You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

Social Work

Sylva Gelber

The first graduate of the Social Work School of the Va’ad Le’umi, now the Baerwald School of Social Work of the Hebrew University, Sylva Gelber was born into a Zionist family. Gelber embarked upon a career of distinguished public service.

Henriette Fürth

Henriette Fürth succeeded in earning a much-needed income as a highly-regarded lecturer and journalist. In addition to publishing, Fürst found time to be involved in organizational life.

Henrietta Franklin

A leading advocate for advanced education for women, she supported the rise of women in professional life, even employing an Anglo-Jewish woman surgeon. Furious at the educational, civic and political limitations imposed upon women, Henrietta Franklin became active in the British suffrage movement. She and her sister Lily Montagu also joined the extended Franklin family and friends in helping to create and lead the Jewish League for Woman Suffrage (founded November 3, 1912), an organization dedicated to attaining suffrage in Britain and equal religious and communal rights for women in the Anglo-Jewish community.

Selma Fraiberg

Selma Fraiberg was a psychoanalyst, author, and pioneer in the field of infant psychiatry.

Ruth E. Fizdale

Ruth E. Fizdale is credited for making modern social work a profession.

Mary Jacqueline Fabian

After debuting in 1923 as Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème at the Century Theater in New York, Mary Jacqueline Fabian added to her soprano repertoire the well-known yet demanding roles of Madame Butterfly, Mimi, Manon, Micaëla, Marguerite, Violetta, and Gretel. Touring the United States as a star performer with the Columbia Opera Company during its 1929–1930 season, she appeared at other times with the famed Chicago Civic Light Opera. She also performed throughout Europe with several companies, enjoying particular success in France and Italy. At different points during her stage career, Fabian sang with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and at the Hollywood Bowl, and was featured in numerous radio productions. A slight figure at five feet, with auburn hair and blue eyes, she was the first star of the grand opera to appear in talking movies and was awarded a gold medal by the Hollywood Breakfast Club.


Emunah was founded in 1935 as the Women’s Branch of Ha-Po’el ha-Mizrachi, under the leadership of Tova Sanhedrai-Goldreich, who served the public throughout her life, first as a young woman in Poland, later in Israel, and as the leader of Emunah for more than fifty years. In addition, she served as a member of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:345]Knesset[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] on behalf of the National Religious Party, as well as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, from 1961 to 1974 (the fifth, sixth and seventh Knessets). During the 1960s, the Women’s Branch merged with the Mizrachi Women’s Organization to form the National Religious Women’s Organization, which later assumed the name Emunah.

Hannah Bachman Einstein

Hannah Bachman Einstein was a rare example of a volunteer philanthropic activist who achieved stature in both the Jewish and gentile social welfare communities. Her lobbying efforts in Albany made her known to the larger professional and volunteer establishment and the group of male Jewish leaders who controlled New York Jewish philanthropy allowed her into their leadership circle. She combined the skill and knowledge of a professional with the dedication of a volunteer.

Eastern European Immigrants in the United States

Of all Jewish immigrants to the United States from 1886 to 1914, forty-four percent were women, far more than for other immigrants groups arriving during the heyday of mass immigration. The more than two million Jews from the Russian Empire, Romania, and Austria-Hungary who entered the United States in the years 1881 to 1924—when the American government imposed a restrictive quota system—came to stay. Only 7 percent chose to return to Europe, as opposed to about 30 percent of all immigrants. Jewish immigrants intended to raise American families. Ashkenazi (European) Jewish culture and American values as conveyed by social reformers as well as by advertising, and the economic realities of urban capitalist America, all influenced the position of women in immigrant Jewish society in America. Jewish immigrant women shared many of the attributes of immigrant women in general, but also displayed ethnic characteristics.

Ruth Dreifuss

An outspoken and strong feminist, Switzerland’s first Jewish member of the Federal Government and first woman president Ruth Dreifuss was born in St. Gall in Eastern Switzerland on January 9, 1940. Her father Sigi Dreifuss (1899–1956) was from Endingen (Canton of Aargau), one of the two villages of old Switzerland in which Jews could live before the emancipation in 1866. The Dreifuss family was among the oldest in Switzerland. Her mother’s family left Alsace (near Colmar) after the German annexation in 1871 and Ruth’s mother Jeanne Dreifuss-Bicard (1905–1962) was born in St. Gall. Ruth’s brother, Jean Jacques, born in 1936, was a professor of physiology in the faculty of medicine at the University of Geneva.


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Social Work." (Viewed on December 1, 2015) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Sign Up for JWA eNews


Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs