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Judaism-Orthodox

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Rahel Straus

Rahel Goitein Straus, one of the pioneering women medical doctors trained in Germany, can serve as a model precursor to the “New Jewish Women” of the twentieth century. Successfully combining a career as a physician with marriage and motherhood, she adhered to traditional Jewish values, while also embracing feminist and Zionist ideals.

Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph Dov

Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik (1903–1993) was the undisputed rabbinic leader and leading ideologue of American Modern Orthodoxy for much of the twentieth century.

Chana Shpitzer

Although not well-known outside Jerusalem, Chana Shpitzer was an important figure in the history of Israeli education and a pioneer in the field of Jewish education for girls.

Alice Hildegard Shalvi

Well known as a public speaker and a social activist, Alice Hildegard Shalvi’s contribution to Jewish education, to Israeli culture and to Jewish feminism has been widely recognized.

Hela Rufeisen Schüpper

Hela Rufeisen Schüpper now began her career as a courier in late July between Warsaw and Cracow and between Cracow and other branches of the movement. Dyeing her hair a lighter shade, she set out on the dangerous journey out of the ghetto, continuing by train to Cracow and into the Cracow ghetto—all without any identity papers.

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.

Tova Sanhadray-Goldreich

Tova Sanhadray, chairwoman of the Emunah organization and the first woman member of the Lit. "assembly." The 120-member parliament of the State of Israel.Knesset to represent the National Religious Party, is regarded as a pathbreaker, since she began her public activity in Israel at a time when the participation of religious women in public life was not yet considered acceptable.

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

Jewish women’s recent entrance to the brotherhood of the rabbinate masks a lengthy history of the question of women’s ordination.

Clara Asscher Pinkhof

"Not a great deal is known about this prominent orthodox Jewish writer, who had a huge readership in her day. Her aim was to acquaint Jewish children with the Jewish tradition, which she and her husband felt was under severe threat from assimilation."

Pelech Religious Experimental High School for Girls, Jerusalem

Thirty years on, Talmud learning for women is a recognized fact and Pelech graduates have been conspicuously involved in the establishment and ongoing activities of the Batei Midrash (learning groups, particularly of Talmud) that have proliferated in the modern orthodox community. They have been prominent in the establishment of alternative minyanim (prayer groups) and in lobbying for the improved status of women in issues of halakhah (Jewish Law).

Mizrahi Feminism in Israel

The phrase “Mizrahi feminism” has been increasingly used to refer to the academic discipline and literature, as well as the practices, which seek to extend the liberal Israeli feminist discourse into a multicultural context—specifically, to include women originating in Arab/Muslim countries.

Nehama Leibowitz

Nehama Leibowitz was born in 1905 in Riga, Latvia, to Mordechai and Freyda Leibowitz. She grew up in a home filled with Jewish and general culture, competing in her father’s Bible quizzes against her brother, Yeshayahu, who later became a famous and controversial Israeli philosopher. In 1919 the family moved to Berlin, where Leibowitz taught, wrote articles and studied for her doctorate. She married her uncle, Lipman Leibowitz, who was many years her senior, and on the day she finished her doctorate they fulfilled their dream and moved to Israel (c. 1930).

Leaders in Israel's Religious Communities

Since the late twentieth century women have begun to assume leadership positions that are undoubtedly “religious” in both content and form. Religious leaders, like any other leaders, guide their followers towards achieving goals and purposes, and can do so by influencing their followers’ motivation. Religious leaders guide their followers towards religious goals and derive their authority to do so from the strength of their own religious characteristics. What therefore distinguishes them from secular leaders is that even in democratic societies their authority does not emanate solely from the public, but also from a religious source—in the case of Judaism, the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah. Hence, a crucial criterion for religious leadership in the world of Jewry is “knowledge of the Torah,” by which is meant the ability to refer to the canonical texts in an unmediated manner.

Julia Koschitzky

An activist, philanthropist, and leader of Canadian and world Jewry, Julia Koschitzky was born in Cardiff, Wales, the daughter of Max Podolski (b. Posen, now Poznan, 1904, d. Toronto, 1986) and Elli (Moses) Podolski (b. Berlin, 1908, d. Toronto, 2002).

Ruth Kisch-Arendt

Ruth Kisch-Arendt, an Orthodox Jew who celebrated the musical and cultural traditions of German lieder, performed the songs of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Wagner before small-town German Jewish audiences during some of the most violent outbreaks of antisemitism in the 1930s. These performances stand as a poignant and ironic reminder of the inhumanity of the Holocaust.

Mordecai Kaplan

Mordecai Kaplan (1881–1983), the founding father of Reconstructionist Judaism, was a lifelong supporter of the rights of women. The roots of his concern for women may go back to his father: Rabbi Israel Kaplan, though strictly traditional, was concerned that his daughter Sophie (a few years older than Mordecai) have a Jewish education.

Irma Rothschild Jung

Irma Rothschild Jung, a native of Randegg, Baden, Germany, was born on July 1, 1897, and until her death close to a century later, dedicated her substantial energies to pioneering Jewish communal programs in aid of the needy. Her maternal family, the Langs, had a written code of ethics, based upon observance and practice of Judaism, which served as a blueprint for family behavior in the public and private sectors. This code would guide Jung’s service to others for her entire life.

Norma Baumel Joseph

Canada’s outstanding Orthodox feminist, Norma Joseph, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second daughter of Moishe (Murray) Baumel (b. Austrian Poland, 1912, d. New York, 2002), a salesman who came to the United States as a child, and Madeline (Kohn, b. Hungary, 1917), a typist-secretary who came to the United States as an infant. Many members of Joseph’s family have engaged in religious occupations.

Jewish Women and Jewish Music in America

American Jewish music has expanded vastly in variety, range, and quality of activities. Jews brought to America their secular-folk and sacred-liturgical musical heritage. There has been a renascence of age-old traditions that have become means of self-expression for Jewish women.

Jewish Education in the United States

Among the traditions that Jews brought to America, one may include the diligent study of the Torah and honor to those distinguished in its study. Torah study and its public recognition, however, were restricted to men and, obviously, to those among them who had the means and talent to devote themselves to it.

Jewish Feminism in the United States

Challenging all varieties of American Judaism, feminism has been a powerful force for popular Jewish religious revival. Of America’s four Jewish denominations, all but the Orthodox have accepted women as rabbis and cantors.

Gertrude Hirschler

Not prepared to compromise her ideals by accepting work that did not meet her ideological approval, Gertrude Hirschler rejected the offer of a well-recognized publisher, who submitted a book by an Israeli leftist writer to her for translation. True to her principles, she removed her name from The Hirsch Siddur that she had translated, due to changes to the finished product that did not meet her standards. A brilliant perfectionist, Hirschler’s literary contributions as a translator, editor, and writer are highly regarded in the areas of Jewish history, accounts of the Holocaust, religious literature, and Zionism.

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.

Hasidic Women in the United States

Hasidic women represent a unique face of American Judaism. As Hasidim—ultra-Orthodox Jews belonging to sectarian communities, worshiping and working as followers of specific rebbes—they are set apart from assimilated, mainstream American Jews. But as women in a subculture primarily defined by male religious studies, rituals, and legal obligations, they are also set apart from Hasidic men, whose recognizable styles of dress and yeshiva ingatherings have long presented a masculine standard for outsiders’ understanding of Hasidism.

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