The Encyclopedia features over 1,700 biographies, 300 thematic essays, and 1,400 photographs and illustrations on a wide range of Jewish women through the centuries -- from Gertrude Berg to Gertrude Stein; Hannah Greenebaum Solomon to Hannah Arendt; the Biblical Ruth to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Impulsive, adventurous, and outspoken, Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp ran away from home when she was seventeen years old. Two years later, she joined destinies with western lawman, gambler, and entrepreneur Wyatt Earp. For forty-seven years, they roamed the West, mingling with well-known westerners on both sides of the law. Her name was rarely in print until her published memoir revealed an overlooked western folk female hero, long on daring, short on propriety, and, of all things, Jewish.
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.
S. Deborah Ebin was a national community and Zionist leader who devoted her life to the advancement of Jewish education and Zionist ideals. A dynamic orator, fund-raiser, and world traveler, she was fluent in several languages and versed in the Talmud, making her a formidable figure in American Jewish life.
A preeminent authority on adult education and multiculturalism, Lily Edelman spent her life encouraging others to read and think about people of different cultures and faiths. Through her writings, the reviews and anthologies she edited, and the adult education courses she taught and planned, she challenged individuals to examine both their own religious faith and society. Drawing upon her own heritage, she wrote a popular children’s book, The Sukkah and the Big Wind (1956) about the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth, and Israel: New People in an Old Land (1958) was based on her many trips to Israel.
Racheli Edelman, a leading Hebrew publisher in her own right, is a scion of two of Israel’s most distinguished book and newspaper publishing families—Schocken and Persitz.
Tilly Edinger made her mark as one of the leading vertebrate paleontologists of the twentieth century. Her pioneering work in paleoneurology, the study of fossil brains, established her international reputation as the outstanding woman in her field.
In the Book of Tobit, Edna is Raguel’s wife, Sarah’s mother, and the mother-in-law of Tobias, Tobit’s son. Edna has no biblical namesake; unlike the other women named in Tobit (Anna, Deborah, Eve, Sarah), her name does not evoke images from the Hebrew Bible. Perhaps the author of Tobit means to recall Eden’s idyllic existence, or, more likely, to convey by the name something about the type of woman, wife, and mother Edna is.
The secular and religious education of Jewish girls in America has very modest roots. Initially perceived as seamlessly bound together, over the course of nearly three and a half centuries, the general and Jewish education of Jewish girls took separate paths, which crossed and on occasion entered into conflict with each other. Secular education of Jewish girls has consistently expanded, but the path of Jewish education has been inconsistent.
On May 12, 1985 Amy Eilberg became the first woman ordained by the Conservative movement.
Hannah Bachman Einstein’s activism and volunteer activities bridged very different worlds, from temple sisterhood leadership to lobbying and helping draft legislation for children’s welfare. She helped draft what became the Child Welfare Law of 1915, was the first female board member of the United Hebrew Charities, and served as president of the New York State Association of Child Welfare Boards.
Tiby Eisen was an outstanding center-fielder in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) of the 1940s and 1950s, starring for nine years in the only professional women’s league in the game’s history.
Before she was thirteen years old, author, composer, and musicologist Judith Kaplan Eisenstein was already a significant figure in Jewish history. The eldest of four daughters born to Lena (Rubin) and Rabbi Mordecai Menachem Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Judith Kaplan was the first young woman to celebrate a Bat Mitzvah publicly in an American congregation on March 18, 1922.
On the island of Elephantine, opposite Aswan and just below the first cataract in Egypt, several hundred Aramaic papyri and ostraca were discovered between 1893 and 1910. Typically, some of the best finds were made on the antiquities market, and two archives of Jewish families from the fifth century b.c.e. were acquired by purchase. One was bought in 1897 by the American Egyptologist, Charles Edwin Wilbour (1833–1896), but was not published until 1953 by Emil Gottlieb Heinrich Kraeling; the other was acquired in 1904 by Sir Robert Ludwig Mond (1867–1938) and Lady William Cecil (Georgina Sophia Pakenham, 1827–1909) and by the Bodleian Library in Oxford and was published shortly thereafter (1906) by Archibald Henry Sayce (1845–1933) and Arthur Ernest Cowley (1861–1931). The Wilbour papyri, now in the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, contain the family archive of the Temple official Ananiah son of Azariah, covering a period of fifty years, namely, two generations (451–402 b.c.e.). The Mond-Cecil papyri are in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and together with the Bodleian papyrus constitute the archive of the woman Mibtahiah daughter of Mahseiah, spanning over sixty years and covering three generations (471–410 b.c.e.).
Gertrude Elion’s biochemistry work revolutionized the ways drugs are developed. She received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine even though she never earned her PhD. Her career paved the way for chemotherapy, organ transplantation, anti-viral medications, and AIDS treatment.
Elisheba is mentioned only a single time in the Torah (Ex. 6:23), as the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon and the wife of Aaron the High Priest. The Rabbis speak at large concerning her. They note her importance, since her life was bound up with the most distinguished families in Israel: her husband was appointed High Priest, her children were deputy high priests, her brother was nasi (chieftain) of the tribe of Judah and her brother-in-law Moses led the Israelites. The midrash accordingly applies to Elisheba the verse “And may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:12), which was meant to signify that Elisheba, too, was descended from the royal line since she was from the tribe of Judah (Ruth Zuta 4:12). Commenting on Jacob’s blessing to Judah, “You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise” (Gen. 49:8), the Rabbis list Elisheba daughter of Amminadab among the important people and officials that were born to this tribe and call her “the mother of the priesthood” (Gen. Rabbah 97:8).
Daughter of Amminadav, sister of Nahson, Elisheba is the wife of the high priest Aaron and the mother of four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
After making Aliyah in 1925, Elisheva Bichovsky (born in Russia as Elizaveta Zhirkova), helped shape the Yishuv’s literary scene as one of Palestine’s first Hebrew poets. Her 1926 Kos Ketannah and 1929 Simta’ot were, respectively, the first poetry collection and first novel written by a woman to be published in Palestine.
Oshra Elkayam-Ronen, who belongs to the pioneer generation of Israeli movement theater, is one of the important Israeli choreographers in this style. One can discern two main theoretical topics in her work: questions about the nature of life, and the relationship between men and women. She maintains that she feels like a human being who has been cast into the world, searching for a place to hold on to. She sees life as a paradox but at the same time has a drive to create, ambition to realize herself, “to climb on the ladders”—all of which require incessant pursuit. “The only permanent element that cannot be stopped,” she maintains, “is time, which acts like a local train going through a series of life stations that lead in the end to an unattained goal.” Her work appears as if it were immersed in a pool of fantasy, humor and optimism.
Called the Earth Mother of Hippiedom by fellow band member John Phillips, Cass Elliot brought charm and vocal muscle to a stormy and transitional period of American music history. In flowery print dresses of the mid-1960s, made tentlike to accommodate her great size, Elliot, born Ellen Naomi Cohen on February 19, 1941, in Baltimore, grew to fame with the tightly harmonic vocal group the Mamas and the Papas. During their three-year reign at the top of popular music charts, the Mamas and the Papas melded folk and psychedelic styles in a quartet whose half-dozen remembered songs still evoke a time prior to the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, when hippie ideologies of communal living and relaxed standards of dress and demeanor had not yet divided the recording industry or the nation along fierce political lines. In 1966, the Mamas and the Papas made their television debut, singing “California Dreamin’” on the variety show The Hollywood Palace. It was broadcast to American soldiers in Vietnam, and host Arthur Godfrey sent “our boys” a message of hope.
In the 1980s, when she served as headmaster of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in suburban Washington, D.C., Shulamith Elster was often referred to as the dean of Jewish education.
The Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women’s Clubs (ELF), a progressive women’s group, grew out of the Emma Lazarus Division, founded in 1944 by the Women’s Division of the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order of the International Workers Order (IWO). Formed to provide relief to wartime victims, but especially to combat antisemitism and racism and to nurture positive Jewish identification through a broad program of Jewish education and women’s rights, the Emma Lazarus Division attracted a membership of leftist, largely Yiddish-speaking women, many of the immigrant generation. Among its founders was Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the young woman who had called for the general strike of garment workers that sparked the 1909 Uprising Of The 20,000. Shavelson and other organizers believed that, because of the Holocaust, thousands of women had become “newly aware of themselves as Jewish women,” but they urgently needed “history, self-knowledge as Jews, and cultural products” that could sustain the fight against fascism. In its early years, the division offered fellowships for fiction and history on Jewish themes. It also supported a home for French war orphans and a day nursery in Israel, and championed a broad range of women’s issues.
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 Knesset 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.
When Katharine Engel’s alma mater, Smith College, conferred upon her its first honorary degree for Jewish achievement in 1950, the citation praised Engel’s “sensitive understanding of the many complex problems which confront the immigrant to this country.” A renowned emigré expert and Jewish communal leader who devoted much of her career to resettling displaced European Jewry, Engel was also an outspoken critic of McCarthyism and a tireless advocate of immigration reform.
The dictionary definition of entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Following this definition to its logical conclusion, every pre-modern woman who managed a household was an entrepreneur since the household, at least until the seventeenth—in some places until the eighteenth—century, was an economic enterprise. For the purposes of this article, however, we have limited this broad definition of entrepreneurship, concentrating on women who specialized in commerce, selling what they themselves produced or what others produced and, in later centuries, women who were actively involved in the money economy.
Nora Ephron has used her refreshing wit, biting sarcasm, and ability to make the mundane entertaining to write her way into the lives of millions. Heeding her mother’s advice that “everything is copy,” Ephron draws upon her own experiences—childhood dreams, anxieties about her flat chest, and her two divorces—in her articles, books, and screenplays.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on January 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/content/E>.