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Prostitution

Polly Adler

Notorious for her connections with gangsters at the height of Prohibition, Polly Adler fought to become “the best goddam madam in all America.”

Brothel-keeper Polly Adler jailed

March 5, 1935

Polly Adler, one of America's best-known madams, was jailed after a police raid on her Saratoga Springs brothel.

Spain

Written histories of the Jews in Spain have rarely included women. When dealing with Jewish women in Spain, the available sources range from poems, letters, and rabbinic literature to Latinate wills, court records and Inquisition documents.

Trafficking, Sex Work, ... and Purim?

Purim starts in a few hours, and while the holiday is considered by many to be the most joyous in the Jewish calendar, there is a somber side as well.

"The best goddamn madam in all America"

I've been meeting a lot of interesting Jewish women lately. And all without leaving my computer! No, I'm not trolling JDate or chatrooms for a hot date (my life is complicated enough with a husband and two kids, thank you very much) -- I've been wandering through the couple thousand entries in the new online Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia! 

White Slavery

Those who initiated the struggle against white slavery in Europe and America were women. For Jewish women, this was their first attempt to cope publicly with a social issue that had such broad implications. Thanks to them, thousands of young Jewish women were saved from prostitution.

Rahab: Midrash and Aggadah

In many midrashim Rahab comes to symbolize the positive influence that Israel exerts on the surrounding Gentile nations, as well as successful conversion. Her ability to mend her ways was exemplary for ensuing generations, who used Rahab’s story to request divine mercy and pardon for their actions.

Rahab: Bible

A Canaanite woman living in Jericho, Rahab is a prostitute who is also a biblical heroine. Rahab, who begins as triply marginalized—Canaanite, woman, and prostitute—moves to the center as bearer of a divine message and herald of Israel in its new land. She is remembered in Jewish tradition as the great proselyte, as ancestress of kings and prophets, and, in the New Testament, as ancestress of Jesus.

Raquel Liberman

Raquel Liberman was born in Berdichev in the Ukraine on July 10, 1900. As a child, she emigrated with her family to Warsaw. On December 21, 1919 she married Yaacov Ferber, a tailor, in Warsaw, according to the Jewish rite. In l920 their first son, Joshua David Ferber, was born. A year later, while she was pregnant with her second child, Yaacov Ferber emigrated to Argentina alone, joining his married sister and brother-in-law in the small village of Tapalqué, in the province of Buenos Aires. By the time Raquel Ferber and her sons Joshua and Moshe Velvele (Mauricio) joined him in Buenos Aires on October 22, 1922, Yaacov was already suffering from tuberculosis. He died a few months later. In order to support her family and with no knowledge of Spanish, Raquel, aged twenty-three, found herself obliged to leave her children in her provincial village, under the care of trusted neighbors, and find work in the capital. Unable to makes ends meet from her work as a seamstress, she was either forced into or voluntarily entered prostitution. Facts and fiction about her actual dealings are blurred. What is undisputed, however, is that after a few years of practicing that trade, she tried unsuccessfully to leave it. After a second attempt she succeeded in publicly denouncing the Zwi Migdal, formerly called Varsovia, a Jewish organization named after its founder, Zwi Migdal, which engaged in the white slave trade.

Juedischer Frauenbund (The League of Jewish Women)

The League of Jewish Women (Jüdischer Frauenbund, or JFB) founded in 1904 by Bertha Pappenheim, attracted a large following. Absorbing some traditional Jewish women’s charities and building on programs that Jewish women’s groups had pioneered, the JFB offered a feminist analysis and approach to social welfare.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Prostitution." (Viewed on September 17, 2014) <http://jwa.org/tags/prostitution>.

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