Birth of Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, editor and commentator on American Jewish life
Born in Germany on June 17, 1908, Trude Weiss-Rosmarin became a major commentator on the nature of American Jewish life. Raised in Frankfurt, Weiss-Rosmarin was active in Jewish and Zionist organizations throughout her youth. After studying at the Universities of Berlin and Leipzig, she earned a doctorate in Semitics, philosophy, and archeology at the University of Wurzburg in 1931. Later that year, she immigrated to New York with her husband.
Unable to find a teaching position in Assyriology, her academic specialty, Weiss-Rosmarin and her husband opened the School of the Jewish Woman in Manhattan in October 1933, initially under the auspices of Hadassah. Dedicated to combating what she saw as women's inadequate access to Jewish education, Weiss-Rosmarin offered classes in Hebrew, Yiddish, Bible, and Jewish History. In 1935, she introduced a school newsletter, which soon became the Jewish Spectator. Although the school closed in 1939, Weiss-Rosmarin edited the Spectator for another fifty years.
The Spectator, billed as "a typical family magazine, with a special appeal to the woman," covered a wide range of Jewish topics, including fiction, poetry, and Weiss-Rosmarin's editorials. It was through these editorials that Weiss-Rosmarin wielded influence on the American Jewish community. Though her opinions were sometimes controversial, her columns were distinguished by passionate yet nuanced and logical arguments on a range of topics. A Zionist from her youth, she used her column to argue for Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel, and attacked bureaucracy and inefficiencies in Jewish communal organizations such as the Jewish Agency. Always dedicated to Jewish education, she argued for the primacy of the synagogue over the federation, and advocated for Jewish day schools even when many American Jews saw them as un-American. She argued for changes in Jewish family law, especially the laws governing divorce, but opposed women's prayer groups on the grounds that self-segregation was no better than segregation imposed by others. In her column, she pushed for egalitarianism in both worship services and in Jewish public life.
In addition to editing the Spectator, Weiss-Rosmarin contributed to other Jewish periodicals around the world, including a regular column in the London Jewish Chronicle. She also served on the boards of the National Jewish Curriculum Institute and the Jewish Book Council, and as national co-chair of education for the Zionist Organization of America. She taught briefly at both New York University and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and published books on a variety of subjects, including women's roles in Judaism, and the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Weiss-Rosmarin died of cancer in 1989.
Sources: Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 1463-1465; New York Times, September 3, 1967.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Birth of Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, editor and commentator on American Jewish life." (Viewed on February 8, 2016) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/jun/17/1908/trude-weiss-rosmarin>.