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Jewish Education

Shulamith Reich Elster

In the 1980s, when she served as headmaster of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in suburban Washington, D.C., Shulamith Elster was often referred to as the dean of Jewish education.

Amy Eilberg

On May 12, 1985 Amy Eilberg became the first woman ordained by the Conservative movement.

Education of Jewish Girls in the United States

The secular and religious education of Jewish girls in America has very modest roots. Initially perceived as seamlessly bound together, over the course of nearly three and a half centuries, the general and Jewish education of Jewish girls took separate paths, which crossed and on occasion entered into conflict with each other. Secular education of Jewish girls has consistently expanded, but the path of Jewish education has been inconsistent.

Eastern European Immigrants in the United States

Of all Jewish immigrants to the United States from 1886 to 1914, forty-four percent were women, far more than for other immigrants groups arriving during the heyday of mass immigration. The more than two million Jews from the Russian Empire, Romania, and Austria-Hungary who entered the United States in the years 1881 to 1924—when the American government imposed a restrictive quota system—came to stay. Only 7 percent chose to return to Europe, as opposed to about 30 percent of all immigrants. Jewish immigrants intended to raise American families. Ashkenazi (European) Jewish culture and American values as conveyed by social reformers as well as by advertising, and the economic realities of urban capitalist America, all influenced the position of women in immigrant Jewish society in America. Jewish immigrant women shared many of the attributes of immigrant women in general, but also displayed ethnic characteristics.

Dulcea of Worms

Dulcea of Worms came from the elite leadership class of medieval German Jewry. She was the daughter of a cantor and the wife of a major rabbinic figure, Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (1165–1230), also known as the Roke’ah (the Perfumer), after the title of one of his most famous works (Sefer ha-Roke’ah). Dulcea and her husband were members of a small pietistic circle of Jews, the Hasidei Ashkenaz, that developed following the devastations of the First Crusade of 1096. The documents of this movement include many mystical works, as well as a volume reflecting their ethical concerns, Sefer Hasidim (The Book of the Pious), an important historical source for everyday Jewish life in medieval Ashkenaz. R. Eleazar ben Judah may have written some of the passages in Sefer Hasidim, and could have been its editor.

Drisha Institute for Jewish Education

Drisha Institute for Jewish Education was founded in 1979 by Rabbi David Silber to provide women with the unprecedented opportunity to engage in the serious study of traditional Jewish texts. At the time, Silber was a lone pioneer, creating the world’s first model of advanced Jewish scholarship for women. Decades later, Drisha continues to hold a unique spot in the world of higher Jewish education for women, providing a learning environment that encourages seriousness of purpose, free inquiry, and respect for the texts of our tradition.

Die Deborah

As the most important German Jewish newspaper in America, Die Deborah propagated a program of German identity, of bourgeois culture, and of Jewish Reform in which women were assigned a strategic place. The paper published essays on Jewish religion, culture, and history, and debates on education. Literature, mostly ghetto novels, was given a privileged place. While Die Deborah reported on Jewish issues from all over the world, it focused on news from Germany, and it gave special attention to the cultural life of the German immigrant community in America.

Annette Daum

“Feminists can and should have a significant role in promoting understanding and respect between Christians and Jews.” These words of Annette Daum highlight her devotion to two causes: interfaith dialogue and feminism.

Conservative Judaism in the United States

Women have played a pivotal role in Conservative Judaism throughout the twentieth century and have been instrumental on both the grass-roots and national levels in propelling the Conservative Movement to confront essential issues including Jewish education, gender equality and religious leadership. The Conservative Movement’s attention over the decades to issues such as the religious education of Jewish girls, the status of the ]agunah (deserted wife), equal participation of women in ritual and the ordination of women has helped to shape the self-definition of Conservative Judaism and its maturation as a distinct denomination.

Rosalie Cohen

I have lived through most of this century and observed all the -isms: Communism, Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, Zionism … only Zionism survives. It has been a great privilege to devote my life to Zionism, the millennial dream of the Jewish people.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Education." (Viewed on December 16, 2017) <https://jwa.org/topics/jewish-education>.

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