A successful psychologist who also devoted her life to religious education and leadership, Evelyn Garfiel offered generations of women a model for balancing academic pursuits and religious commitment.
Born in New York on June 10, 1900, Garfiel received a B.A. from Barnard College and a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. In 1923, she married Rabbi Max Kadushin, a Russian-born graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS). During the 1920s and 1930s, while her husband held posts in the Midwest, Garfiel pursued her own career, teaching psychology at the Universities of Chicago and Wisconsin (at Madison). She also had two sons, Charles and Phineas.
Upon the family’s return to New York in 1942, Garfiel turned increasingly to Jewish education and community work. She eventually served on the boards of both Hadassah and the United Synagogue’s Women’s League. In 1954, Garfiel introduced the first annual Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah study session at the Women’s League Biennial National Convention and subsequently authored a number of educational pamphlets and lectures for the league. Her considerable Judaic knowledge led Garfiel to JTS, where she became involved in the Women’s Institute, a program of adult education for women who wished to study Judaica. In addition to teaching her own courses in Hebrew language, Bible, liturgy, and Jewish thought, Garfiel encouraged other prominent scholars to teach for the program.
Garfiel’s editorial involvement with some of her husband’s publications reflected her own interest in liturgy and Jewish thought. In 1958, she published The Service of the Heart, a detailed and passionate exploration of the Jewish prayer book. She also published Handbook of Hebrew Grammar, affording her students access to the great Jewish texts that formed such a central part of her own identity.
By the end of her life, Evelyn Garfiel enjoyed the respect of her peers in Hadassah, the Women’s League, and JTS, and the admiration of many students. Though she was not an outspoken advocate of organized feminism, Garfiel was a model of women’s ability to balance professional and personal commitments. In an article published in Outlook magazine, written only three years before her death in New York City on September 6, 1987, Evelyn Garfiel declared that Jewish women should assume traditionally male ritual obligations such as daily prayer and the wearing of a tallith and Phylacteriestefillin. She concluded her article with the question that had inspired her own life: “[C]an we really find the time and the energy in our new, frantically busy lives for marriage and children and career and sheer human responsibilities, not to speak of occasional time for relaxation? … [And] can we Jewish women add to these enormous demands the obligation to fulfill all the obligations of Jewish law and ritual? Only time will tell.”
EJ, s.v. “Kadushin, Max”; Kadushin, Max. Archives. Jewish Theological Seminary of America, NYC.
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Strauss, Lauren B.. "Evelyn Garfiel." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/garfiel-evelyn>.