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.
A number of studies from the mid-1980s onward have demonstrated the impact of the Holocaust on visual art, in particular for artists who themselves experienced the agony of the Holocaust, but also among their contemporaries. These artists portrayed the Holocaust’s atrocities and responded to the horrific trauma through various forms of expression. Now, more than sixty years after the Holocaust, it is apparent that its impact has carried over into the works of so-called “second generation” artists as well.
By focusing on Jewish women artists working in Britain today, whose Jewishness and gender are central to their artistic output, it offered valuable insights into the diverse ways in which women perceive their Jewishness in contemporary Britain. Aware of their complex “otherness” as women, Jews and artists, they put that awareness to good creative use; and in so doing, proved that art has a crucial role to play in exploring—and perhaps crystallizing—issues of identity.
The 1970s were a conceptual and political period in Israeli art. Art during these years expressed the plural form—of the nation, the society and of modern art.
Women in general and Jewish women in particular have been participating in the artistic life of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union for over a hundred years.
Until the 1970s women were always a minority among Israeli artists and most of them either followed the men or worked outside the leading artistic movements. Although the early twentieth-century Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in Palestine) was a pioneering society with egalitarian ideals, it was (like every society in the world) ultimately led and directed by men, and so too were the various artistic groups.
Although in the writing of history the term “first” must be used with caution, Devorà Ascarelli may have been the first Jewish woman to have had her own book published.
Although the Bible does not have much to say about Asenath (Osnat, LXX: Aseneth), the wife of Joseph, she became the main character of a widely disseminated Jewish novel from Hellenistic or Roman times, now called Joseph and Aseneth (JosAs).
Asenath is mentioned in the Torah as “the daughter of Poti-phera” (Gen. 41:45), who was married to Joseph in Egypt. The Rabbis found it difficult to accept that Joseph, who withstood the wiles of Potiphar’s wife and proclaimed his loyalty to the Lord in the palace of Pharaoh, would marry a non-Israelite woman. The question of Asenath’s origins has significant consequences for the standing within the Israelite tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, the two sons born to Asenath and Joseph.
Asherah, along with Astarte and Anath, was one of the three great goddesses of the Canaanite pantheon. In Canaanite religion her primary role was that of mother goddess. In mythological texts from the Late Bronze Age (c. 1550–1200 b.c.e.) city-state of Ugarit, she is called “the creatress of the gods”; her consort at Ugarit, the god El, is called “creator.”
Dora Askowith, author, historian, and college educator, believed that a knowledge of Jewish women’s history would serve as a catalyst for organization, activism, and moral leadership. She taught women at Hunter College for a total of forty-five years, and wrote that she was anxious to teach college students Jewish history because they were “poorly versed in the history of their own faith.”
Scholars have conventionally considered the nineteenth century the German era in the American Jewish history. Between 1820 and 1880, more than two hundred thousand immigrants from German lands arrived in the United States. Besides German Jews, this transatlantic movement also included migrants from ethnically Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Baltic territories that at that time remained under German political control or cultural influence.
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.
The Association of Italian Jewish Women, or ADEI, was founded in 1927 in the city of Milan, Italy, home to the second largest Jewish community in the country.
Astarte is the Greek form of the name Ashtart, who, along with Asherah and Anath, was one of the three great goddesses of the Canaanite pantheon. In Canaanite religion she was associated primarily with love and fertility, playing the role of divine courtesan, for example, in mythological texts from the Late Bronze Age (c. 1550–1200 b.c.e.) city-state of Ugarit (in western Syria).
Queen Athaliah is the only woman in the Hebrew Bible reported as having reigned as a monarch within Israel/Judah.
The Rabbis state that Athaliah was one of the four women who wielded the scepter, two of whom ruled over Israel (Jezebel and Athaliah) and two over other peoples (the heathen Semiramis and Vashti) (Esther Rabbah 3:2).
Liliane Atlan is a postwar French Jewish writer whose plays, poetry and narratives display innovative forms at the limit of written and oral literature.
The Yishuv regarded the war against Nazi Germany (World War II) as its war. At the behest of the Jewish Agency thirty thousand men volunteered for the British Army between 1939 and 1946. Only when the Council of Women’s Organizations called for the recruitment of women as well, was an agreement reached with the British authorities to enlist women into the forces. The first to join, on January 25, 1942, were a small group of sixty women to be trained as officers and N.C.O.s for the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service). Women for the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) were drafted only on May 25, 1943.
People who shopped or worked at G. Fox and Company in Hartford, Connecticut, from the 1930s to the 1960s have fond memories of Beatrice Fox Auerbach and her department store. Many enjoyed the benefits of her merchandising innovations and progressive employment policies. Her customers enjoyed services such as personal shoppers, free home delivery, and toll-free telephone ordering long before these services were standard in other department stores. Because Auerbach believed in training programs and promotion from within, employees could achieve steady advancement and job security.
Charlotte Auerbach, ‘Lotte’ to her friends all over the world, was known above all for her discovery in 1941 that gene mutations can be artificially induced by treatment of Drosophila flies with a chemical substance, mustard gas. Later she became renowned for her profound knowledge of classical genetics and especially of mutation.
The life of Ellen (Rosenberg) Auerbach was a constant journey of self-discovery and, in her photographic work, a search for the essence that lies behind people and things. Her curious mind, her keen and intuitive eye and her sense of humor permeated her photography, which was re-discovered in the late 1970s, along with that of other avant-garde photographers and artists of the Weimar Republic. Auerbach belonged to the generation of New Women who sought to break with traditional female roles and become independent through their work.
Rokhl Auerbach (1903–1976), a member of the Polish-Jewish literary elite, ran a soup kitchen in the Warsaw Ghetto while simultaneously in her writing recording the voices of its captive inhabitants. She ultimately survived the war by passing herself off as an "Aryan," and went on to found the Department for the Collection of Witness Testimony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Rose Ausländer, a German-speaking Jewish poet from Czernowitz/Bukovina who spent much of her life in exile in the United States and Germany, wrote that her true home was the word itself.
Since the beginning of British colonialization of New South Wales in 1788, when between eight and fifteen Jews were among the convicts who arrived with the First Fleet, several waves of immigration have brought the Jewish population up to its present size.
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.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Encyclopedia." (Viewed on January 20, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia>.