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Poland: Early Modern (1500-1795)

Polish Jewish Women played a complex role in their society and culture during the early Modern Period. This role was usually gender segregated, but upon a closer look, was more gender flexible than one might think.

Doña Gracia Nasi

Doña Gracia Nasi was the embodiment of passionate solidarity among exiles. As a young woman she inherited her husband’s fortune, and fled from Lisbon to Venice to Ferrara, where her family lived openly as Jews for the first time. In Constantinople, she assumed a role of leadership in the Sephardi world of the Ottoman Empire.

Rebecca Touro Lopez

Rebecca Touro Lopez successfully appealed to the Rhode Island State Legislature to preserve the Touro Synagogue of Newport, one of the first cases of the government preserving an unoccupied historic building. The synagogue was restored and became a National Historic Site. Lopez requested a Newport burial and was interred in the cemetery of the synagogue she had fought to preserve.

Marcia Koven

Marcia Koven was the founding curator of the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum, one of a number of museums dedicated to Jewish history in Canada’s Maritime Provinces. Her work inspired other Jewish museum projects in Atlantic Canada, and she held a number of other leadership roles related to Jewish life and history.

Rebekah Bettelheim Kohut

Rebekah Bettelheim Kohut made her mark on the American Jewish community in the areas of education, social welfare, and the organization of Jewish women. Grounded in her Jewish identity as the daughter and wife of rabbis, Kohut had a public career that paralleled the beginnings of Jewish women’s activism in the United States.

Irene Caroline Diner Koenigsberger

A distinguished chemist credited with discovering the molecular structure of rubber, Irene Caroline Koenigsberger refused to patent her work, making her discovery available to all. She was also an important figure in the Washington, D.C. Jewish community, cofounding Temple Sinai and the B’nai B’rith Hillel at George Washington University.

Francine Klagsbrun

Author of more than a dozen books and countless articles in national publications and a regular columnist in two Jewish publications, Francine Klagsbrun is a writer of protean interests who has made an impact on both American and American Jewish culture.

Kinnim (Tractate)

Tractate Kinnim (“nest” or “birds in a nest”), the last tractate in Order Kodashim (Holy Things), deals with the smallest type of sacrifice, a pair of turtledoves or young pigeons—one nest, hence the title.

Kibbutz Ha-Dati Movement (1929-1948)

Beginning in 1929, the religious kibbutz (Kibbutz Ha-Dati) movement represented the confluence of progressive ideals of equality and collectivism and traditional customs of Judaism. As a result, women in the movement lived at a crossroads.

Chaile Raphael Kaulla

Chaile Raphael Kaulla was the most influential Jewish woman entrepreneur and one of the last Court Jews in eighteenth-century Germany. A devout Jew, Kaulla supported both Jewish and Christian poor people, founded a hostel for Jewish travelers, and in 1803 donated a bet midrash, library, and funding for three rabbis to her town of Hechingen. The Austrian Emperor honored Kaulla in 1807 and she and her family were allowed to live in Stuttgart with rights equal to those of Christian citizens.

Karaite Women

Family law and personal status of women are important aspects of both the daily life and the halakhah of Karaite communities. Karaite legal sources often deal with rules pertaining to betrothal, marriage, divorce, ritual purity, and incest.

Regina Kaplan

Regina “Kappy” Kaplan was nurse, teacher, hospital administrator, and health care innovator. Most notably, Kaplan helped break down gender barriers in medicine by creating the first nursing school in the South that admitted male students.

Mordecai Kaplan

Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, was a lifelong supporter of the rights of women., In 1922, he organized a Bat Mitzvah for his daughter, Judith, at one of his congregations, The Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ).

Regina Jonas

Regina Jonas longed to become a rabbi for most of her life, and despite significant obstacles, was ordained in 1935. As the first ordained female rabbi, she worked in Berlin until her deportation to Theresienstadt, where she continued to preach, teach, and inspire her fellow inmates until her final deportation to Auschwitz.

Women, Music, and Judaism in America

This article emphasizes American Jewish women’s multivalent musical choices from the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries. In doing so, it acknowledges that mainstream Jewish liturgical, educational, art, and “popular” music histories often exclude or minimize women’s participation—as does the very term “Jewish music.” Instead, this article focuses on Jewish-identifying women’s activities in both religious and non-religious settings, rather than seeking to classify the music they create.

Jewish Feminism in Post-Holocaust Germany

Jewish feminism in Germany today is an expression of a wide-reaching renewal of Judaism occurring in many European countries since the early 1990s. German Jewish feminists built on the historical tradition of the Jewish women’s movement in pre-Holocaust Germany and has since taken many paths.

Jewish Feminism in the United States

Challenging all varieties of American Judaism, feminism has been a powerful force for popular Jewish religious revival. The accomplishments of Jewish feminists have transformed American Jewish life, even as the ultimate goal of gender equity and shared power has yet to be fully realized.

Jewish League for Woman Suffrage

The Jewish League for Woman Suffrage (JLWS) was the only Jewish women’s organization in England—and the world—devoted exclusively to obtaining both national and Jewish suffrage for women.

Jewish Museums in the United States

American Jewish women have played an outsized role in the foundation of Jewish museums all over the country. Barred from traditional spaces of power in the early twentieth century, many women—adjacent to power as Rebbetzins, philanthropists, and secretaries of libraries and other Jewish organizations—leveraged their connections to found new kinds of cultural institutions: museums.

Janie Jacobson

Combining her Jewish background with her skill and penchant for writing, Janie Jacobson succeeded as a biblical playwright in the early twentieth century. The children’s plays she authored were performed nationally. In addition to being an accomplished writer, she was a talented musician and involved in Jewish social activism.

Early Modern Italy

A study of the role of Jewish women in household formation, the household, and household dissolution, as well as their engagement in Jewish culture in early modern Italy, raises the question of how much of Jewish practice reflected the context of the surrounding society and how much engaged options in traditional Jewish practices, which were selected to meet their own needs. Despite the wealth of information about some well- known women and reports of the activities of many unnamed women, Jewish women, like Christian women, still functioned in the context of women and the period does not represent a Renaissance for women.

Leah Horowitz

Leah Horowitz was a Ukrainian scholar who wrote extensively about what she thought the role of women should be in Judaism. She emphasized the importance of women’s prayer and drew from the stories of the Hebrew matriarchs to argue that women’s work should be acknowledged and that they have power beyond their marriages.

Gertrude Hirschler

A celebrated translator of deft skill and a woman of great principle, Gertrude Hirschler refused to translate, edit, or publish any book that did not mesh with her ideals or beliefs. Hirschler’s literary contributions are highly regarded in the areas of Jewish history, the Holocaust, religious literature, and Zionism.

Hattie Leah Henenberg

Hattie Leah Henenberg was a pioneering female jurist in Texas. In 1925, she became a member of the first all-female state Supreme Court.

Haskalah Attitudes Toward Women

Just as the many well-known thinkers of the Enlightenment debated the proper role of women in society, so did the maskilim, the men of intellect who burst upon Ashkenazi Jewish society in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revolution known as Haskalah. Dominated by men, the movement critiqued Jewish tradition and encouraged modernity among Jews, but simultaneously met Jewish women’s pursuit of modernity with ambivalence.


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