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Hebrew

Haskalah Literature: Portrayal of Women

To a large extent, the image of women in [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:325]Haskalah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] literature reflects the relationship between the sexes in Ashkenazi Jewish society. Authors, poets and playwrights who wrote in the spirit of the Haskalah movement were affected, in no small measure, by the prevailing attitude toward women in eighteenth and nineteenth-century European culture. But the female characters that they created, whether in Hebrew or Yiddish (the two languages of Haskalah literature), were not simply lifted “as is” from external literary models nor constructed in accordance with some ideological master plan borrowed directly from the European Enlightenment. Most of the extant works from the Haskalah period (it should be recalled that many manuscripts by [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:352]maskilim[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] never saw print) were written by men.

Haskalah Attitudes Toward Women

For the men of intellect who burst upon Ashkenazic Jewish society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, starting a cultural revolution of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:325]Haskalah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (enlightenment), the question of women’s status was the touchstone for the validity and consolidation of their innovative worldview. One of the outstanding proponents of the Haskalah was Judah Leib Gordon (1831–1892), who expressed the ambiguity of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:352]maskilim[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] toward the “woman question.” Beginning in the 1870s, women Hebrew readers in the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Russia and women students in various cities in Europe considered him one of the few people who showed special sensitivity and empathy with regard to the difficult lives of Jewish women.

Hasidism

Hasidism—a spiritual revival movement associated with the founding figure of Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (Besht, c. 1700–1760), which began in Poland in the second half of the eighteenth century and became a mass movement of Eastern European Jewry by the early decades of the nineteenth—has been celebrated as nothing less than a “feminist” revolution in early modern Judaism. The first to depict it in this light was Samuel Abba Horodezky (1871–1957) who, in his four-volume Hebrew history of Hasidism, first published in 1923, claimed that “the Jewish woman was given complete equality in the emotional, mystical, religious life of Beshtian Hasidism” (vol. 4, 68). Horodezky’s account underlies virtually every subsequent treatment of the subject, whether in the popular, belletristic and semi-scholarly literature on the history of Hasidism, or in such works, mostly apologetic and uncritical, as have set out to discover and catalogue the achievements of prominent women throughout pre-modern Judaism. Notably, until relatively recently, Hasidic scholarship has totally ignored the subject, implicitly dismissing it as either marginal or insufficiently documented to permit serious consideration.

Shulamith Hareven

Shulamith Hareven was born in Warsaw on February 14, 1930, the daughter of Abraham Ryftin (born Warsaw 1899, died Jerusalem 1995) and Natalia Wiener (born Warsaw 1903, died Jerusalem, 1996). Her father was a lawyer and her mother a teacher. Making her debut with a book of poems, Predatory Jerusalem (Hebrew, 1962), Hareven never tired of exploring new artistic avenues, publishing nineteen Hebrew books in a variety of genres, including suspense fiction (under an androgynous pseudonym), and children’s literature (recently inspired by her (five) grandchildren).

Habsburg Monarchy: Nineteenth to Twentieth Centuries

The experience of Jewish women under the Habsburg Monarchy differed greatly according to the part of this large and extremely diverse country in which they lived. The Habsburg Monarchy was a dynastic state, whose territory had been acquired over many centuries and whose inhabitants spoke a wide array of languages, practiced many different religions, and constructed many different ethnic, national and cultural identities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Bracha Habas

Editor, writer and one of the first few women journalists in [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:309]Erez Israel[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], Bracha Habas was born in Alytus, a town in the district of Vilna (Lithuania) on January 20, 1900, to a wealthy and cultured family of merchants who were actively involved in communal life. (The family name is the acronym of Hakham Binyamin Sefardi or Hakham Beit Sefer [School].) Her grandfather, Rabbi Simha Zissel, the scion of a rabbinic family in Vilna (that of the Yesod, Yehudah ben Eliezer; Yesod is an acronym for Yehudah safra ve-[jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:307]dayyan[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], “Yehudah scribe and judge,” d. 1762), was the first member of the family to turn to trade, opening a large general store that became a center of life in the township. On the other hand, her father, Rabbi Israel, successfully combined business with study: ordained in the yeshivas of Volozhin and Slobodka, he turned to business as a leather merchant only after marriage; nevertheless he continued to teach and to lecture on [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]-related subjects and, on joining the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:330]Hibbat Zion[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (Lovers of Zion) movement, was extremely active in converting people to the Zionist ideal and the study of Hebrew. He established a branch of Safah Berurah (“Plain Language,” a society founded in Jerusalem in 1889) in his hometown, was among the founders of the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:363]Mizrahi[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] movement in 1902 and, once in Erez Israel, edited a non-partisan religious Zionist journal, Ha-Yesod (1931). Habas’s mother, Nehama Devorah, daughter of Rabbi Nahman Schlesinger (a descendant of Rabbi Eliyahu, the Vilna [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:311]Gaon[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], 1720–1797), was also highly educated. Her father taught her Bible and she was fluent in both spoken and written Hebrew (an exceptional phenomenon among women born in the 1870s).

Haika Grosman

Haika Grosman was born in Bialystok on November 20, 1919. She was the third and youngest child of Nahum (1890–1942) and Leah (née Apelbaum) Grosman (1891–Treblinka, August 1943), a member of a wealthy family imbued with Jewish tradition and culture, living in a city half of whose residents (about sixty thousand) were Jewish. Her father was a factory owner, from whom, she alleged, she inherited her looks: “short, blue-eyed, blond.”

Mire Gola

At the age of seventeen Mire Gola was elected to the main Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir leadership in Galicia and moved to Lvov, where the leadership was located.In 1932 she was expelled from Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir because of her radical stand on relations with the Soviet Union.At this time she began to be active in the Communist Party.

Mamie Gamoran

When Mamie Goldsmith Gamoran graduated from the Teachers Institute Extension Course of the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1922, she was acutely aware of how much needed to be accomplished in the field of Jewish education. She was saddened that the youth of her generation had “forged new chains and ties,” thereby dismissing their heritage. As a proud American and ardent Zionist, Gamoran believed that one could synthesize American culture with one’s commitment to Judaism. Although born to parents who were not strongly affiliated Jews, Mamie Gamoran dedicated her life to the Jewish community.

Sarah Feiga Meinkin Foner

Sarah Feiga Meinkin Foner wrote about the issues that concerned her most in the language she loved most, Hebrew.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Hebrew." (Viewed on October 25, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/hebrew>.

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