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Non-Fiction

Carolyn G. Heilbrun

Carolyn (Gold) Heilbrun was born on January 13, 1926, in East Orange, New Jersey, the only child of Archibald and Estelle (Roemer) Gold. Her father, who came to America from Russia around 1900 as a destitute, Yiddish-speaking child, became a certified public accountant and rose to riches as a partner in a brokerage firm. He lost his wealth in the Depression, and in 1932 the family moved to Manhattan on borrowed money. Although Carolyn’s father gradually rebuilt his fortune, her mother remained deeply traumatized by the family’s sudden loss of security and social status. Born in America to religious Austrian-Jewish parents as the first of seven children, Estelle Roemer cut her ties to the Jewish world as a young woman. According to Heilbrun, she “identified all that limited her life as Judaism.” Archibald Gold, whom she married in 1919 when both were twenty-three years old, had also distanced himself from his Jewish past.

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.

Shulamith Hareven

Shulamith Hareven was born in Warsaw on February 14, 1930, the daughter of Abraham Ryftin (born Warsaw 1899, died Jerusalem 1995) and Natalia Wiener (born Warsaw 1903, died Jerusalem, 1996). Her father was a lawyer and her mother a teacher. Making her debut with a book of poems, Predatory Jerusalem (Hebrew, 1962), Hareven never tired of exploring new artistic avenues, publishing nineteen Hebrew books in a variety of genres, including suspense fiction (under an androgynous pseudonym), and children’s literature (recently inspired by her (five) grandchildren).

Leah Cohen Harby

Leah Cohen Harby wore her heritage proudly, practicing fidelity to country, faith, and family in her writing and everyday living. Born to a distinguished family in Charleston, South Carolina, on September 7, 1849, she grew up in an environment that encouraged intellectual development and prized patriotism.

Käte Hamburger

Born in Hamburg on September 21, 1896, Käte Hamburger grew up in a middle-class home which enabled her, even as an adult, to obtain a relatively orderly academic education, even throughout World War I. She studied philosophy and graduated in Munich in 1922. The topics with which she dealt throughout her “writing life” became truly her own. Thus reading Jean Paul’s Titan during an illness shortly after her graduation resulted in her essay “The Problem of Death in Jean Paul.” Here we already see an inclination towards literature, even though her approach always remained philosophical.

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).

Sidonie Matzner Gruenberg

In 1973, in her nineties, Sidonie Matzner Gruenberg declared that her eighties had been the best decade of her life. She had published the revised edition of her monumental four-volume The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Child Care and Guidance (1967) and had earned more money than in any previous decade.

Ruth Gruber

Ruth Gruber was born on September 30, 1911, in Brooklyn, the fourth of five children of David and Gussie (Rockower) Gruber, Russian Jewish immigrants who owned a wholesale and retail liquor store and later went into real estate. She graduated from New York University at age eighteen and in 1930 won a fellowship to the University of Wisconsin, where she received her M.A. in German and English literature. In 1931, Gruber received a fellowship from the Institute of International Education for study in Cologne, Germany. Her parents pleaded with her not to go: Hitler was coming to power. Nevertheless, she went to Cologne and took courses in German philosophy, modern English literature, and art history. She also attended Nazi rallies, her American passport in her purse, a tiny American flag on her lapel. She listened, appalled, as Hitler ranted hysterically against Americans and even more hysterically against Jews.

Sophie Von Grotthuss

In her extensive unpublished correspondence with Wolfgang von Goethe, Sophie von Grotthuss (born Sara Meyer in Berlin) describes her difficult farewell to Judaism. Her mother, a woman possessed by an unnatural hatred of religion, “married [her] off at the age of fifteen to a wretched creature who for ten years made [her] life a hell.” As she frequently wrote, the marriage in 1778 to the merchant Lippman Wulf completely destroyed her. After Wulf’s death in 1788, she revived, traveled a great deal, particularly to the spas of Bohemia, where in 1795 she became acquainted with Goethe, with whom she corresponded until 1824. In 1799 she married the Livonian Baron Ferdinand Dietrich von Grotthuss, who was soon impoverished and became postmaster in Oranienburg. In her later years she was a prolific author. In an unpublished letter to Goethe, dated August 14, 1824, she refers to a novel, a play and several stories, which she was sending him for approval. Apart from the story, “Sophie ou la difference de l’Education,” two unpublished manuscripts, “Opinions of a German Woman, written in Dresden in the summer of 1814,” and a play, The German Governess, her works appear to have been lost.

Michal Govrin

The equally powerful Zionist legacy of her father’s family adds a crucial dimension to the evolution of Govrin’s literary work. The story of his family’s immigration from the Ukraine to Palestine in the 1920s brings together Zionist ideological variants as represented by four generations. In her essay, The Case of Jewish Biography (2001), Govrin traces the story of her paternal great-grandfather, Izik Hajes (1856–1937), who mourned the destruction of the Temple and “carried his mystical messianic longings” to Jerusalem, where he settled in the hasidic neighborhood of Me’ah She’arim. Her grandfather, Mordecai Globman (1874–1943), was strictly orthodox; yet he supported the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:325]Haskalah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (Jewish secular enlightenment) and joined [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:331]Hovevei Zion[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (Lovers of Zion), the proto-Zionist movement which founded the first Jewish colonies in Ottoman-ruled Palestine. The writer’s father, Pinchas Govrin, was born in Shpilov in the Ukraine in 1904, emigrated to Palestine in 1921 and was among the founders of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:342]Kibbutz[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Tel Yosef in 1921. He died in 1995. His brothers and the next generation adhered to the Zionist socialist platform of the Po’alei Zion, a Zionist workers’ movement, and came to Palestine as pioneers to establish [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:342]kibbutzim[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] and drain the swamps.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Non-Fiction." (Viewed on January 18, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/non-fiction>.

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