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.
In 1935, Lotte Jacobi rejected the Nazis’ offer to grant her honorary Aryan status and fled first to London and then to the United States, where she became one of America’s foremost portrait photographers.
A pioneer in many realms—birth control, women’s suffrage, peace activism, and envisioning a wider future for women—Aletta Henriette Jacobs was born on February 9, 1854, in the small town of Sappemeer, Netherlands, the eighth of eleven children of Abraham Jacobs, a country doctor, and Anna de Jongh. Her assimilated Jewish family maintained social and intellectual ties with other Jewish families in the area.
Dore Jacobs was the inventor of a little-known method of physical education which became a mode of resistance under Nazism and is still taught in Germany, in the very same place in which it originated eight decades ago.
There are sixteen stained-glass windows in the dome of Colorado’s state capitol, each one illustrating a pioneer who was an important influence on Colorado’s development. Among them is one woman, Frances Wisebart Jacobs.
A member of the original circle of women who established Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization, in 1912, Rose Jacobs epitomized the spirit of American Zionist voluntarism. She gradually rose from a grass-roots organizer to the leadership of the organization, and came to play a central role in Zionist affairs worldwide.
Born in Portugal circa 1710, Zipporah Nunes began life as a Conversa, but ended it as an observant Jewish woman. In 1726, as Maria Caetana Nunes Ribeiro, Zipporah made a dramatic escape with her family from Lisbon to London, with the connivance of an English ship’s captain, in order to evade re-examination by the Inquisition for practicing Judaism in secret.
As a member of the faculty in the German department at Hunter College, Anna Jacobson fought to preserve the study of German language and literature during the 1930s and 1940s, when many felt that it was inappropriate for American students to study the language of the Nazis. During her tenure as chair of the German department from 1947 to her retirement in 1956, she worked to present the richness of German thought and writing to Hunter students and to the American public.
Irina Jacobson, a Soviet-Russian dancer, teacher and international authority on the staging of the major nineteenth- and twentieth-century Romantic and Classical ballets, is also the former director of Choreographic Miniatures, the St. Petersburg ballet company of her late husband, Leonid Jacobson, the leading iconoclastic Soviet ballet choreographer. A former soloist with the Kirov Ballet, Irina Jacobson was the last protégée of Agrippina Vaganova, the influential teacher at the State Academic Theatre for Opera and Ballet (GATOB, later the Kirov), the woman who systematized the teaching of ballet for the new era of Soviet ballet, and who recognized and inspired Irina Jacobson’s gifts as an exacting and inspired ballet pedagogue.
Combining her Jewish background with her skill and penchant for writing, Janie Jacobson succeeded as a biblical playwright. The children’s plays she authored were performed nationally.
Paula Jacques is the pen name of Paula Abadi (b. Cairo, May 8, 1949). Since 1975 a talk show hostess on the French radio networks France Culture and France Inter, she is also a novelist, many of whose books achieve second editions as paperbacks. Paula Jacques’s work reconstructs the life of the mostly French-speaking Egyptian Jewish community prior to their expulsion at the time of the Suez crisis.
The midrash praises Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, and includes her among the devout women converts, together with Hagar, Asenath, Zipporah, Shiphrah, Puah, the daughter of Pharaoh, Rahab and Ruth (Yalkut Shimoni on Joshua, para. 9, from Midrash Tadshe).
The wife of Heber the Kenite, Jael plays an important role in the story of Israel’s wars with the Canaanites, described in the Book of Judges. In the narrative about the military heroine Deborah, Jael kills Sisera, the Canaanite general of King Jabin, after he escapes from the battle with Deborah’s general, Barak.
Jean Jaffe was one of the leading Yiddish journalists of her time and covered a variety of subjects, from theater to international politics. She was a field reporter at a time when women were usually relegated to women’s pages and a Yiddish-language journalist at a time when most American reporters wrote in English, making her career doubly remarkable.
Marie Jahoda is an important figure in psychology in England as well as the United States. She authored or coauthored eight books and coedited five more. Jahoda received an award for distinguished contributions to the public interest from the American Psychological Association in 1979.
Ira Jan (the professional name of Esphir Yoselevitch), a painter and writer, was the first Hebrew artist in pre-State Palestine. She was born on February 2, 1868 in Kishinev, the capital of Moldavia.
In April 1946, Geneviève Janssen-Pevtschin was made an Officer of Belgium’s Order of the Crown, awarded a Croix de Guerre (military cross) with palms and promoted to the rank of captain ARA (Agent de Renseignement et d’Action). These honors were bestowed on her for the part she played in the activities of the Belgian resistance movement, the Service Zéro, during World War II. Two years later, in November 1948, she was again in the news, this time due to her appointment as the country’s first woman magistrate.
Laura Margolis Jarblum was the first female overseas representative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). After World War II, she became JDC’s first female Country Director.
Author of two critically acclaimed books on immigrant life, Marie Grunfeld Jastrow was educated in a German school, and lived in Serbia before moving to New York with her family at age ten. Her two memoirs, A Time to Remember: Growing Up in New York Before the Great War and Looking Back: The American Dream through Immigrant Eyes, touched audiences deeply.
The Rabbis severely criticize Jephthah’s vow and conduct that resulted in the senseless death of his daughter.
Among the traditions that Jews brought to America, one may include the diligent study of the Torah and honor to those distinguished in its study. Torah study and its public recognition, however, were restricted to men and, obviously, to those among them who had the means and talent to devote themselves to it.
Jewish feminism in Germany today is an expression of a wide-reaching renewal of Judaism that has been going on in many European countries since the early 1990s. That women have their own movement within this development became evident at the first conference of Bet Debora in Berlin.
Challenging all varieties of American Judaism, feminism has been a powerful force for popular Jewish religious revival. Of America’s four Jewish denominations, all but the Orthodox have accepted women as rabbis and cantors.
The Jewish League for Woman Suffrage (JLWS) was the only Jewish women’s organization in England—and the world—devoted exclusively to obtaining both national and Jewish suffrage for women.
Jewish women play prominent roles as founders, directors, curators, artists, and patrons of Jewish museums in the United States. While women have rarely played an exclusive role in the creation of either small community or larger museums, their work as creators and developers of these repositories is critical.
The Jewish Woman, a quarterly magazine published under the auspices of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) between 1921 and 1931, was created to give the world “its first organized record of Jewish womanhood’s aspirations and successes.”
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on January 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/content/J>.