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Religion: Judaism-Reconstructionist

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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.

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.

Ruth F. Brin

Ruth F. Brin

Ruth F. Brin helped transform modern prayer with her evocative writing, translation, and poetry. She wrote liturgical poetry, using vivid imagery from her own experience and challenging or reworking imagery of God as father or king that she found problematic as a woman and a modern American Jew.
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.

Judith Kaplan Eisenstein with Her Family, circa 1930s

Judith Kaplan Eisenstein

Before she was thirteen years old, author, composer, and musicologist Judith Kaplan Eisenstein was already a significant figure in Jewish history. The eldest of four daughters born to Lena (Rubin) and Rabbi Mordecai Menachem Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Judith Kaplan was the first young woman to celebrate a Lit. "daughter of the commandment." A girl who has reached legal-religious maturity and is now obligated to fulfill the commandmentsBat Mitzvah publicly in an American congregation on March 18, 1922.

Mordecai Kaplan, 1915

Mordecai Kaplan

Mordecai Kaplan (1881–1983), the founding father of Reconstructionist Judaism, was a lifelong supporter of the rights of women. The roots of his concern for women may go back to his father: Rabbi Israel Kaplan, though strictly traditional, was concerned that his daughter Sophie (a few years older than Mordecai) have a Jewish education.

Sally Priesand at Hebrew Union College with Rabbinical Students

Rabbis in the United States

Jewish women’s recent entrance to the brotherhood of the rabbinate masks a lengthy history of the question of women’s ordination.

Judith Kaplan Eisenstein with Her Family, circa 1930s

Reconstructionist Judaism in the United States

The term “Reconstructionism” comes from his notion that Judaism should neither be reformed nor conserved, but reconstructed.

Bertha Singer Schoolman

Like her friend and mentor Henrietta Szold Bertha Schoolman gave a lifetime of service to the betterment of Jewish education and to the cause of Youth Aliyah, the movement to bring Jewish youth out of Germany to live in children’s villages in Israel.

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