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Yiddish

Socialism in the United States

Disproportionate numbers of Jewish immigrant women in America were associated with socialism in the first decades of the twentieth century. Their radicalism appears to have grown out of the same sources as male radicalism—the changes experienced by the Jewish community in late nineteenth-century Europe and America, including proletarianization and the secularization of Jewish religious values. But Jewish working women’s radical consciousness and their militant collective action in America emerged in the face of extraordinary obstacles.

Clara Lemlich Shavelson

Clara Lemlich's impassioned Yiddish speech set off the 1909 Uprising of the 20,000, the largest strike by women workers in the United States to that time. But Clara Lemlich’s career as a revolutionary and activist began well before that famous speech and extended for more than half a century afterward.

Ruth Rubin

Ruth Rubin devoted a lifetime to the collection and preservation of Yiddish folklore in poetics and songs. Her writings include books, articles and music collections. As a popular performer-folklorist, she would describe the background of her selections and then sing them in a simple, unaccompanied style.

Kadya Molodowsky

How can a Yiddish woman writer reconcile her art with Judaism’s definition of a woman’s role? Kadya Molodowsky’s answer to that question in her poems, children’s poems, novels, short stories, essays, plays, autobiography, and journalism, published between 1927 and 1974, evolved into even broader questions about the very survival of Jews in the modern world.

Vladka Meed

Vladka Meed, whose given name was Feigele Peltel, was a member of the Jewish underground in the Warsaw ghetto from its first days. The daughter of Shlomo and Hanna Peltel, she was born on December 29, 1921 in Warsaw, where she became active in the Zukunft, the youth organization of the S.C., a strong Jewish socialist-democratic party, founded in 1897.

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.

Hadassah in the United States

When seven women concluded on February 14, 1912, “that the time is ripe for a large organization of women Zionists” and issued an invitation to interested friends “to attend a meeting for the purpose of discussing the feasibility of forming an organization” to promote Jewish institutions in Palestine and foster Jewish ideals, they scarcely anticipated that their resolve would lead to the creation of American Jews’ largest mass-membership organization. Yet Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, became not only the most popular American Jewish organization within a short span of years, maintaining that preeminence to this day, but also the most successful American women’s volunteer organization, enrolling more women and raising more funds than any other national women’s volunteer organization.

Aliza Greenblatt

Deep love for the Jewish people informed the life of Aliza Greenblatt, an American Yiddish poet and an early, committed leader in Zionist and Jewish women’s organizations. Greenblatt was among the first to organize the American Jewish community and raise funds toward the establishment of a Jewish national home. Many of her poems, which were widely published in the Yiddish press, were also set to music and recorded.

Rajzel Zychlinski

Rajzel Zychlinski’s poetry was shaped by the hopes and horrors of the twentieth century. She lived in Poland, the Soviet Union, France and the United States and was fluent in five languages, but for over seventy years she wrote only in the one idiom that was truly hers: Yiddish.

Vele Rabinowitz Zabludowsky

Vele Zabludowsky has been characterized as a teacher of Yiddish and Hebrew who worked with love but above all as one who taught her pupils what we call Yidishkayt as a profoundly Jewish part of life.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Yiddish." (Viewed on December 16, 2017) <https://jwa.org/topics/yiddish>.

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