Anne Kahan

b. 1934

Anne Kahan was born in 1934 in Antwerp, Belgium, the fifth of six siblings.  Anne’s family immigrated to the United States from Belgium in 1940.  Anne grew up in the Orthodox church, attending Ohab Zedek and in New York.  She married Alfred Kahan, a physicist from Hungary, and they had three children, Nadia, David, and Jeremy.  As an adult, Anne is a member of Minyan Shaleym, a traditional and egalitarian minyan located in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she had her adult bat mitzvah.  

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Scope and Content Note

Anne talks about her family background, being born in Belgium and the fifth of six siblings.  When Anne was five, the Germans invaded Belgium, and in 1940, her family immigrated to the United States.  She recalls her early life in America.  Anne’s family first settled in Riverdale, New York, then moved to midtown Manhattan, where her parents were active in Ohab Zedek, a Conservative synagogue.  Anne describes her Jewish education in America.  She was involved in the junior congregation and enjoyed it very much.  She does not remember girls leading davening but also doesn’t remember feeling left out.  Anne had private Hebrew lessons at home and went to Hebrew school, where she studied Torah after school.  Anne recalls her involvement in youth group, attending synagogue, and sitting with her mother in the balcony section.  She remembers looking curiously down into the men’s section to see what was going on when her hat fell off and into the men’s section.  Anne discusses her family’s religious practice in their Orthodox home.  It was important for the girls in her family to daven.  Growing up, she envied her brothers and the attention they received during their bar mitzvahs.  Anne had many role models growing up.  She admired some of her secular and religious teachers.  Anne was interested in the women’s movement and remarks on how it informed her worldview and attitude towards religious practice.  Anne lived at home and attended City College.  She talks about meeting and marrying her husband Alfred, a physicist.  Anne reflects on her married life and raising children.  The family belonged to Young Israel but left the synagogue for a decade when Anne became disillusioned with the passive role assigned to women.  In the 1970s, Anne found a Shabbat service at Minyan Shaleym that met her spiritual needs, and she became actively involved there as a congregant and volunteer for many years.  Anne explains her motivation for, and the experience of her bat mitzvah in 1992 and how encouraging her children were.  Finally, Anne looks back on the moments of her life, how Minyan Shalem has helped her become more accepting and open, and how reading Torah and davening has enriched her spiritual life.

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Anne Kahan. Interviewed by Shayna Rhodes . 2 February 2005. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 29, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/kahan-anne>.

Oral History of Anne Kahan by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.