Jews Among Women
Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, 1858 - 1942
As Council grew, it came to represent the voice of Jews among American women's associations. Affiliation with these groups was extremely important to NCJW's middle class, German-Jewish women, signaling their acceptance among the wealthy, gentile elite. But unlike white Christians, Council members did not have the luxury of identifying primarily as women. Rising anti-Semitism forced them to continually defend their Jewish identity.
A striking example of Council's different priorities was their lack of support for suffrage. In 1917, NCJW rejected a proposed resolution advocating women's voting rights. Solomon, now Honorary President, was an adamant proponent of the suffrage movement and close friends with Susan B. Anthony. But even her endorsement did not sway Council.
For the NCJW, isues like Jewish immigrant aid and America's entry into World War I took precedence over women's rights. Members also had good reason to distrust the women's suffrage movement. Writers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton saw Judaism and Christianity as the forces behind women's oppression and called for the abandonment of both religions. Other feminists of the time blamed the oppressive parts of Christianity on its Jewish roots.
Most importantly, Council continued to justify its work as an extenstion of the traditional role of the Jewish mother. From their point of view, Jewish women did not need the power of the ballot box to play an active role in changing society.
- For discussions of NCJW and its relationship to the women's suffrage movement, see Rogow 80-1 and Deborah Grand Golomb, "The 1893 Congress of Jewish Women: Evolution or Revolution in American Jewish Women's History?" American Jewish History 70 (September 1980): 55-7. Golomb writes, for example, "The Women's Bible, a collection of commentary on biblical passages pertaining to women (published in 1898) by Stanton and others, made disparaging references to Jews. A typical comment was one by Ellen B. Dietrick concerning the disparity between two creation myths. 'My own opinion is that the second story was manipulated by some Jew in an endeavor to give 'heavenly authority' for requiring a woman to obey the man she married.'" (56)