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Julia Richman

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Young Women's Hebrew Association

The Young Women’s Hebrew Association was established in New York in 1902, with the primary aim of providing social recreational activities for Jewish working girls. As a communal agency run entirely by and for women, the YMHA provided an important political arena for Jewish women in the early twentieth century.

Union of Jewish Women

Influenced by their American counterparts, Anglo-Jewish women organized a Conference of Jewish Women in 1902, which led to the foundation of a national organization, the Union of Jewish Women. The UJW determined the social service agenda for English Jewish women until World War I.

Teaching Profession in the United States

Jewish women in the United States became professional teachers to an extent unprecedently in Jewish history. Through Jewish educational organizations, Jewish schools, and public schools, female Jewish teachers have played an important role in shaping the North American teaching profession.

Sports in the United States

Historians of American sport and of American Jewish history have generally neglected the study of sports by and for Jewish American women. As sport increasingly played a significant role in American society in the twentieth century, it also became part of Jewish women’s experiences in American life.

Settlement Houses in the United States

Founded beginning in the 1880s in impoverished urban neighborhoods, settlement houses provided recreation, education, and medical and social service programs, primarily for immigrants. Jewish women played significant roles as benefactors, organizers, administrators of, and participants in these institutions.

Julia Richman

A polarizing and important social reformer, Julia Richman sought to better manage the massive influx of immigrants in New York by Americanizing the new arrivals as quickly as possible, particularly through intense training in English. An educator who eventually became district superintendent of the Lower East Side schools in 1903, she created playgrounds, improved school lunches, and enforced health examinations for students.

National Council of Jewish Women

In its early years, the National Council of Jewish Women concentrated on combating assimilation by educating Jewish women about Judaism. In contemporary times, the Council continues to play an important role as a bridge between traditional motherhood and political activity, between the Jewish community and other women’s organizations, between Judaism and politics, and between diverse segments of the Jewish community itself.

Judy Holliday

A brilliant actress and comedian, Judy Holliday won an Academy Award for her performance as the not-so-dumb blonde in Born Yesterday and performed thousands of times on Broadway. Holliday epitomized the duality of her American-Jewish heritage, as she was a successful performer who was investigated for subversive activities in the McCarthy Era due to antisemitic suspicions. 

Selina Greenbaum

Selina Greenbaum was a philanthropist who created recreational resorts for overworked factory girls. In 1890, Greenbaum became the founding president of the Jewish Working Girl’s Vacation Society, which gave working young women a chance to find relief away from their demanding factory jobs.

Club Movement in the United States

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Jewish women shifted from benevolent work to social and personal reform, often through aiding immigrants and young, vulnerable women. They facilitated educational opportunities to learn about Jewish history and ethics, which in turn helped inform their aid work. These efforts created a space specifically for women in American Jewish society.

Cedar Knolls School for Girls

Founded in 1911 by the women of the New York Jewish Protectory and Aid Society, the Cedar Knolls School for Girls aimed to provide assistance to young and so-called delinquent Jewish women through education and vocational training.

Assimilation in the United States: Twentieth Century

Jewish women assimilating into a changing American society across the twentieth century navigated often conflicting gender roles. As they strove to achieve upward social mobility, they adapted Jewish assumptions of what women, especially married women, should do to accommodate American norms for middle class women. Their collective accomplishments registered in political activism, organizational creativity, strong support for feminism, religious innovation, and educational achievement in the face of antisemitism, stereotypes, and denigration.

Fay Ajzenberg-Selove

Fay Ajzenberg-Selove not only made significant contributions to physics, she also made huge strides for women by demanding she be judged on her merits, not her gender. Despite her struggles against sexism and a long battle with cancer, Ajzenberg-Selove was praised for both her dedicated teaching and her contributions to nuclear spectrometry of light elements.


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