Women of Valor


Childhood Influences

Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, 1858 - 1942

"Even in our formative years, we children of Sarah and Michael Greenebaum were unconsciously affected by their spirit of joyous citizenship in a beloved country whose reverse side, our parents never forgot, imposed civic obligation."

Hannah's parents set an example of strong civic involvement. Her mother organized Chicago's first Jewish Ladies Sewing Society, where they made clothes for the needy. Her father founded the Zion Literary Society, and was a volunteer fireman. Before the civil war, he famously battered down the door of a Chicago jail, demanding freedom for a fugitive slave captured that day.

Hannah was thirteen years old when the great Chicago fire of 1871 decimated the city. Though the Jewish community was particularly hard hit, the Greenebaum house was spared. While thousands were fleeing the fires, Hannah's parents crowded as many families as possible into their home.

The Greenebaums kept a kosher home, and even employed a "Shabbos goya," a Christian woman who lit the fires and performed other religiously prohibited tasks for the family on the day of rest. But Michael Greenebaum also helped found Chicago's first Reform synagogue, and advocated moving the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday because he strongly believed in "the importance of adapting religion to the needs and welfare of people."

  1. "Even in our formative years..." quote from Fabric 18.
  2. On Hannah's parents civic works, see Fabric 18. For Michael Greenebaum, see Hyman L. Meites, ed, History of the Jews of Chicago (Chicago: Jewish Historical Society of Illinois, 1924) 48, 136.
  3. On the Chicago Fire and the Jewish community, see Cutler 28-9.
  4. For the Greenebaums response to the fire, see Fabric 26.
  5. On the Greenebaum's kosher home, see Fabric 16.
  6. On Greenebaum involvement in the founding of Sinai as well as other Reform synagogues, see Cutler 17.
  7. On Michael Greenebaum's radical reform beliefs and "the importance of adapting..." quote, see Fabric 31.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Hannah Greenebaum Solomon - Childhood Influences." (Viewed on April 17, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/solomon/childhood-influences>.