Metamorphosis through Philanthropy: Yemenite Women in New York

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, a few groups of Yemenite Jews settled in New York City, having arrived in the United States via Eretz Israel (Palestine). This study concentrates on the immigrant women's charitable and organizational efforts. They had more opportunities for education and fulfillment in public life than did any other group of Yemenite women in the world, then or earlier. In less than two decades in the American milieu, the Yemenite women were changed beyond recognition. From barely literate women who stayed mostly at home, insecure in the public sphere and marginal in the community, they transformed themselves into successful international benefactors. On the basis of documents from the archives of the Yemenite Ladies' Relief Society, I examine the women's association with and assistance to Yemenite communities in Eretz Israel.

Yemenite women in America in this period thus were quite different from their counterparts in both Yemen and Eretz Israel, who had not yet approached a similar level of public activity. During the first decades after their arrival, the New York women were at the vanguard of acculturation and participation in the wider American Jewish community.