In this article, Kahn situates the origins of formal Jewish education for women in the work of Sara Schenirer and her founding of the Beth Jacob movement in Poland.
History of Education for Women
Mitzvah Girls is an ethnographic study about how Hasidic Jewish girls are brought up in Brooklyn to become the women responsible for raising the next generation of non-liberal Orthodox Jews (haredim). Ayala Feder gives us a fascinating view of the “other side”, examining language, gender, and attitudes to the body from infancy to adulthood in the context of homes, classrooms, and city streets. She points to several examples in the lives of these young women that collapse conventional distinctions between the religious and the secular.
This book traces the development of the legal literature pertaining to the instruction of Torah to women and the various issues surrounding it. It also discusses the twentieth-century initiative of Sarah Schenirer, the founder of the Bais Yaakov Schools, and analyzes the place of the study of Torah by women in Orthodox settings.
A collection of essays, edited by Carol Ingall, on the women who “planted the seeds of social reform and progressivism in the soil and soul of American Jewish education” in the twentieth century (p. 1). While much has been written about the men who transformed Jewish religious education in the United States, very little scholarly analysis has previously been devoted to women. These essay profile ten women, who either influenced or were influenced by Samson Benderly and Mordecai Kaplan, and were instrumental in introducing American Jews to Hebraism and Zionism. The profiles include hitherto unheralded figures such as Jessie Sampter (Hadassah School of Zionism), Anna Sheman (adult Jewish educator), Sadie Rose Weilerstein (author of K’tonton), and Sylvia Ettenberg (founder of Camp Ramah and the Melton Research Center, lecturer at JTS). (See “The Jewish Women’s Archive” http://jwa.org/).
The author writes about the men and women of yeshiva.
Greenberg recounts the life of Sara Schenierer, as well as the history of the development of the Bais Yaakov movement which pioneered religious education for Jewish females.
The article discusses how the history of Sara Schneirer and the establishment of the Beis Ya'akov schools reflects the views of the narrator of that history.
R. Cooper discusses the change in Jewish education for women since the days of Sarah Schenirer.
Carlebach writes of the growing interest in religious self-expression on the part of Jewish women and discusses various literary works that have emerged as a result.
This book by Professor Shaul Stampfer (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) analyses the social history of ordinary men and especially women in the Jewish community in 19th century Eastern Europe – how they raised their children, the way they studied, how they married, and all the subsequent stages of the life cycle--including the problems of divorce, remarriage, and elderly parents. Stamfer, as a social historian, utilizes diverse source materials such as traditional rabbinic response literature, as wells as Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian texts and newspapers.
In this review of Stampfer’s Families, Rabbis and Education: Traditional Jewish Society in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe, Marc B. Shapiro (University of Scranton), reveals some fascinating details about life in 19th Century Eastern Europe. Contrary to stereotypes, women were highly active in the public sphere and often acted as the economic mainstays of the family, there were coed heders for children, and one in every three marriages may have ended in divorce. While the reviewer points out a few factual mistakes, he nevertheless lauds the author for his thorough scholarship.
According to the Melissa Klapper (Rowan University), a Modern Orthodox American Jewish historian who has written groundbreaking work on the lives of girls and women, this book performs a valuable service in recalling to life the central role women played in the development of American Jewish education (formal and informal). The book claims that these women were ‘insiders’ within the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements. However, it overlooks the role women played in the Orthodox movement (as in the Bais Yaakov schools that burgeoned across America after WWII). It also fails to engage in gender analysis, ignoring the discrepancy between religious education for boys and girls, and the role women may have played in bridging that gap. Given this is the first in a series, the reviewer suggests that the question of the changes in Jewish education within Orthodoxy may be addressed in a subsequent volume.
Deidre Butler, professor of Jewish Studies at Carleton University in Canada, conducted ethnographic research, including interviews and surveys of Jewish women participating in the 2007 summer program at “Nishmat: The Jerusalem Center for Advanced Jewish Study for Women.” She explores the concepts of religion, spirituality and feminism in this setting, and suggests that the new Jewish feminist vanguard resides in the “quiet revolution” of Orthodox women involved in expanding their religious literacy, leading to increased religious and communal participation.
By Micki Lavin-Pell
Women’s roles in Jewish life have been evolving and changing throughout the course of history. Many changes in the world such as environmental, technological, and social have enabled women to create and take on new and exciting roles. Changes relate to how women wish to be perceived both by themselves, through the eyes of other women and through the eyes of men. This is strongly interlinked with what contributions they wish to make both within their homes and communities, and within society at large. Roles that women play are also influenced by how they want to occupy themselves and spend their time.
JOFA Board Member Carolyn Hochstadter Dicker reflects on her daughter’s aufruf which was held at a partnership minyan in Lower Merion, PA.