Radical Or Traditional?
Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, 1858 - 1942
"In the last zigzagging process of world advancement in America, the Jewish men took their wives and daughters by the hand, led them into family pews and left them there..."
The late nineteenth century saw Jewish men yielding their traditional responsibility for religious observance to women. Council members took their new role seriously. They hoped to combat the growing trend of assimilation among American Jews with a renewed commitment to Jewish family life.
Study Circles were a key part of their plan. Women's religious education in the Jewish community was still a radical idea at the turn of the century. But as Solomon and others argued, how could a mother make a traditional Jewish home when she was ignorant of her own culture? Council depicted and believed in its radical step as a means of renewing tradition instead of breaking new ground.
While Solomon was one of the first women to speak from a synagogue pulpit, she still agreed to leave issues of religious authority to men. She did not question the rabbis who praised Council's efforts to renew Judaism while still dictating the meaning of its traditions. Instead Solomon invited the rabbis to lead Study Circles. Even as they boldly trespassed onto new ground, Solomon and the early NCJW maintained that a Jewish woman's greatest power was through influence, not authority.
- "In the last zigzagging process of world advancement ..." quote from Sheaf 225.
- On Jewish male leaders approval/disapproval of Council, see Rogow 53; 100-1.
- On Council's radical policy for traditional purposes and on seeking influence, not authority, see Rogow 63.
- Caption to Hannah Greenebaum Solomon Speaking: the quote "...I am not so sure but..." is from Sheaf 225.