Education: Libraries

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Dina Abramowicz

Renowned for her remarkable skills as a reference librarian, Dina Abramowicz built an impressive library collection at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, where she worked since 1947. Her scholarship and expertise, praised by readers and writers alike, were celebrated by both library and cultural achievement awards.

Annotated Bibliography and Guide to Archival Resources on the History of Jewish Women in America

This bibliography concentrates on books, chapters in anthologies, and periodical articles on the collective history of American Jewish women and archival resources on individuals and women’s organizations.

Registration Document for Date Orchards, Second Century CE

Babatha

Babatha daughter of Shim’on, a Jewish landowner who lived in Roman Arabia, owned a document archive found in a cave in the Judaean desert. Babatha’s archive is an extremely important resource for many issues, especially on the question of Jewish women’s legal position in Greco-Roman Palestine.

Hannah Barnett-Trager

Hannah Trager, writer and communal activist, was born in London to Zerah (1843–1935) and Rachel Lea Barnett (1842–1924).

Beatrice Berler

Beatrice Berler was an award-winning translator of Spanish-language novels and history and a renowned community activist. She worked in women’s fashion for over twenty years before returning to school at the age of forty-five, eventually becoming nationally recognized as a literacy activist.

Clementine Bern-Zernik

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.

Dance in the Yishuv and Israel

Until 1920, dance—like other artistic activities—was virtually nonexistent in Palestine, then a neglected province of the Ottoman Empire. The Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (founded in 1906) operated in Jerusalem, while Tel Aviv had two modest music conservatories, Shulamit (founded in 1910) and Beit Ha-Levi’im (founded in 1914). Attempts were also made to set up small symphony orchestras and amateur theater, but these soon folded. There were no dance or drama schools or even auditoriums. Under the more liberal administration of the Mandate for Palestine given to Great Britain by the League of Nations in April 1920 to administer Palestine and establish a national home for the Jewish people. It was terminated with the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.British Mandate which went into effect in 1920, waves of immigration increased until, by the middle of the 1920s, the Jewish population reached about ninety thousand. (There were 83,790 Jews in Palestine according to the first British census in 1922). The character of immigration also changed: while previously most of the immigrants had been young idealists who arrived as individuals, most of those who arrived during the third Lit. "ascent." A "calling up" to the Torah during its reading in the synagogue.aliyah (1919–1923) were entire families, primarily from eastern Europe. They increased the population in urban settlements, built on the sands of Tel Aviv, and gave momentum to the development of the arts, particularly dance.

Carrie Dreyfuss Davidson

Founder and longtime editor in chief of Outlook magazine, Carrie Dreyfuss Davidson, born in Brooklyn, New York, on February 12, 1879, exemplified the often competing paradigms of Jewish homemaker and accomplished writer and community leader. Introduced to many in American Jewish society as the wife of renowned professor Israel Davidson of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, this gifted woman eventually founded and fostered an array of significant organizations and publications.

Natalie Zemon Davis

Natalie Zemon Davis

Natalie Zemon Davis is a leading European historian, a pioneer in feminist studies, and one of the first women to assume a senior position in academic life. In 1987, when she served as president of the American Historical Association, the largest professional organization of historians in the United States, she became only the second woman ever to hold that post. Davis’s work has enriched historical understanding by challenging the boundaries of scholarly inquiry and broadening the scope of the historical profession.

Jennie Maas Flexner

Jennie Maas Flexner was the head of the circulation department at the Louisville Public Library and later the readers’ advisor at the New York Public Library. Her sympathy for self-taught and adult learners drove her to create innovative reading lists for adults embarking on a new life or second career.

Ruth Gay

With a few strokes of her pen, Ruth Glazer (later Gay) painted a vivid portrait of the culture of second-generation Jews in New York. As a free-lance writer and editor for over fifty years, she has explored the Jewish experience of both America and Germany.

Fanny Goldstein

Fanny Goldstein

Librarian, social activist, and founder of National Jewish Book Week, Fanny Goldstein helped institutionalize national pride in ethnic and immigrant backgrounds through her work in libraries and settlement houses, and in her lectures and writing.

Frieda Warburg, 1936

Hebrew Teachers Colleges in the United States

During the early waves of immigration to the United States, Sephardi and German Jews established full-time schools in large population centers. Rabbis, clergy and predominantly European-trained male teachers provided religious instruction in private-school settings, often sponsored by and housed in synagogues.

Israela Oron and Esther Herlitz at "Dor l'Dor Yabia Omer" in Sarafand, June 19, 1996

Esther Herlitz

A staunch Zionist and dedicated volunteer, born in Berlin on October 9, 1921, Esther Herlitz inherited many of her admirable traits from her beloved “Yekke” parents. Her father, Georg Herlitz (1885–1968), was born in Oppeln, a small town in Upper Silesia, into a totally assimilated Jewish family and received a typical Prussian education. However, since his parents could not afford to send him to university, he registered—with the help of the local rabbi—at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, a center for the scientific study of Judaism and a rabbinical seminary. Here the liberal Jewish administration awarded him a stipend and here, also, both his studies and the Zionist movement introduced him to a new world. Returning home, he led the first A seven-day festival to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt (eight days outside Israel) beginning on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Also called the "Festival of Mazzot"; the "Festival of Spring"; Pesah.Passover Lit. "order." The regimen of rituals, songs and textual readings performed in a specific order on the first two nights (in Israel, on the first night) of Passover.seder ever held in the history of the family and when he resumed studies, this time at the University of Berlin, he became an ardent Zionist activist. On completing his studies in 1919, he refused to become a rabbi and instead founded the Central Zionist Archive. When the Zionist Federation, which was interested in influencing the local Jewish community, asked him to infiltrate the city’s large 3,500-member Reform synagogue, Herlitz and his friends took on the role of wardens and replaced the rabbi with one who was a Zionist. His wife, Irma (née Herzka, 1888–1970), who came from a traditional home in Moravia and whose father was a melamed (teacher) of little children, hated what she perceived as the empty ceremonial of the Reform Jews, but Esther herself came to love it.

Rahel Hirsch

Physiologist, physician and teacher, Rahel Hirsch was the granddaughter of Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808–1888), the founder and spiritual leader of neo-Orthodoxy and one of the major rabbinical figures of the nineteenth century. Born in Frankfurt am Main on September 15, 1870, one of the eleven children of Dr. Mendel Hirsch, Rahel grew up in a cultured, Jewishly knowledgeable family. Her father, who was the principal of the Jewish community’s Realschule and a leading figure in the strictly Orthodox Jewish community, ensured that she receive good schooling by sending her to a girls’ school in her native city. Since women were not yet admitted to German universities, Rahel went to the teachers’ seminary in Wiesbaden, where she received her teaching certificate in May 1889. For want of any alternative, she taught until 1898, but since she longed to be a physician she went to Zürich, where women had been admitted to medical school since 1840. However, when German universities followed suit, she returned, studying first in Leipzig and later, from November 1900, in Strassburg. Here she passed the state examination in July 1903, wrote her dissertation on the impact of glucose and was immediately licensed as a physician.

Dorothea Hirschfeld

Too old, lacking an appropriate educational background, of unsuitable family background, a member of the Social-Democrat Party and—worst of all—a woman, Dorothea Hirschfeld, a Jew without any legal training, nevertheless succeeded in entering the civil service at the age of forty-three. In 1919 she was the only woman among twenty candidates recommended for a position at the newly founded Reich Ministry of Employment and, a year later, the only one appointed as ministerial adviser.

Deborah Lipstadt

Historians in the United States

American Jewish women have been prominent within the historical profession. Indeed, many have been on the cutting edge of historical scholarship since the 1960s. In particular, Jewish women were at the forefront of developments within social history and in the creation of women’s history. While women generally, and Jewish women in particular, rarely made careers as historians in the first half of the twentieth century, Jewish women represented a significant proportion of academic historians both in American and European history as discrimination against Jews and prejudice against women lessened in the decades after World War II. Perhaps because of their sensitivity to the situation of powerless groups, most of them focused their attention not on traditional power elites but rather on those social groups traditionally ignored by academic historians: ordinary people, workers, peasants, minority groups, Jews, and especially women. They helped create, and were influenced by, new trends in historical scholarship that favored the study of such groups.

Frieda Warburg, 1936

Jewish Museums in the United States

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.

Healing Service Published by Central Synagogue

JWRC: Eleanor Leff Jewish Women's Resource Center

The Eleanor Leff Jewish Women’s Resource Center (JWRC) of the National Council of Jewish Women, New York Section, maintains an extensive collection of materials by and about Jewish women and creates Jewish programming with a feminist focus. The JWRC was founded in 1976 to document and advance the modern Jewish women’s movement.

Rahel Katznelson

A thinker and teacher, Rahel Katznelson was one of the early activists in the Labor Movement and Mo’ezet ha-Po’alot in the Yishuv and Israel.

Lillian Ruth Kessler

In 1982, when she retired from the presidency of Kessler International Corporation, Lillian Kessler prepared a brochure listing the principal export items of the company she had founded in 1946. The list included abrasives, adhesives, locomotive parts, chemicals, navigational and meteorological instruments, tank and jeep bearings, crankshaft and camshaft grinders, and many other automotive parts.

Ruth Klueger

Ruth Klüger

On the occasion of Ruth Klüger’s seventieth birthday, Germany’s leading literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki congratulated the acclaimed author with a tribute published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in which he praised her work as a writer and as a scholar in the field of German literature. Reich-Ranicki noted Klüger’s distinguishing characteristics by summarizing that “she is an Austrian Jew, an American professor, a German writer, and one of the most brilliant Germanists in the world.”

Leaders of Resistance in Vilna Ghetto

Rozka Korczak-Marla

“We did not have the privilege of choosing between converting to Christianity and sacrificing ourselves to sanctify the name of God—in this we differed from our ancestors. … We did have a choice of the manner in which to live to the very end as free Jews and die as liberated people.” Thus, in 1982, Korczak-Marla referred to the choice made by members of Halutz movements in the Vilna Ghetto.

Librarians in the United States

The development of the field of librarianship as a profession for American Jewish women had much to do with Melvil Dewey (founder of the first library training school in 1887 and creator of the classification scheme bearing his name) and little to do with Judaism and Jewish culture. Paralleling the developing opportunities for women in the United States during the twentieth century, American Jewish women found librarianship, like teaching and social work, an attractive career choice. American Jewish women did not find acceptance in professional or even volunteer positions within Jewish communities until the late 1940s and early 1950s. The establishment of Jewish libraries in the United States reflects the tradition of male leadership within the Jewish community; leadership of major Jewish libraries was perceived as a scholar’s (in other words, man’s) position.

Bracha Peli, 1983

Bracha Peli

Bracha Peli was unique among the literary community of pre-state Palestine, inasmuch as she created what was probably the most successful and dynamic publishing house in the country at the time, stressing distribution and sales rather than the content and editorial aspects which are the usual focus of publishing aspirations and inspiration.

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