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Newly dedicated Newport Synagogue introduces an open-view women's gallery

December 2, 1763

A new synagogue, dedicated in Newport, Rhode Island on December 2, 1763, introduced an important innovation in synagogue design.

Hadassah honors Orthodox feminist Blu Greenberg

July 25, 2006

Blu Greenberg, best known for her work on behalf of feminism within Orthodox Judaism, was honored with Hadassah's highest honor, the Henrietta Szol

"Life on the Fringes" explores Orthodox feminism

July 1, 2000

Haviva Ner-David's book, Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Toward Traditional Rabbinic Ordination, was published on July 1, 2000.

First Conference on Feminism and Orthodoxy is held

February 16, 1997

The first Conference on Feminism and Orthodoxy took place in New York City on February 16-17, 1997, with the theme "Exploring the Impact of Feminist Values on Traditional Jewish Women's Lives." A s

Torah Study

Although the obligation of Torah study is one of the most important Jewish commandments, women have long been exempted, or even excluded, from it. Over time, scholars mitigated women’s exclusion by rendering it inapplicable to all content, to all women, or both. Regardless of halakhic rulings, some women have studied Torah in all time periods.

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.

Stern College for Women

Founded in 1954, Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University is the longest-standing college in America for women under Jewish auspices. It has attracted young women from both Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish homes interested both in secular university training and high-level Jewish studies. 

South Africa

Over time, Jewish women’s status and achievements have risen within the South African Jewish community and the wider society. White Jewish women used their historically privileged position (unprecedented for Jews) to assist those suffering from the oppressions of apartheid, notwithstanding democratization since 1994. Women have been prominent in more recent innovations and initiatives, so that even in the face of demographic decline, the community exhibits paradoxical vitality and resilience.

Sarah Schenirer

Sarah Schenirer, a divorced dressmaker who lived in Krakow, Poland, was the founder of Bais Yaakov, a network of schools for Orthodox girls. By the time she died in 1935, the school she founded in 1917 had grown to hundreds of schools in Poland and beyond.

Nacha Rivkin

Orthodox Jewish education for women in America began with the work of Nacha Rivkin, a founder of Shulamith School for Girls, the first girls’ yeshiva in the United States. A courageous and proficient “doer,” Rivkin broke out of the mold of the passive, religious homemaker in her commitment to action. Through her music and artwork, she expanded the range of career possibilities for Orthodox women of her time.

Orthodox Judaism in the United States

Orthodox views on the roles women may play in their communities’ religious, educational, and social life have reflected the range of attitudes that religious group has harbored toward American society. Generally, those Orthodox Jews who have resisted American culture have not countenanced the active participation of women within the synagogue. For other Orthodox Jews, the opening of synagogue life to greater women’s participation, within what they see as the expansive boundaries of halakhah, is but another dimension of their accommodating approach to their encounter with America. 

Lily Montagu

Lilian Helen Montagu was a British social worker, a magistrate in the London juvenile courts, suffragist, writer, religious organizer, and spiritual leader who founded and long remained the driving force behind the Liberal Jewish movement in England.

Faige Teitelbaum

When Faige Teitelbaum married Satmar rebbe Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum in 1936, she became the Satmar rebbetzin, in which capacity she was very active in charitable activities. After her husband’s death, she became the only woman in the Hasidic world to function as a de facto rebbe and leader.

Suffrage in Palestine

The fight for women’s suffrage in Palestine was a fierce one, pitting determined women activists with international support against the obstinance of ultra-Orthodox groups from the Old Yishuv. In 1920, fourteen women were elected to the National Assembly, and after years of thwarted efforts to revoke women’s suffrage, the 1926 Assembly decreed full equal rights for women in all areas of civil, economic, and political life.

Rahel Straus

Rahel Goitein Straus, a pioneering woman medical doctor trained in Germany, was a model “New Jewish Woman” of the early-20th century. Successfully combining a career as a physician with marriage and motherhood, she committed herself to Jewish and feminist causes and organizations throughout her life, while also embracing Zionist ideals.

Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph Dov

Joseph Dov Soloveitchik shaped Jewish practice and public opinion through the era of second-wave feminism. Despite his sometimes progressive actions, Soloveitchik maintained that women and men had separate religious and familial roles. These positions from the leader of the Modern Orthodox community cemented resistance to Orthodox feminists’ demands to increase their participation in Jewish rituals.

Chana Shpitzer

Chana Shpitzer was an important figure in the field of Jewish education for girls in Jerusalem in the early 20th century. Shpitzer was a firm believer in single-sex education and her goal was for her students to develop academically, religiously, and practically. Her school was known for its emphasis on academic achievement, and almost all her students found gainful employment upon graduation.

Alice Hildegard Shalvi

Israel Prize Laureate Professor Alice Shalvi is a leading Israeli feminist activist and scholar. Founder of the Israel Women’s Network and the Ben Gurion University English Department and longtime principal of the iconic religious feminist high school Pelech, Professor Shalvi has been instrumental in advancing gender issues in Israeli education, society and politics.

Hela Rufeisen Schüpper

Born to a hasidic family in Krakow, Hela Rufeisen Schüpper joined the Zionist youth movement Akiva against her family’s wishes. When the Germans invaded Poland, Schüpper joined the Jewish resistance against the Nazis, becoming a key courier. She survived Bergen-Belsen and moved to Israel after the war.

Flora Sassoon

Born in Bombay into the legendary Sassoon dynasty, Flora (Farha) Sassoon lived a colorful life in India and then in England as a businesswoman, philanthropist, famed hostess, and Jewish scholar, taking on many public religious roles that were unusual for an Orthodox woman of her time.

Tova Sanhadray-Goldreich

Tova Sanhadray-Goldreich was a leader of religious Zionist movements in her home in eastern Galicia before making aliyah to Palestine, where she organized a merger of several women’s organizations to form Emunah. She was also the first woman member of the National Religious Party to be elected to the Knesset.

Nina Ruth Davis Salaman

Nina Salaman was a well-regarded Hebraist, known especially for her translations of medieval Hebrew poetry, at a time when Jewish scholarship in Europe was a male preserve. In addition to her translations, she published historical and critical essays, book reviews, and an anthology of Jewish readings for children, as well as poetry of her own.

Rabbis in the United States

Since 1972, when Sally Priesand became the first woman in the world ordained by a rabbinical seminary, hundreds of women have become rabbis in the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements. In recent years, womenhave also entered the Orthodox rabbinate, using a variety of titles, including rabbi.

Clara Asscher Pinkhof

Clara Asscher Pinkhof dedicated her life and work to helping and advocating for Jewish children, initially as a teacher and later as an author. She is most known for her accounts of the experiences of Jewish children during the Nazi occupation.

Pelech Religious Experimental High School for Girls, Jerusalem

Pelech is a pioneering school for girls in Jerusalem. For over half a century, Pelech has sought to educate its students towards a love and understanding of Torah. It encourage its students to take part in leadership roles in the religious world and in Israeli society and promotes women’s involvement in improving social justice.


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