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Reina Hartmann

Reina Goldstein Hartmann focused her career on improving the lives of Jewish women in her native Chicago, serving as the leader of the Mothers Aid of the Chicago Lying-In Hospital and Dispensary as well as other organizations.

Florence Shloss Guggenheim

A lifelong philanthropist and cofounder of the Guggenheim Foundation, Florence Shloss Guggenheim supported arts and music, including free concerts in Central Park.

Richea Gratz

Born into a wealthy Philadelphia family, Richa Gratz became the first Jewish women to attend college in America. After completing her education, she began her career in social work alongside her husband, supporting her synagogue as well as cultural organizations and aid societies.

German Immigrant Period in the United States

Among nineteenth-century German Jewish immigrants to the United States, married women often made their own sources of incomes. However, high rates of poverty in large cities motivated women to create benevolent societies. As women participated more in the public sphere, the traditionally strict dichotomy between male and female roles changed in immigrant communities.

Jewish Women in the Cairo Genizah

The Cairo Genizah (950-1250) contained a vast array of documents pertaining to women’s lives in the medieval Islamic world. Letters, wills, business arrangements, marriage documents, court cases and rabbinic responsa shed light on the lives of the poor and the wealthy, the married and divorced or widowed.


The documents found on the Egyptian island of Elephantine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which date from the fifth century BCE, extensively feature women. The women enjoyed extensive financial and property rights and their narratives show a society in which women had significant rights, rare for the time.

Conservative Judaism in the United States

Women have played a pivotal role in propelling the Conservative Movement to confront essential issues including Jewish education and gender equality. The Movement’s attention to issues such as the religious education of Jewish girls, the status of the agunah (deserted wife), equal participation of women in ritual, the ordination of women, and innovations in liturgy and ritual to speak to women’s experiences has helped to shape the self-definition of Conservative Judaism, and has enabled talented Jewish women to reach new heights in religious leadership.

Colonial Entrepreneurs: A Quartet of Jewish Women

Esther Pinheiro, Esther Brown, Rachel Luis, and Simja De Torres were widows, each held property, and each was at one time or another a merchant. Although they have been overlooked by history, written records that document their activities demonstrate the lives of well-off colonial Jewish women.

Britain: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Since being allowed to resettle in 1656, Jews in Great Britain have established deep community ties throughout their diverse community. Class differences between early Sephardic settlers and the later wave of Ashkenazi immigrants gave rise to numerous Jewish charitable organizations, in which women played a key role.

Bat Mitzvah: American Jewish Women

When Judith Kaplan Eisenstein became the first American girl to mark her bat mitzvah on March 18, 1922—two years after women were guaranteed the right to vote in the US—she recalled “shock[ing] a lot of people,” especially her disapproving grandmothers. Today, American girls across the Jewish spectrum, from secular to ultra-Orthodox, mark their coming-of-age in various forms.

Patricia Barr

Patricia Barr turned her personal struggles into a national cause as an advocate for breast cancer research and treatment. An “out-liar,” as she called herself, Barr became an activist in multiple worlds: breast cancer, feminism, Judaism, education, and the Israeli peace movement.

Australia: 1788 to the Present

The first Jewish women, like the first Jewish men, arrived in Australia on the very first day of European settlement in 1788. Those convict pioneers were followed by free settlers who made Jewish communal and congregational life viable and helped to develop the vast continent. Jewish women have made significant contributions to Australia's national story.

Assimilation in the United States: Nineteenth Century

Female German Jewish immigrants were uniquely impacted by both their gender and class during the process of their assimilation to American life. They began participating in voluntary social work, which secularized over time, reflecting the women’s increased sense of personal autonomy. Through their work, German Jewish women immigrants preserved Jewish tradition and expanded their roles beyond the home.

Architects in Palestine: 1920-1948

The mass immigration from Europe after 1933 brought many architects to Palestine, amongst whom were a number of women. For these women, being an architect meant total devotion to the profession.

Paula Ackerman

Paula Ackerman took over leadership of her husband’s synagogue after his death in 1950, when the congregation insisted on her appointment. For the next three years, Ackerman was the first woman to serve as religious leader of a mainstream American congregation, helping to pave the way for the ordination of women rabbis twenty years later.

“Affiliated” and “Engaged”

Jordan Namerow

I just returned from the Jewish Outreach Institute’s annual conference called Opening the Tent: Visions and Practices for a More Inclusive Jewish Community. It was an interesting conference that explored practices for welcoming interfaith families, non-Jewish partners of Jews, Jews-by-Choice, and, generally speaking, all whom are “unaffiliated”—including Jews perceived to be “on the margins” (i.e. Jews of Color and GLBT-identified Jews)—into the established community.

Summer Greening for Hadassah

Jordan Namerow

In keeping with the theme of Jewish eco-friendliness, it’s worth mentioning that Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization of America, has recently gone green! An increasing number of Jewish organizations and synagogues are becoming more environmentally responsible by making commitments to energy conservation, renewable energy programs generated by wind,

The Trichitza Phenomenon

Jordan Namerow

Trichitza. A strange word, no? Until I was in Israel two weeks ago and prayed in a trichitza setting for the first time, I’d never heard the word before. Shortly thereafter, I came across a trichitza-related article in the November/December 2006 edition of New Voices. I’ve since learned that over the past few years, a growing number of communities have experimented with a trichitza, defining religious space in new, pluralizing ways.


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