The Encyclopedia features over 1,700 biographies, 300 thematic essays, and 1,400 photographs and illustrations on a wide range of Jewish women through the centuries -- from Gertrude Berg to Gertrude Stein; Hannah Greenebaum Solomon to Hannah Arendt; the Biblical Ruth to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Best remembered for her contribution to Jewish cultural life and for her unique ability to inspire those around her, Corinne Chochem had a distinct impact on Hebrew folk dance, both in her teaching and her two books, Palestine Dances (1941) and Jewish Holiday Dances (1948), the latter an original work for which Leonard Bernstein, Darius Milhaud, Ernst Toch, and Tedesco wrote music based on the original folk tunes.
Despite widespread awareness of significant contributions to the movement by Jewish women, the documentary record and public perception reflect the roles and experiences of men. Scholarship in American Jewish history, civil rights history, and women’s studies does not directly address the contributions of Jewish women. Nor does it ask what Jewish cultural influences primed young Jewish women to respond (in numbers disproportionate to their representation in the population) when the civil rights movement put out the call.
Like their gentile neighbors, North and South, Jewish women figured in the history of the Civil War (1861–1865) in two ways. As the wives, mothers, and daughters of men in military service, they shouldered a range of responsibilities brought on by wartime exigencies. As community activists, they involved themselves in home-front activities to minister to the soldiers directly and to raise money for the troops.
A biographical entry on the Jewish-Algerian-French writer Hélène Cixous commands close attention to her work because, in her case, “life writing,” as she calls it, is a key topic for her imaginative and critical enterprise in the fields of poetic fiction, literary theory, feminist analysis, and the theater.
Concerned about the welfare of young working girls in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century, a group of Jewish leaders, mostly women, founded the Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls in May 1897.
Jewish clubwomen emerged in America between 1880 and 1920 as part of a comprehensive social transition. Jews—women as well as men—evolved from a series of scattered ethnic enclaves primarily of German origin into a more cohesive and politically active portion of a decidedly American middle class.
For many centuries, Cochin Jewish women have been singing Jewish songs, both in Hebrew and in the Malayalam language of Kerala, their ancient homeland on the tropical southwest coast of India.
Audrey Cohen, founder and president of Audrey Cohen College in New York City, was an internationally recognized educator who stood at the vanguard of education and social policy for almost forty years.
When Barbara Cohen died, she left behind an exceptional body of children’s literature. Cohen was adventurous, seldom repeating herself, always trying new ideas, settings and themes.
The related fields of typography and graphic design played a vital role in the advent of modernism in early twentieth-century Europe, with many vanguard groups—better known for painting, sculpture, architecture, and manifestos—using design to test the practical application of their new modes of artistic production. The European avant-garde, imported to the United States by a wave of emigrés in the late 1930s, was embraced by a new breed of designers, eager to build upon the principles of an incipient “international style.” Elaine Lustig Cohen, with her husband, Alvin Lustig, were among the most prominent graphic designers to adopt these advanced aesthetic concepts for use in the American market.
“The last exhibition Elisheva Cohen curated at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, years after she had retired, and just a little over a year before she died, was Confrontation and Confirmation—Some Aspects of Connoisseurship. The exhibition was a reflection not only of Mrs. Cohen’s work at The Israel Museum but also of her personality: the modesty of a truly knowledgeable person, the thoroughness of a devoted lover, a moderate and cultured didactic tone, directness without pathos and a vast knowledge of artists, periods and styles.” These words, written in January 1990 by Tali Tamir in Jerusalem’s local paper Kol ha-Ir, give some idea of the person Elisheva Cohen was.
“Insert M.D. after her name.” This annotation to the 1888 admission records of Touro Infirmary illustrates the thirty-year struggle of the first woman physician in Louisiana to be recognized as an equal by her male colleagues.
Helen Louise Cohen, an educator and author, made the study of drama more accessible and vibrant to countless numbers of high school students in the first half of the twentieth century. Although Judaism seemed to play only a small role in her adult life, it is Jewish culture and values that contributed to her regard for education and helped to shape her life’s work.
Jessica (Jessie) Cohen devoted the majority of her adult life to the Jewish press. Following an early career in the Cleveland, Ohio, public school system, she moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where she became the associate editor of that city’s Jewish Spectator. She remained in that position for five years. Cohen left Tennessee to return to Cleveland as the editor of the Jewish Review and Observer. She remained as its editor until forced to retire due to ill health. Until her death, Cohen served as editor emeritus.
Although few Jews were sculptors in nineteenth-century America, in part due to the biblical prohibition against creating graven images, Katherine Cohen, a sculptor from Philadelphia with elite academic training, exhibited figurative works, often of Jewish subjects, in an era when women and Jews achieved slight renown in the art world.
A prolific author and noted educator and academic, Naomi W. Cohen has achieved prominence as a historian of the United States and Jewish Americans.
Because Natalie Cohen’s life met the very essence of the definition of the “Georgia Women Sports Trailblazers,” she was elected a charter member in 1996. Already a Hall of Famer, this crowning honor is only one of many received throughout her life recognizing Natalie Cohen as a woman who has made significant contributions to sports, forging paths for others to follow.
Nina Morais Cohen distinguished herself as a writer, teacher, and community leader of her adopted home of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The daughter of a scholar and community leader, her life and work exemplified the ideals of her father, the longtime rabbi of Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel and a founder and first president of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
I have lived through most of this century and observed all the -isms: Communism, Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, Zionism … only Zionism survives. It has been a great privilege to devote my life to Zionism, the millennial dream of the Jewish people.
Rose Gollup Cohen was the author of a 1918 autobiography detailing her childhood in Russia, immigration to the United States, and life on New York City’s Lower East Side. Out of the Shadow offers one of the richest accounts of the experience of a Russian Jewish immigrant woman at the turn of the century.
Ruth Cohen, Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge from 1954 until 1972, was the first Jewish Principal of an Oxbridge College, a distinguished agricultural economist and, after her retirement from college life, a dedicated local councillor.
It was Selma Jeanne Cohen’s mission in life to make dance scholarship a respected field, taking its place with the study of the other arts both in society and, particularly, the university. As a writer, editor, and teacher, she was a leader in transforming dance history, aesthetics, and criticism into respected disciplines. She encouraged and often trained those who are now working in these vital fields, so that dance is no longer viewed as mere entertainment, but is studied as a rich art on many levels, from the most elite to varieties of popular and folk expression, illuminating society in new and valuable ways. She was an internationalist, her Jewish heritage playing little part in her life or her approach to dance in the world. However, when being inducted into the Dance Library of Israel Hall of Fame in 2001, she spoke eloquently of her love of Israel and what it meant to her.
Yardena Cohen, daughter of Miriam Rafalkes and Pinhas Cohen (1887–1956), was born on July 1, 1910 in Wadi Nisnas (the Arab name of a district near the Haifa port). Yardena was the oldest of three children; the others were musicologist and writer Ruth Keviti Jordan (c. 1921–c. 1997) and Nir. Her father, who was born in Zikhron Ya’akov, graduated first from the Mikveh Israel agricultural school and then from an agricultural college in Berlin. In 1908 he founded the first Hebrew school in Haifa. Her mother, who was born near Vilna c. 1880 and was a descendant of the Vilna Gaon (Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, 1720–1797), studied science with Chaim Weizmann in Geneva and then joined her parents, who were founders of Rehovot. She died in Haifa c. 1960.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Fannia M. Cohn was one of the leading Jewish women trade union activists in the United States. Drawing on her Russian Jewish cultural traditions, she pioneered in the development of educational programs within the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). Ultimately, however, male opposition undermined her efforts and diminished her long-term significance. Her life offers evidence of the possibilities and limitations of women’s activism in the American labor movement.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on April 29, 2016) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/toc/C>.