Jewish History: Anti-Semitism
The particular insights of Jewish women writers and their intimate dilemmas of contemporary life throw light on how society and family have changed for this new generation of writers. The novels attract a larger readership than anyone could have predicted.
Brilliant and controversial, Hannah Arendt was a German-trained political theorist whose books exerted a major impact on political theory in North America and Europe. The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) made her an intellectual celebrity in the early years of the Cold War. She was the first woman to become a full professor at Princeton University.
Jewish women began to assimilate into American society and culture as soon as they stepped off the boat. Some started even earlier, with reports and dreams of the goldene medine, the golden land of liberty and opportunity. Very few resisted adapting to the language and mores of the United States; those who did often returned to Europe. Well over ninety percent stayed, even those who cursed Columbus’s voyage and subsequent European settlement in North America.
Although modern Austrian art attracted a high proportion of Jewish women, most of them are forgotten today both because of the male ethos of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century life which relegated women to the domestic domain, and because of the Holocaust which robbed many Jewish women artists of their lives and erased their artistic achievements from popular recognition.
Under her simple stage name “Barbara,” Monique Andrée Serf (b. Paris June 9, 1930, d. Neuilly-sur-Seine November 24–25, 1997) was an immensely popular French singer and composer in the cabaret style.
Matilde Bassani Finzi continued her activity in anti-fascist groups and, together with Giorgio Bassani, organized parlor meetings and helped distribute newspapers and newsletters. After Mussolini’s fall on July 25, 1943, Bassani Finzi was released together with all the political prisoners. Immediately upon her release she contacted the Resistance groups, who began to organize in case Germany should invade Italy, which it did on September 8, 1943. After the war she continued to work for the ideals in which she believed: freedom, democracy and equality for women.
Gretel Bergmann was a highly successful German track and field athlete. While studying at London Polytechnic, she became the British high jump champion in 1934. Returning to Germany to train for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, she was denied entry to the German team even though she tied the German high jump record of 1.60 meters.
From 1936 through 1938, while Clementine Bloch was articled to lawyers, she realized that she was interested in criminal law and after passing the bar examination in 1938, she indeed gained a reputation in criminal cases. From 1948 to 1975 she was as a UN librarian at the New York Public Library and in this capacity served as a liaison between the Library and the UN.
Photographer and photojournalist Eva Besnyö was born in Budapest on April 29, 1910.
Phyllis Chesler, a self-described “radical feminist” and “liberation psychologist,” is a prolific writer, seasoned activist and organizer, and committed Jew and Zionist. Also a psychotherapist and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, Chesler is the author of twelve books.
“The last exhibition Elisheva Cohen curated at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, years after she had retired, and just a little over a year before she died, was Confrontation and Confirmation—Some Aspects of Connoisseurship. The exhibition was a reflection not only of Mrs. Cohen’s work at The Israel Museum but also of her personality: the modesty of a truly knowledgeable person, the thoroughness of a devoted lover, a moderate and cultured didactic tone, directness without pathos and a vast knowledge of artists, periods and styles.” These words, written in January 1990 by Tali Tamir in Jerusalem’s local paper Kol ha-Ir, give some idea of the person Elisheva Cohen was.
While Jews have traditionally placed a great deal of emphasis on education and learning, in the past they reserved the privilege of education primarily for their sons. Religious and cultural ideals assigning women’s place to the home and family combined with societal sexism and antisemitism to make the course charted by Jewish women in pursuit of a college education rocky and in many cases inaccessible. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, Jewish women in America achieved parity with their male counterparts on college campuses, but only after many decades of struggle. Indeed, the obstacles facing all American women who sought to enroll in college institutions in the decades surrounding the turn of the last century proved numerous, imposing, and at times, defeating. For Jewish women, antisemitism posed an added challenge that they had to conquer in order to receive the college education they sought.
In the largest Jewish immigrant wave since the 1920s, nearly three hundred thousand Soviet Jews settled in the United States after 1970. More than two-thirds of all Jewish immigrants to the United States since 1980 have been from the (former) Soviet Union. Women, who comprised fifty-three percent of those who arrived during the wave’s peak, between 1970 and the 1990s, came to the United States with an unusually high degree of professional and technical skills. In contrast to the 16.5 percent of American women who worked as engineers, technicians, or other professionals, over two-thirds of Soviet Jewish émigré women had worked in these occupations prior to their arrival. As is consistent with their occupational status, these Soviet Jewish women immigrants were also highly educated. Their average number of years of schooling was 14.2. Despite their high degree of educational and occupational attainment, women’s salaries in the USSR were only fifty-seven percent of those of men.
The forced conversions of the Jews in Spain that occurred in 1391 changed the face of Spanish Jewry as well as of Spanish history. The random attacks on Jewish communities throughout the country resulted in destruction of property, loss of life and general havoc. Whereas there had previously been Jews and Catholics, now there were Jews, Catholics and converts or conversos. Some of the converts continued to live a Jewish life to the best of their abilities, despite the fact that they now had to attend church and abide by its dogma. Others opted to live as Christians in the hope that new opportunities would await them. Yet others wavered between the two religious lifestyles or opted to follow neither. During the first half of the fifteenth century, the original group of conversos was joined by disillusioned Jews who chose to convert and others who were persuaded to do so in the wake of the rigged Disputation of Tortosa (1413–1414). In the long run, the converso population changed tremendously after nearly a third of the total remaining Jewish population chose to convert in 1492 rather than to face exile. In other words, by the end of the fifteenth century the converso community included descendants of the original forced converts of 1391, descendants of voluntary converts, Jews who chose to remain in Spain as Catholics and even some exiles who returned home within seven years of the fateful decree.
In the radio series This I Believe, Gerty Cori, the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel prize, which she shared with her husband and lifelong collaborator, Carl Cori (1896–1984) in 1947, stated, “Honesty, which stands mostly for intellectual integrity, courage and kindness are still the virtues I admire, though with advancing years the emphasis has been slightly shifted and kindness seem more important to me than in my youth. The love for and dedication to one’s work seem to me to be the basis for happiness.”
Dance has always had a special place in the Jewish community because of its capacity to heighten communal and individual joy at weddings as prescribed in the Lit. "teaching," "study," or "learning." A compilation of the commentary and discussions of the amora'im on the Mishnah. When not specified, "Talmud" refers to the Babylonian Talmud.Talmud, at bar and Lit. "daughter of the commandment." A girl who has reached legal-religious maturity and is now obligated to fulfill the commandmentsbat mitzvah celebrations, and on other happy occasions. The Bible contains many mentions of dance in celebration of important holidays and Israelite victories. Jews have always danced with the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah scrolls in processionals on the holiday of Lit. "rejoicing of the Torah." Holiday held on the final day of Sukkot to celebrate the completing (and recommencing) of the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah (Pentateuch), which is divided into portions one of which is read every Sabbath throughout the year.Simhat Torah, and there are movement processionals on other holidays, as well as during the weekly Sabbath services. A very simple form of dance is even part of Jewish prayer, as the rhythmic rocking movement of davening (praying) literally embodies the notion of total devotion to God.
Photojournalist Lotte Errell worked tirelessly to make her adventurous travels in Africa, China and the Middle East accessible to her readers at home in Germany and beyond. Her success illustrates how photography and travel journalism provided women in Weimar-era Germany with new possibilities for earning a living as well as achieving independence in their careers. Errell’s skills combined with the rise in popularity of adventure travel and amateur ethnology to allow her to reach international status. The quality of her reporting and photographs indicates that she would have continued to even higher levels had she not been hindered from continuing her career first by the Nazis’ rise to power and later by her second husband.
Feinstein is the author of a dozen books of poetry, five biographies, three books of translations of poetry and fourteen novels.
Jewish women have played a significant role in all aspects of the American feminist movement.
A dedicated writer for more than fifty years, Edna Ferber was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on August 15, 1885. She celebrated America even as she exposed its shortcomings. Her published work includes twelve novels, twelve collections of short stories, two autobiographies, and nine plays—most in collaboration with other playwrights.
Literature by American Jewish women reflects historical trends in American Jewish life and indicates the changing issues facing writers who worked to position themselves as Americans, Jews, and women.
The career open to talent became a reality for many Jewish men in nineteenth-century France, but Jewish women began to play a public role in French life only with the opening up of opportunities for women at the turn of the twentieth century. Their being women determined their fate, more than their Jewishness, except for the Holocaust years.