Jewish History

Content type
Collection

Herodian Women

The Herodian dynasty produced a large number of seemingly impressive women. However, it is not always clear whether these women were really impressive or whether their literary portrayal made them so. We know that Nicolaus of Damascus, who was Herod’s court historian, was deeply interested in domestic affairs and assigned to women a diabolical role in the turn of events. Even after his writings ceased, other court historians adopted some of his rhetorical techniques. We today know almost everything about these women from Josephus, who used Nicolaus and other sources in his writings.

Helene, Queen of Adiabene

Helene was the sister and wife of Monabazus Bazaeus, king of Adiabene at the beginning of the first century c.e., who converted to Judaism with other members of her family. Adiabene, a Persian province on the northern extremities of the Tigris River, was at the time a vassal kingdom of the Parthian Empire.

Clarisse Doris Hellman

Clarisse Doris Hellman was born on August 28, 1910, in New York City. The daughter of obstetrician Alfred M. and Clarisse (Bloom) Hellman, she was raised in a family that had a special appreciation for the sciences. After graduating from the Horace Mann School, she attended Vassar College, where she studied mathematics and astronomy with such distinction that she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with honors in 1930. She then went on to Radcliffe College as a Vassar College Fellow and received one of the country’s earliest advanced degrees in history of science, a master’s degree, in 1931. From Radcliffe, she returned to New York, where she received a prestigious Columbia University Fellowship and went on to complete her Ph.D. at Columbia in 1943.

Hasidism

Hasidism—a spiritual revival movement associated with the founding figure of Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (Besht, c. 1700–1760), which began in Poland in the second half of the eighteenth century and became a mass movement of Eastern European Jewry by the early decades of the nineteenth—has been celebrated as nothing less than a “feminist” revolution in early modern Judaism. The first to depict it in this light was Samuel Abba Horodezky (1871–1957) who, in his four-volume Hebrew history of Hasidism, first published in 1923, claimed that “the Jewish woman was given complete equality in the emotional, mystical, religious life of Beshtian Hasidism” (vol. 4, 68). Horodezky’s account underlies virtually every subsequent treatment of the subject, whether in the popular, belletristic and semi-scholarly literature on the history of Hasidism, or in such works, mostly apologetic and uncritical, as have set out to discover and catalogue the achievements of prominent women throughout pre-modern Judaism. Notably, until relatively recently, Hasidic scholarship has totally ignored the subject, implicitly dismissing it as either marginal or insufficiently documented to permit serious consideration.

Halakhic Decisions on Family Matters in Medieval Jewish Society

Across the medieval Jewish world, rabbis used takkanot (rabbinic decrees) to address urgent needs in family life among their Jewish communities. These takkanot are key historical sources for understanding the changing roles of women in the medieval Jewish world.

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.

Glueckel of Hameln

Glückel, author of an untitled memoir in Yiddish that is the source of most of the information about her life (with the exception of the date of her death and several minor details), was born in Hamburg to an affluent family of merchants with commercial and familial ties to the court Jews and their surrounding circles.

German Immigrant Period in the United States

The period 1820–1880 has generally been considered the era of German Jewish immigration to the United States. Issues of gender and family shaped this migration from the Germanic regions, and from other parts of Central and Eastern Europe from 1820 to 1880.

Germany: 1750-1945

The Jewish Reform movement did not liberate women from their subordinate religious status, and the nineteenth-century bourgeois German family ideal with its rigid gender roles soon eclipsed the fluid structure of premodern Jewish families. Jewish women were expected to transmit German bourgeois values while also shaping their children’s Jewish identity.

Ruth Gay

With a few strokes of her pen, Ruth Glazer (later Gay) painted a vivid portrait of the culture of second-generation Jews in New York. As a free-lance writer and editor for over fifty years, she has explored the Jewish experience of both America and Germany.

Rebecca Franks

This admired, beautiful, vivacious, intelligent member of the affluent and influential Franks family is a noted figure in Jewish colonial history.

France, Modern

From the French Revolution to the twenty-first century, Jewish women in France have undergone radical legal, political, cultural, and religious transformations. Seizing upon the increasing number of opportunities available to them, both as Jews and as women, Jewish women have left their marks on all areas of French society.

Anita Brookner

Anita Brookner achieved fame and recognition as one of the most accomplished writers of English fiction.

Babatha

Babatha daughter of Shim’on, a Jewish landowner who lived in Roman Arabia, owned a document archive found in a cave in the Judaean desert. Babatha’s archive is an extremely important resource for many issues, especially on the question of Jewish women’s legal position in Greco-Roman Palestine.

Argentina: Jewish White Slavery

Fear of Jewish white slavery, the sexual traffic in immigrant Jewish refugee women, often conducted by Jewish men, was a topic that preoccupied Jewish communities in Europe and immigrant communities in North and South America from the 1880s until the outbreak of World War II.

Annotated Bibliography and Guide to Archival Resources on the History of Jewish Women in America

This bibliography concentrates on books, chapters in anthologies, and periodical articles on the collective history of American Jewish women and archival resources on individuals and women’s organizations.

Happy Jewish American Heritage Month!

Jordan Namerow

What connects the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus? Susan Sontag with Gilda Radner? Patriotism with labor protests? Musical theatre and domestic ritual with potato kugel and halvah? You guessed it: JEWISH AMERICAN HERITAGE!

Topics: Jewish History

If Wanda Landowska were alive today...

Jordan Namerow

On February 21, 1942 (sixty-six years ago yesterday) Wanda Landowska -- a Warsaw-born Jewish musician with a mastery of the harpsichord -- made history with a performance of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" at New York's Town Hall. It was the first time in the 20th century that the piece, originally written for the harpsichord, was performed publicly on that instrument. A student of Landowska's later remembered that hearing her performance was "like being in front of one of the greatest wonders of nature."

Black History: More Than a Month

Jordan Namerow

February is Black History Month -- “a time to honor the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens over slavery, prejudice, and poverty.” Perhaps more importantly, it’s a time to celebrate African Americans’ myriad contributions to our country’s cultural and political life.

They say history repeats...

Judith Rosenbaum

I became a historian not just because I like poking through people’s stuff (though I am pretty nosy), but because I believe that history offers us the best way to understand how to make change in that history offers us the best way to understand how to make change in the world – and our world could use some serious change. I draw inspiration from the stories of people who came before us and made a real difference. But sometimes looking back at history makes me depressed, especially when it seems like we’re stuck in the same arguments and issues, or even losing ground.

Subscribe to Jewish History

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox