject of women in ethnic dance in Israel (as well as pre-State Palestine), one must define the various categories that come under this heading and explain what distinguishes and what unites them. The unique mode of ethnic dance in Israel is more properly referred to as dances of various ethnic communities, encompassing both Jewish and non-Jewish ethnic groups. This article, devoted to the role of women in ethnic dance, may be divided into two primary topics: the first concerns the role, state and function of women in the dances of the various ethnic communities, and the second, individual women who contributed to the cultivation and development of ethnic dances through their work in creating, studying and organizing this field.

Blanche Goldman Etra

Born on March 8, 1915, in Brooklyn, New York, Blanche Goldman Etra was the daughter of Anna (Simon) and Jacob Goldman. Her father was a textile and women’s wear executive. The second of three children, she had an older sister, Helen, and a younger brother, Morton.

Rabbi Moses Feinstein

Rabbi Moses Feinstein (1895–1986), one of the great Jewish legalists of the twentieth century, wrote numerous legal decisions responding to and affecting women’s lives. These decisions (Halakhic decisions written by rabbinic authories in response to questions posed to them.responsa, pl.; Halakhic decisions written by rabbinic authories in response to questions posed to them.responsum, sing.) reflect a wide range of The legal corpus of Jewish laws and observances as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by rabbinic authorities, beginning with those of the Mishnah and Talmud.halakhic possibility and expertise.

Jane Brass Fischel

An outstanding communal leader in New York City’s Orthodox Jewish community, Jane Brass Fischel was a generous philanthropist and active participant in Jewish communal activities.

Rebecca Fischel Goldstein

As a consummate volunteer leader, she strove to make women a dominant force in organized Jewish life, helping to found the Women’s Branch of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Women’s League of the Institutional Synagogue, the Hebrew Teacher’s Training School for Girls, and the Yeshiva University Women’s Organization.

Blu Greenberg

A renowned “teacher of teachers,” Greenberg’s scholarly father, Sam Genauer, who was born in Czernovitz, Austro-Hungary in 1906, was brought to the United States at the age of two. He obtained a B.A. at Yeshiva University and in 1933 was ordained at its Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Rabbinical College. His homemaker wife, Sylvia (née Gensar), whom he married in 1933, was born in the Lower East Side of New York in 1913 and attended Seward Park High School and the University of Washington. Immediately after his ordination the couple moved to Seattle, where Genauer managed his family’s clothing business. It was there that their three daughters were born: Judy (Brickman) in 1934, Blu on January 21, 1936 and Rena (Schlaff) in 1938. The family returned to New York when Blu was in the fifth grade.

Hasidic Women in the United States

Hasidic women represent a unique face of American Judaism. As Hasidim—ultra-Orthodox Jews belonging to sectarian communities, worshiping and working as followers of specific rebbes—they are set apart from assimilated, mainstream American Jews. But as women in a subculture primarily defined by male religious studies, rituals, and legal obligations, they are also set apart from Hasidic men, whose recognizable styles of dress and yeshiva ingatherings have long presented a masculine standard for outsiders’ understanding of Hasidism.

Hasidism

Hasidism—a spiritual revival movement associated with the founding figure of Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (Besht, c. 1700–1760), which began in Poland in the second half of the eighteenth century and became a mass movement of Eastern European Jewry by the early decades of the nineteenth—has been celebrated as nothing less than a “feminist” revolution in early modern Judaism. The first to depict it in this light was Samuel Abba Horodezky (1871–1957) who, in his four-volume Hebrew history of Hasidism, first published in 1923, claimed that “the Jewish woman was given complete equality in the emotional, mystical, religious life of Beshtian Hasidism” (vol. 4, 68). Horodezky’s account underlies virtually every subsequent treatment of the subject, whether in the popular, belletristic and semi-scholarly literature on the history of Hasidism, or in such works, mostly apologetic and uncritical, as have set out to discover and catalogue the achievements of prominent women throughout pre-modern Judaism. Notably, until relatively recently, Hasidic scholarship has totally ignored the subject, implicitly dismissing it as either marginal or insufficiently documented to permit serious consideration.

Gertrude Hirschler

Not prepared to compromise her ideals by accepting work that did not meet her ideological approval, Gertrude Hirschler rejected the offer of a well-recognized publisher, who submitted a book by an Israeli leftist writer to her for translation. True to her principles, she removed her name from The Hirsch Siddur that she had translated, due to changes to the finished product that did not meet her standards. A brilliant perfectionist, Hirschler’s literary contributions as a translator, editor, and writer are highly regarded in the areas of Jewish history, accounts of the Holocaust, religious literature, and Zionism.

Synagogue Classroom, Massachusetts, circa 1950s

Jewish Education in the United States

Among the traditions that Jews brought to America, one may include the diligent study of the Torah and honor to those distinguished in its study. Torah study and its public recognition, however, were restricted to men and, obviously, to those among them who had the means and talent to devote themselves to it.

Trude Weiss-Rosmarin

Jewish Feminism in the United States

Challenging all varieties of American Judaism, feminism has been a powerful force for popular Jewish religious revival. Of America’s four Jewish denominations, all but the Orthodox have accepted women as rabbis and cantors.

Jewish Women and Jewish Music in America

American Jewish music has expanded vastly in variety, range, and quality of activities. Jews brought to America their secular-folk and sacred-liturgical musical heritage. There has been a renascence of age-old traditions that have become means of self-expression for Jewish women.

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