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.
After debuting in 1923 as Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème at the Century Theater in New York, Mary Jacqueline Fabian added to her soprano repertoire the well-known yet demanding roles of Madame Butterfly, Mimi, Manon, Micaëla, Marguerite, Violetta, and Gretel. Touring the United States as a star performer with the Columbia Opera Company during its 1929–1930 season, she appeared at other times with the famed Chicago Civic Light Opera. She also performed throughout Europe with several companies, enjoying particular success in France and Italy. At different points during her stage career, Fabian sang with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and at the Hollywood Bowl, and was featured in numerous radio productions. A slight figure at five feet, with auburn hair and blue eyes, she was the first star of the grand opera to appear in talking movies and was awarded a gold medal by the Hollywood Breakfast Club.
Claire Fagin, a distinguished nursing educator, scholar, dean, and leader, became the first woman interim president of the University of Pennsylvania (June 1993–July 1994) and the first female to achieve this position in any Ivy League university. Her achievement, as a woman and especially as a nurse, was immortalized for Fagin by a friend who slightly altered an old New Yorker magazine cartoon showing a boy and girl playing “hospital.” In the version given to Fagin, the girl turned to the boy and said: “You can play doctor and I’ll play the president of the University of Pennsylvania.”
Ruth Fainlight was born in New York on May 2, 1931, the daughter of a British father and an American mother with Russian-Jewish ancestry. In 1946 she settled in England, where she studied at colleges of art in Birmingham and Brighton. She married the writer Alan Sillitoe in 1959. The couple have one son and one daughter. Although a successful writer of short stories, a dramatist/librettist and translator, she is best known for her poetry, whose modern style blends subtle image-making with toughness of expression.
Marcia Falk is a poet, translator and liturgist whose knowledge of the Bible and of Hebrew and English literature informs the feminist spiritual vision present in her work. A practicing artist who brings a painter’s sense of visual imagery and balance to her writing, she is currently working on oil pastels to accompany passages from her books.
The liberation of the concentration camps at the end of World War II made a lasting impression on historian Minna Regina Falk. Falk was on leave from her teaching position at New York University (NYU) at the time, serving as an administrator in Europe with the American Red Cross. The events of the war heightened her resolve to return to academia and complete her own book about the history of Germany. Falk rejected other offers of work to return to teaching and research, but NYU was slow to grant her both leave to write and the promotions that came more readily to her male colleagues. Her textbook, The History of Germany: From the Reformation to the Present Day, was not published until 1957. In 1963, thirty-seven years after joining the history faculty, Minna Falk became the first female historian to become full professor at New York University.
Where both the preservation of tradition and the acclimatization to social and cultural change are concerned, Jewish folklore attributes to the family a magic role in shaping the lives of individuals and the community at large. However, academic research on the Jewish family is only in its early stages and information on the Jewish family in Eastern Europe is particularly scarce.
The impressive and full life of Ruth Lewis Farkas spanned many occupations: educator, sociologist, businesswoman, philanthropist, inventor, wife, and mother. She was born on December 20, 1906, and raised in Manhattan, the fourth of Samuel Lewis and Jennie Bach’s five children. Farkas’s parents were in the real estate business, but Jennie Lewis also worked with the poor of Manhattan and occasionally allowed her young daughter to accompany her into tenements. She gave Ruth this advice: “No matter what your station in life, always try to contribute to those less fortunate.”
In his portrait of her in Mayn leksikon, volume 1, author and critic Melech Ravitch (Meylekh Ravitsh, 1893–1976) says of Yiddish-Hebrew writer Rokhl Faygnberg that her biography was “the biography of an era.” Although she witnessed many of the defining events of modern Jewish history—wars, pogroms, and the birth of the State of Israel—in her life, which took her from her White Russian shtetl to several cosmopolitan European centers and ultimately to Israel, she herself is hardly typical. As Ravitch himself states, she was one of few women to establish herself as a professional Jewish writer and journalist, first in Yiddish and then in Hebrew, and in so doing was often outspoken, polemical and controversial. Highly versatile, she chronicled the 1919 pogroms in Ukraine and their aftermath, investigated in both fiction and journalism the changing relationships between men and women wrought by the breakup of traditional Jewish life, and sought to create a viable Jewish literature for the immigrant generation in Israel.
Sara Feder-Keyfitz was a Zionist leader, an accomplished sociologist, an outstanding educator, and an ardent feminist who worked hard on behalf of women’s rights in America and Palestine. An important leader in the American Labor Zionist movement, she became a lifelong leader of Pioneer Women (the forerunner of Na’amat U.S.A.) in the United States, Canada, and Israel.
Botanist Naomi Feinbrun-Dothan was one of the first and rare women who became part of the academic staff at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the days when very few women had scientific careers, not only locally but also worldwide. For more than six decades she studied the flora of Israel and published dozens of articles and several analytical flora books. At the age of ninety-one she received the 1991 Israel Prize for her unique contribution to Land of Israel studies.
Jessica Feingold was the director of Intergroup Activities at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America from 1959 to 1983 and served in administrative capacities in the seminary’s two principal “intergroup relations” programs, the Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion and the Institute for Religious and Social Studies.
Political pioneer, tough leader, crime fighter, reformer: These are some of the words that describe Dianne Feinstein, former mayor of San Francisco and United States senator from California since 1992.
Feinstein is the author of a dozen books of poetry, five biographies, three books of translations of poetry and fourteen novels.
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 (responsa, pl.; responsum, sing.) reflect a wide range of halakhic possibility and expertise.
For Sandra Feldman, president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers from 1986 to 1998, and president of the national American Federation of Teachers from 1997 to 2004, these were fighting words.
A community leader in the Midwest, Mary Arbitman Fellman was president of Beth El Synagogue Sisterhood (Omaha), of the Midwest branch of the National Women’s League, and of the Omaha chapter of Hadassah. She became the first woman elected president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha in 1978. For five years she and her sister, Annie Arbitman Allen, directed the Midwest Jewish Singles Network to help Jewish singles meet.
Mary Fels, an ardent and philanthropic Zionist, promoted Jewish settlement in Palestine and Israel throughout her life.
In order to understand its development and its centrality in the rabbinic context, menstrual impurity must be seen in the context of the biblical purity system.
Annotated bibliography of books about female purity (niddah).
The myriad ways in which God and divinity have been thought, uttered, imagined, depicted and expressed in Jewish tradition resist easy characterization.
Jewish women have played a significant role in all aspects of the American feminist movement.
A dedicated writer for more than fifty years, Edna Ferber was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on August 15, 1885. She celebrated America even as she exposed its shortcomings. Her published work includes twelve novels, twelve collections of short stories, two autobiographies, and nine plays—most in collaboration with other playwrights.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on July 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/toc/F>.