Theme #1: Expulsion and Taking care of Others

Theme #1: Expulsion and Taking care of Others

In this excerpt from Glückel’s memoir, her family takes in Jewish refugees from Poland. The passage shows the dedication and self-sacrifice displayed by Glückel’s family when they met co-religionists in need.

Primary Sources from Glückel’s Memoirs

Excerpt Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln based on Translation by Marvin Lowenthal:

Glückel. The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln. Translated by, Marvin Lowenthal. Schocken Books, 1977.

(abridged by Julie Rezmovic-Tonti)

The Vilna Jews were forced to leave Poland. Many of them, stricken with contagious diseases, found their way to Hamburg. They [Polish Jews] did not have hospitals to go or places where to stay, so we needed to bring them into our homes. About 10 of them, who my father took in, lay on the upstairs level of our house. Some recovered; others died. My sister Elkele and I both took sick as well. My beloved grandmother tended the sick and saw that they lacked for nothing. My father and mother disapproved of her taking care of us at her old age, nothing could stop her from climbing the stairs three or four times a day, in order to nurse them. After a short while, she fell ill too. After ten days in bed, she died at a beautiful old age, and left behind her a good name. For all her 74 years she was still as brisk and fresh as if she were 40 years old.

Students may wish to consider the following questions to reflect in their Glückel Journal:

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How does Glückel’s family relate to the values of hachnasat orchim (honoring the stranger) and bikkur cholim (visiting, and caring for, the sick)?
  2. What relationship does this text suggest between Jews of different regions and backgrounds?
  3. How does Glückel honor her grandmother’s memory in this text?
  4. What does this text relate about the importance of female leadership in managing family affairs?

For Further Discussion:

Invite your students to interview matriarchs from their own families. They can ask their matriarchs how they experienced issues of marriage, anti-Semitism, business, communal structure, wealth (and other issues addressed by Glückel) in their lifetimes. What has changed over time? What has not changed? In class, students can reflect on what they see as the biggest changes for women since Glückel’s time.


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Theme #1: Expulsion and Taking care of Others." (Viewed on May 18, 2024) <>.