Schools

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Teaching Profession in the United States

Through Jewish educational organizations, Jewish schools, and public schools, female Jewish teachers have played an important role in shaping the North American teaching profession. Over the last 150 years, American Jewish women have been drawn to teaching in both public and Jewish schools by a multitude of factors.

Helen Tamiris

Helen Tamiris was a leader in forming American modern dance. An acclaimed choreographer and director, she used dance to comment on the social issues of her day, including racism, poverty, and war.

Edith Rosenwald Stern

Edith Rosenwald Stern, philanthropist, community leader, and civil rights activist left a legacy of commitment to social justice. With the same passion and strategy, she led the Jewish community in its philanthropy, encouraged her grandchildren to pursue their own charitable interests, and strongly supported Israel.

Stern College for Women

In September 1954, an inaugural class of thirty-two students enrolled at Stern College for Women, as Yeshiva University opened the first liberal arts college in America for women under Jewish auspices.

Pauline Perlmutter Steinem

Pauline Perlmutter Steinem, like her granddaughter Gloria Steinem, was an ardent activist for women’s rights, especially suffrage. She was also involved in Jewish activism, serving many local Jewish organizations and devoting a considerable amount of her income to send Jews to Israel just before World War II began.

Barbara Miller Solomon

Barbara Miller Solomon, educator and pioneer in women’s history, suggests the transformative role that education could play in individual women’s lives, a theme that also shaped much of her writing.

Settlement Houses in the United States

Jewish women have played significant roles as benefactors, organizers, administrators, and participants in American settlement houses. Settlement houses, founded in the 1880s in impoverished urban neighborhoods, provided recreation, education, and medical and social service programs, primarily for immigrants.

Science in Israel

In October 2003 the European Commission published She Figures, a survey on women in science and technology in member countries and associates (including Israel), which cited statistics and other data that provide a basis for measuring the degree of progress towards equality of the sexes in these spheres.

Felice Nierenberg Schwartz

In 1945, shortly after graduating from Smith College, Felice Nierenberg Schwartz founded the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students (NSSFNS) , an organization dedicated to opening the doors of higher education to African-American students. In 1962, when her youngest child entered nursery school, she founded Catalyst, an organization dedicated to opening the doors of business to women.

Sarah Schenirer

As the founder of the Bais Ya’akov educational movement, Sarah Schenirer brought about a revolution in the status of women in Orthodox Judaism.

Salonika: Female Education at the end of the Nineteenth Century

The particular nature of Salonika Jewish society, exposed as it was to the progressive ideas of female education held by its Greek neighbors, was closely linked to local conditions. If there was still a place where it is certain that Jews did not suffer for their Jewish identity, it was undoubtedly Salonika. On the other hand the ease with which Salonikan Jewish society accepted and encouraged a new model of womanhood can only be explained by its compatibility with the local, traditional model.

Alice Salomon

Alice Salomon, educator, feminist, economist and international activist, was one of the founding mothers of professional social work and particularly social work education. She directed the first full-time course of social work in her native city, Berlin, initiated and chaired the national conference of schools of social work in Germany, and altogether was among those who developed one of the earliest continuing education programs.

Mattie Rotenberg

Journalist, educator, homemaker, and community stalwart with a Ph.D. in physics, Mattie (née Levi) Rotenberg was born in Toronto to parents who had immigrated as teenagers when Jewish Toronto was a village with a population of barely 2000.

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.

Julia Richman

Learning the language of America came first, but Julia Richman wanted the schools to do much more. On her list were the establishment of kindergartens; cheap, nutritious lunches; playgrounds; health examinations; instruction in domestic science for girls and manual training for boys. She was not alone in advocating these initiatives, but when she was elevated to district superintendent of the Lower East Side schools in 1903, she was in a better position than most to put them into effect.

Justine Wise Polier

Justine Wise Polier espoused an activist concept of the law and a rehabilitative rather than a punitive model of judicial process, she pioneered the establishment of mental health, educational, and other rehabilitative services for troubled children. She also took a leading role in opposing racial and religious discrimination in public and private facilities.

Orthodox Judaism in the United States

Orthodox views on the role women may play in their community’s religious, educational, and social life have reflected the range of attitudes that religious group has harbored toward American society and culture.

Rosa Mordecai

Rosa Mordecai was born into an important nineteenth-century Jewish American family in Washington, D.C., on February 14, 1839. Little detail is known of her life. One of her biographers noted in 1912 that “Miss Mordecai says of herself ... she is simply Rose Mordecai, ‘without either romance or mystery, but one who loves her fellow men.’”

Annie Nathan Meyer

Annie Nathan Meyer promoted women’s higher education; chronicled women’s work; dramatized women’s status in plays, novels, and short stories; raised funds for Jewish and black students; wrote hundreds of letters to the editor; published art, drama, and music criticism; and championed physical activity and the outdoors.

Frances Horwich

Frances Rappaport Horwich was born on July 16, 1908 in Ottawa, Ohio, and was the daughter of Samuel (b. c. 1868) and Rosa (Gratz, b. c. 1869) Rappaport. Samuel immigrated to the United States in 1884 from Austria and Rosa in 1885 from Russia. They had five children: Henry (b. c. 1895), Mary B. (b. c. 1898), Maggie F. (b. c. 1903), Joseph N. (b. c. 1905), and Frances (b. 1908). After completing high school in her hometown, Horwich earned her bachelor’s degree in 1929 from the University of Chicago. She received her M.A. from Teachers’ College at Columbia University in 1933 and her doctorate in education from Northwestern University in 1942.

Hunter College

Long known as the “Jewish Girls’ Radcliffe,” Hunter College of the City University of New York was founded in 1870 as the Normal College of the City of New York. It was a public, tuition-free secondary and teacher-training school that admitted students solely on the basis of academic merit, determined by competitive examination, and by residency in the city. Over the years, it became a haven for academically advanced students unable to afford more costly schools or to gain admission to institutions with more restrictive admissions criteria. Women who were considered “socially undesirable”—African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, especially those from Eastern Europe—attended Hunter in disproportionate numbers. Hunter’s student body, therefore, differed significantly from that of other women’s colleges in America. From 1900 to the end of World War II, decades when many institutions of higher education implemented policies of selective admissions specifically designed to deflect minority students, Hunter gladly welcomed these same women. Hunter educated scores of intellectually gifted and professionally talented women whose skills and achievements amply repaid the city’s largesse.

Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Bas Sheva Abramowitz (“Bessie” was created by an Ellis Island immigration officer) was born on May 15, 1889, in Linoveh, a village near Grodno in Russia. She was one of ten children born to Emanuel Abramowitz, a commission agent, and Sarah Rabinowitz. In 1905, Bessie, who spoke only Yiddish and some Russian, joined an older cousin in immigrating to America. Most 1905 immigrants fled czarist oppression and anti-Jewish violence, but Bessie reported that her aim in leaving home was to escape the services of the local marriage broker.

Melissa Hayden

Melissa Hayden was born Mildred Herman, April 23, 1923, in Toronto, Canada. Neither of her parents, Kate Weinberg and Jacob Herman, who had immigrated from the region surrounding Kiev in Russia, had any artistic talents. Her father operated a successful wholesale fruit and vegetable business. Her sister Leola was eight years her senior; her sister Annette was three years younger. Hayden started her ballet training fairly late, at age fifteen, with Boris Volkoff, an influential Toronto teacher. After five years of study with Volkoff, for which, when she was out of high school, she paid by working as a bookkeeper, she decided it was necessary to continue her training in New York.

Working Women's Education in the United States

This article discusses the many types of education Jewish working women received, focusing on the 1910s through the 1930s, the height of the workers’ education movement in the United States.

Women's American ORT

American ORT was founded as a males-only organization in 1922. Women’s American ORT (WAO) was founded October 12, 1927, to assist ORT in providing financial support to the ORT program serving Eastern European Jews.

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