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.
Berthe Bénichou-Aboulker was the first woman writer to have her work published in her country of birth, Algeria, whose generous land and mixed population she praised in Pays de flamme (Land of Flame).
Helen Caroline Bentwich (née Franklin) was born on January 6, 1892 in Notting Hill, London into a family of almost aristocratic Jewish lineage.
Berenice, daughter of King Agrippa I, queen of Chalcis, was married three times and then became the lover of the emperor’s son, Titus.
Known as the “Mother of Women’s Basketball,” Senda Berenson pioneered women’s basketball as the director of the physical education department at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Margarete Berent was the first female lawyer to practice in Prussia and the second female lawyer ever licensed in Germany. In 1925 she opened her own law firm in Berlin. Not only was she the first female lawyer and the head of her own law firm, but she was also an ardent feminist and active in promoting opportunities for women.
For a generation of Americans, Gertrude Berg embodied Jewish motherhood in a series of radio, television, stage, and film performances. She is best remembered as the creative force behind the Goldbergs, a fictitious Jewish family who lived in an apartment at 1038 East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. In addition to her matriarchal public persona, Berg was also a one of the first American women to work as a writer and producer of radio and television situation comedy.
Raissa Berg is an outstanding biologist and geneticist of international repute, a defender of human rights in the Soviet Union, an abstract painter and a writer.
In an article commemorating Jean-Paul Sartre written shortly after his death, Lili Berger emphasized his role as a writer engagé and observed: “Yes, he made mistakes, but what active person has not?” This description could easily fit Lili Berger herself. A prolific literary critic and essayist who wrote fiction, short stories and novels, Berger was also politically engaged. She wrote to educate, instruct, expose and memorialize.
It should come as no surprise that Gretel Bergmann could never forget Germany and everything that she had experienced in that country. But what is astonishing is that it was not the loss of a homeland but rather her exclusion from the Olympic Games that led her to complain. She felt she had had been deprived of “the thrill of a lifetime… simply because I was born as a Jew” and this is an indication of the important role sport played in her life.
One of the most successful and popular stage and screen actresses in pre-World War II Germany, “die Bergner,” as she was known, was born on August 22, 1897 in Drobycz, Austrian Galicia, to a merchant, Emil Ettel (d. 1934) and Anna Rosa (née Wagner).
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 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.
Leah Bergstein was the first of the choreographers in Palestine who at the beginning of the 1930s created festival dances at kibbutzim, attempting to depict life in pre-state Israel in general and on agricultural settlements in particular. The unique creation of festival pageants contributed greatly to the development of a genre of rural Israeli festival and holiday celebrations and the creation of the first Erez Israel dances.
“Hoy, hoy, Yefefia, bat harim Modinia.” “Aunt Libbie” Berkson, a pioneer of Jewish education, led this song every summer at the start of Friday night zemirot singing at Camp Modin for girls. Generations of campers who attended Camp Modin were influenced by her spirit and leadership.
Beatrice Berler returned to school at the age of forty-five and became an award-winning translator of Spanish-language novels and history. Her work as a literacy activist in the United States earned her national recognition.
The Berlin salons which developed in the late eighteenth century owed both their existence and the form of their development to Jewish women. These early salons were the result of a unique interrelation between the German enlightenment and Haskalah on the one hand and, on the other, young, educated Jewish women from well-to-do families, who were searching for a new role in life outside the patriarchal structures of their families. These salons have variously been criticized as a symptom of failing Jewish tradition or welcomed as a phenomenon of emancipation and acculturation.
A courageous, motivated pioneer in medicine, in the late 1800s Fanny Berlin became one of the first Jewish women to practice surgery in the United States.
Cora Berliner was an economist and social scientist who held leadership positions in several major Jewish organizations in Germany between 1910 and 1942. From 1912 to 1914, she was the secretary of the Association of Jewish Youth Organizations in Germany (Verband der Jüdischen Jugendvereine Deutschlands—VJJD), and from 1922 to 1924 she headed the organization. During her term of office, she consistently advocated for the rights of Jewish girls. As the Nazis came to power she was active in the League of Jewish Women (Jüdischer Frauenbund, JFB). Beginning in September, 1933 she held an important position in the Reich Representation of German Jews (Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden).
An exception in the entertainment industry, which is dominated by brash individuals in their twenties and thirties, Berman is a thoughtful fortyish mother of twins, best known for her work on Broadway and for bringing positive portrayals of women to television. She is also an entertainment executive renowned for bringing stability to desperately unstable situations.
In presenting her plurality as an Ashkenazi Jew, a Mexican, a woman and a playwright, Sabina Berman (b.1954 Mexico) accomplishes far more than simply allowing her readers to identify with her hybridity and search for self. She creates a space where fragmented memories are fleshed out by the imagination and the desire to recreate the past in order to make sense of the present.
From 1936 through 1938, while Clementine Bloch was articled to lawyers, she realized that she was interested in criminal law and after passing the bar examination in 1938, she indeed gained a reputation in criminal cases. From 1948 to 1975 she was as a UN librarian at the New York Public Library and in this capacity served as a liaison between the Library and the UN.
Already the best-known woman sociologist of her generation, she quickly became an important voice of American feminism.
Anne Bernays’s work as novelist and nonfiction writer is notable for its literary quality and as a running commentary on manners and customs.
In addition to being a concert pianist in demand throughout the world, Yara Bernette was also a teacher.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on March 26, 2015) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia>.