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.
Fanny Binswanger Hoffman belonged to a distinguished American family with roots deep in American history. Her father, Rabbi Isidor Binswanger, was head of the Maimonides School in Philadelphia, the first Jewish institution of higher learning in the United States. Hoffman followed in her father’s footsteps, dedicating her life to Jewish education for children.
Hilde Holger’s choreography incorporated her interest in religion, politics, and the natural world. Her works provoked important discussions about the role of dance in the public sphere.
Born on June 21, 1921, at Lying In Hospital in Manhattan, the only child of Helen Gollomb and Abe Tuvim, Judy Holliday was the only child in a family of childless uncles and aunts, particularly on her mother’s side. Her parents, who met at the Rand School in New York, married on June 17, 1917, and often frequented the Café Royale, a meeting place on New York’s Lower East Side for people in the Yiddish theater. After they separated when Holliday was about six, she was brought up by her mother’s extended family, although later she reestablished relations with her father. President of the American Federation of Musicians from 1929 to 1937, a member of the American Zionist Strategy Council in 1944, and executive director of the Jewish National Fund of America from 1951 to 1958, Abe Tuvim, who died of cancer at sixty-four, was also a journalist for the Jewish-language press. Judy’s mother, whose parents emigrated from Russia—her father had made epaulets for the czar and died shortly after arriving in this country—grew up under the tutelage of a strong socialist mother and amid several brothers. After separating from her husband, Helen Tuvim gave piano lessons during the hard times of the Depression.
“I always have to break a song over my back. … I just can’t sing a song; it has to be part of my marrow and bones and everything,” Libby Holman explained in a 1966 interview. Daring, dark, and impetuous, Holman led a rich public life that touched a dizzying array of people, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Montgomery Clift, from Alice B. Toklas to Jane Bowles. A musical and sexual revolutionary from the 1920s to the 1960s, Holman succeeded at two different musical careers. Known as the “Statue of Libby,” she carried one of the smokiest torches of American music hall society in the 1920s and 1930s, and was the inventor of the strapless evening dress. From a deep sense of personal commitment, she later made significant contributions to the civil rights movement as both an artist and a wealthy benefactor. However, murder, millionaires, death, and suicide were morbid recurring themes in Libby Holman’s life, reaching tabloid proportions.
Studies of women and the Holocaust, or gender and the Holocaust, are part of a dynamic, evolving field. As part of literary studies, their approaches draw upon the many other fields and methodological approaches, such as history of the Holocaust, gender history, psychology, trauma theory, literary theory, life writing, women’s studies, religious studies and gender theory.
Holocaust studies is a dynamic and diverse field of research that embraces various approaches toward the study of the Holocaust. Jewish American women have made critical contributions to this field in a variety of areas, including general history, women and gender, children, literary criticism, autobiography and biography, curriculum development, religious studies, sociology, psychoanalytic theory, biomedical ethics, and archive and museum curatorship. Jewish American women have contributed original research and have reshaped the way the Holocaust is studied through innovative theoretical and methodological approaches. They come to the study of the Holocaust as Jews, as women, and as Americans. With each of these roles and experiences they bring different concerns and questions. Some of these scholars are survivors or refugees or are the daughters of survivors or refugees. Some were born in the United States, some came to the United States during or after the war. Many have focused exclusively on the study of women.
They had made it through World War II and now they were coming to America, 140,000 strong. The women, along with the men, had survived the rigors of the ghettos, the horrors of the concentration camps, the final agony of the death marches. They had been in hiding, or fighting with the partisans. They had escaped to the Soviet Union, some to Shanghai. And even after the war, they had been penned into displaced persons camps, in a holding pattern, waiting for a place to live, determined to get out of Europe. Now America was finally opening its doors, the doors that had been so tightly guarded during the war and, before, in the 1930s. And the American Jewish community was about to shoulder a responsibility that would sorely test its resources, commitment, and understanding.
A member of the generation that came of age in the 1960s, Elizabeth Holtzman has pursued a public career epitomizing some of the most important trends in postwar American and Jewish life. In her successive roles as a congresswoman, Brooklyn district attorney, and comptroller of New York City, she emerged as an effective and activist public servant, a forceful campaigner, and a champion of liberal and feminist causes. Her career illustrates the recent empowerment of ambitious, highly motivated, professional young women and the increasing role of Jewish figures in electoral politics. In addition, she has been a dedicated Jew, with a highly regarded record of communal commitment and achievement.
Fanny E. Holtzmann was a middle child in a family of seven children. Born in Brooklyn to Henry and Theresa Holtzmann, she grew up ignored by her busy family. Her close relationship with her maternal grandfather was crucial in encouraging Fanny, once labeled the “class dunce,” to complete three years of high school and enroll in night classes at Fordham University’s law school. During the day, she worked as a clerk for a theatrical law firm. The only woman to graduate in her law class of 1922, she opened her office half an hour after passing the bar.
For Rokhl Holzer, a riveting recital artiste and unforgettable star of the Yiddish stage, acting the part was never enough. She lived and breathed each role, mesmerizing audiences in Poland, Lithuania, Australia, Israel, USA, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden with her ability to transform herself into any character she portrayed. Holzer was also an adept and adored director of the Yiddish theater, a true team worker who brought out the best in all with whom she shared the stage.
Barbara Honigmann, who was born in East Berlin on February 12, 1949, is the most distinguished German-Jewish writer of the generations born after the Holocaust. Her father, Georg Honigmann, Ph.D. (1903–1984), who was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, emigrated to Great Britain in 1933 but later returned to the GDR, where he was a prominent journalist and film producer. Her mother, Alice (née Kohlmann, 1910–1984), was born in Vienna and emigrated to Great Britain in 1934. She worked in film dubbing. The couple divorced in 1954.
Sarah Rebecca Rachel Leah Horowitz, author of Tkhinne imohes (Supplication of the Matriarchs), was the daughter of Jacob Yokl ben Meir Ha-Levi Horowitz (1680–1755) and Reyzel bat Heshl. Her father was a member of the famed kloyz of Brody. Leah Horowitz (as she was known) was one of some seven children. Three of her brothers were rabbis, of whom the most eminent was Isaac (known as “Itsikl Hamburger,” 1715–1767), rabbi of Hamburg, Altona and Wandsbeck. There was also a sister, named Pessil. There is some doubt about the identity of another brother and sister. As the sister of eminent brothers, Leah disproves the old canard that the only educated women in her time were the daughters of learned rabbis who had no sons.
Frances Rappaport Horwich was born on July 16, 1908 in Ottawa, Ohio, and was the daughter of Samuel (b. c. 1868) and Rosa (Gratz, b. c. 1869) Rappaport. Samuel immigrated to the United States in 1884 from Austria and Rosa in 1885 from Russia. They had five children: Henry (b. c. 1895), Mary B. (b. c. 1898), Maggie F. (b. c. 1903), Joseph N. (b. c. 1905), and Frances (b. 1908). After completing high school in her hometown, Horwich earned her bachelor’s degree in 1929 from the University of Chicago. She received her M.A. from Teachers’ College at Columbia University in 1933 and her doctorate in education from Northwestern University in 1942.
Florence Howe was born on March 17, 1929, in New York City to Samuel and Frances (Stilly) Rosenfeld. Her father was a taxi driver and her mother a bookkeeper. She received her B.A. from Hunter College in 1950 and her M.A. from Smith College in 1951. She then did graduate study at the University of Wisconsin from 1951 to 1954.
Huldah is one of the seven women prophets of Israel enumerated by the Rabbis: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah and Esther (BT Megillah 14a); she is also mentioned among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came forth from Israel (Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], p. 474).
Huldah is depicted as a temple prophet who validates a scroll, called “the book of the law [or covenant],” purportedly found in the temple during repairs ordered by King Josiah, the last of Judah’s “good” kings (reigned 640–609 b.c.e.). The narrative of this book is tied to the nationalistic political and economic policies known as Josiah’s cultic reform. Whether Josiah’s new policies began before or after the discovery of the book is a point of contention between the versions of events in Kings and in Chronicles. The exact content of the book is not specified: Josiah’s destruction of non-Yahwistic cultic sites is in line with positions expressed in the Book of Deuteronomy, as is Huldah’s reference to “all the curses that are written in the book” (2 Chr 34:24). In Chronicles, the allusion to “the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses” (2 Chr 34:14) may suggest that later author’s (historically unlikely) assumption that it was the whole Pentateuch. Some historians question whether an ancient document was really found and suggest it had been produced to serve Josiah’s purposes. Others tie it to documents that may have survived from an earlier reform—that of Josiah’s great-grandfather Hizkiyahu (727–698 b.c.e.), whose efforts were negated by the subsequent misdeeds of his son Menashe (698–642 b.c.e.).
Long known as the “Jewish Girls’ Radcliffe,” Hunter College of the City University of New York was founded in 1870 as the Normal College of the City of New York. It was a public, tuition-free secondary and teacher-training school that admitted students solely on the basis of academic merit, determined by competitive examination, and by residency in the city. Over the years, it became a haven for academically advanced students unable to afford more costly schools or to gain admission to institutions with more restrictive admissions criteria. Women who were considered “socially undesirable”—African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, especially those from Eastern Europe—attended Hunter in disproportionate numbers. Hunter’s student body, therefore, differed significantly from that of other women’s colleges in America. From 1900 to the end of World War II, decades when many institutions of higher education implemented policies of selective admissions specifically designed to deflect minority students, Hunter gladly welcomed these same women. Hunter educated scores of intellectually gifted and professionally talented women whose skills and achievements amply repaid the city’s largesse.
One of the most famous and most popular French actresses of her generation, Isabelle Anne Huppert was born on March 16, 1953, to a well-to-do family. Her father Raymond was an industrialist, and her mother Annick an English teacher. Huppert is the youngest of their five children, four daughters and one son, all of whom took up professional or artistic careers: Jacqueline (b. September 30,1944) is an academic scholar; Elisabeth (b. June 20,1948), a former director, actress and writer; Caroline (b. October 28,1950), a script-writer and director. Rémi is an author. With her gifted siblings, Huppert spent a protected childhood in a residential neighborhood near Paris. After high school at the St-Cloud Gymnasium, Huppert studied Russian at university and earned a B.A. Encouraged by her parents, she went on to study theater at the Versailles Conservatoire and received a first prize there. She spent one year at the famed Rue Blanche theater school and then entered the prestigious Conservatoire National d’Art Dramatique. Thus began a theatrical career that Huppert has never given up, despite her demanding work for the cinema.
Fannie Hurst was among the most popular and sought-after writers of the post–World War I era.
Lea Hurvitz was born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1867. Her father, Yehoshua-Dov Beninson (1846–1931), an accountant in a commercial bank, was one of the first members of the Hibbat Zion (Love of Zion) movement and dedicated himself to its cause. Her mother, Yehudit Levin, was the daughter of a rabbi. Lea had two sisters, Bella (1886–1962?) and Ruhama (1889–?), and three brothers.
Physiologist Ida Henrietta Hyde’s proudest accomplishment wasn’t her pioneering research—it was her work on behalf of other women scientists. In 1896, she conducted research at the Zoological Station in Naples, Italy, after completing her Ph.D. in Heidelberg, Germany. The next year, she persuaded America’s foremost women educators and philanthropists to make this opportunity available to other American women scientists. The group she founded was known as the Naples Table Association for Promoting Scientific Research by Women. Using a subscription system, the group raised five hundred dollars annually to fund a research “table,” actually a small laboratory, where thirty-six American women in all benefited from Hyde’s vision.
In 1960, zoologist Libbie Hyman explained her work: “I like invertebrates. I don’t mean worms particularly, although a worm can be almost anything, including the larva of a beautiful butterfly. But I do like the soft delicate ones, the jellyfishes and corals and the beautiful microscopic organisms.” Hyman transformed her love of the soft creatures to writings that brought her international recognition as an expert on invertebrates and as the world authority on flatworms.
Scholarship, feminism, dedication, perseverance and integrity immediately come to mind when Paula Hyman’s name is mentioned. Those who know her well would add family and friendship to the list. Though she has ostensibly moved only from Boston, where she was born on September 30, 1946, to her present residence in New Haven, Connecticut, Hyman has traveled wide and far, spiritually, intellectually and physically. Hyman remains steadfast in her dedication to Jewish and humanitarian commitments and to her professional and personal concerns.
Rebekah Gumpert Hyneman was best known to mid-nineteenth-century American Jews as the author of The Leper and Other Poems (1853). However, she also published stories, poems, and essays in the Occident and American Jewish Advocate, the Masonic Keystone and Mirror, and other periodicals.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on February 23, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/content/H>.