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Hebrew

Habsburg Monarchy: Nineteenth to Twentieth Centuries

The experience of Jewish women under the Habsburg Monarchy differed greatly according to the part of this large and extremely diverse country in which they lived. The Habsburg Monarchy was a dynastic state, whose territory had been acquired over many centuries and whose inhabitants spoke a wide array of languages, practiced many different religions, and constructed many different ethnic, national and cultural identities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Bracha Habas

Editor, writer and one of the first few women journalists in [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:309]Erez Israel[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], Bracha Habas was born in Alytus, a town in the district of Vilna (Lithuania) on January 20, 1900, to a wealthy and cultured family of merchants who were actively involved in communal life. (The family name is the acronym of Hakham Binyamin Sefardi or Hakham Beit Sefer [School].) Her grandfather, Rabbi Simha Zissel, the scion of a rabbinic family in Vilna (that of the Yesod, Yehudah ben Eliezer; Yesod is an acronym for Yehudah safra ve-[jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:307]dayyan[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], “Yehudah scribe and judge,” d. 1762), was the first member of the family to turn to trade, opening a large general store that became a center of life in the township. On the other hand, her father, Rabbi Israel, successfully combined business with study: ordained in the yeshivas of Volozhin and Slobodka, he turned to business as a leather merchant only after marriage; nevertheless he continued to teach and to lecture on [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]-related subjects and, on joining the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:330]Hibbat Zion[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (Lovers of Zion) movement, was extremely active in converting people to the Zionist ideal and the study of Hebrew. He established a branch of Safah Berurah (“Plain Language,” a society founded in Jerusalem in 1889) in his hometown, was among the founders of the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:363]Mizrahi[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] movement in 1902 and, once in Erez Israel, edited a non-partisan religious Zionist journal, Ha-Yesod (1931). Habas’s mother, Nehama Devorah, daughter of Rabbi Nahman Schlesinger (a descendant of Rabbi Eliyahu, the Vilna [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:311]Gaon[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], 1720–1797), was also highly educated. Her father taught her Bible and she was fluent in both spoken and written Hebrew (an exceptional phenomenon among women born in the 1870s).

Haika Grosman

Haika Grosman was born in Bialystok on November 20, 1919. She was the third and youngest child of Nahum (1890–1942) and Leah (née Apelbaum) Grosman (1891–Treblinka, August 1943), a member of a wealthy family imbued with Jewish tradition and culture, living in a city half of whose residents (about sixty thousand) were Jewish. Her father was a factory owner, from whom, she alleged, she inherited her looks: “short, blue-eyed, blond.”

Mire Gola

At the age of seventeen Mire Gola was elected to the main Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir leadership in Galicia and moved to Lvov, where the leadership was located.In 1932 she was expelled from Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir because of her radical stand on relations with the Soviet Union.At this time she began to be active in the Communist Party.

Mamie Gamoran

When Mamie Goldsmith Gamoran graduated from the Teachers Institute Extension Course of the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1922, she was acutely aware of how much needed to be accomplished in the field of Jewish education. She was saddened that the youth of her generation had “forged new chains and ties,” thereby dismissing their heritage. As a proud American and ardent Zionist, Gamoran believed that one could synthesize American culture with one’s commitment to Judaism. Although born to parents who were not strongly affiliated Jews, Mamie Gamoran dedicated her life to the Jewish community.

Sarah Feiga Meinkin Foner

Sarah Feiga Meinkin Foner wrote about the issues that concerned her most in the language she loved most, Hebrew.

Rokhl Faygnberg (Imri)

In his portrait of her in Mayn leksikon, volume 1, author and critic Melech Ravitch (Meylekh Ravitsh, 1893–1976) says of Yiddish-Hebrew writer Rokhl Faygnberg that her biography was “the biography of an era.” Although she witnessed many of the defining events of modern Jewish history—wars, pogroms, and the birth of the State of Israel—in her life, which took her from her White Russian [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:404]shtetl[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] to several cosmopolitan European centers and ultimately to Israel, she herself is hardly typical. As Ravitch himself states, she was one of few women to establish herself as a professional Jewish writer and journalist, first in Yiddish and then in Hebrew, and in so doing was often outspoken, polemical and controversial. Highly versatile, she chronicled the 1919 pogroms in Ukraine and their aftermath, investigated in both fiction and journalism the changing relationships between men and women wrought by the breakup of traditional Jewish life, and sought to create a viable Jewish literature for the immigrant generation in Israel.

Marcia Falk

Marcia Falk is a poet, translator and liturgist whose knowledge of the Bible and of Hebrew and English literature informs the feminist spiritual vision present in her work. A practicing artist who brings a painter’s sense of visual imagery and balance to her writing, she is currently working on oil pastels to accompany passages from her books.

Elisheva Bichovsky

Elisheva Bichovsky was a Russian poet and author who wrote in Hebrew. Elisheva, as she signed her work, was born Elizaveta Zhirkova in Riazan (Rayzan, 186 km SE of Moscow). Her father Ivan Zharkov, a village teacher who later became a publisher of textbooks, belonged to the Provoslavic Church, while her mother came from an Irish Catholic family whose patriarch had made his way to Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. After her mother died when Elisheva was three years old, she was raised by her mother’s sister in Moscow surrounded by English language and culture. There, she graduated from a girls’ high school and in 1910 trained as a teacher.

Judith Kaplan Eisenstein

Before she was thirteen years old, author, composer, and musicologist Judith Kaplan Eisenstein was already a significant figure in Jewish history. The eldest of four daughters born to Lena (Rubin) and Rabbi Mordecai Menachem Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Judith Kaplan was the first young woman to celebrate a [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:301]Bat Mitzvah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] publicly in an American congregation on March 18, 1922.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Hebrew." (Viewed on January 21, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/hebrew>.

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