Primary Sources & Lesson Plans
The late 19th century saw the emergence of activist public identities and a broad public sphere for middle-class American Jewish women. In addition to engaging in individual activism, Jewish women established sisterhood-type auxiliaries, began a Jewish womens press, and conducted relief work for the hundreds of thousands of Eastern European Jews who immigrated to the United States in the 1880s and 1890s.
The 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair provided an opportunity for American Jewish women to meet and coordinate their efforts on a national level. Hannah Greenebaum Solomon and her associates developed a program of events, reproduced here, that reflected the concerns of women of her class and background, and their desire to pursue these objectives in a coordinated and systematic way.
From these proceedings emerged the National Council of Jewish Women. This umbrella organization worked to benefit Judaism by promoting education, fighting anti-Semitism and assimilation, and pursuing social reform. NCJW Study Circles, where members discussed the Bible, Jewish culture and history, quickly became popular. The Council played an important role in creating dynamic public identities for Jewish women.
For more information on the founding of the National Council or Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, go to JWAs Women of Valor exhibit.
1. What were the major concerns of the Jewish women who gathered in Chicago?
2. Why was a national organization important to achieve these womens goals?
3. What subjects were scheduled to be discussed? Why do you think they were chosen?
4. Which paper would you have liked to have heard? In which discussion would you have wanted to participate?
5. In what areas did men participate? Why do you think men were included in these matters and not others?
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