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A Place in History: Jewish Women Tell Their Stories

Joyce Antler, Series Editor

A Joyful Noise
Out of the Shadow
Heart of a Wife: The Diary of a Southern Jewish Woman
Rachel Calof's Story

From the harsh and unforgiving plains of North Dakota, to the teeming ghettos of the Lower East Side, to the expanding urban metropolis of Atlanta, Georgia, to the new suburban Baltimore in the transition years of the 1950s—these four memoirs written by Jewish women take us to varying regions of our country in which Jewish women and their families sought to mold and improve their lives. Their stories take us to regions of the mind, and of the emotions, as well as to actual physical sites.

Taken together, these four books of this first JWA Reading Series indicate how complex, rich, and varied Jewish women's lives in the United States have been. Told in the distinctive, expressive voices of authors who intuitively understood why their private experiences as Jewish women ought to be set down and recorded (if, in several cases, only for self- and family enlightenment), these memoirs open a window onto the wider experience of Jewish and female life in America. Providing glimpses into the perennial struggles between Old World tradition and New World culture, the processes of settlement, acculturation, and modernization, and the often hard-fought struggles between the generations and between genders, they suggest insight into what was unique—and what universal—about Jewish female experience in the different regions of the United States. Most especially, they give us deep insights into the ways in which different generations of American Jewish women lived out their lives in the midst of families and communities as they carried out their daily tasks and dreamed of a brighter future.

How Jewish women in these varied locales with varying traditions and customs came to grips with the challenges of youth, romance, sexuality, marriage, childbirth, and childrearing;

how their labors—as women—contributed to their families' survival;

how they experienced discrimination, and internalized or struggled against patriarchal tradition;

how they imagined themselves as Jews, as women, and as Americans—all these issues, and many more, are presented in these evocative memoirs. Each of them presents us with an authentic and unique voice of a Jewish woman who took the trouble to record her remarkable history for herself—and for posterity. In telling their stories, they suggest a great deal about the stories of other Jewish women who were unable to offer theirs.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "A Place in History: Jewish Women Tell Their Stories." (Viewed on April 17, 2014) <http://jwa.org/discover/inthepast/readingseries>.