Consecrate Every Day
The Public Lives of Jewish American Women, 1880-1980
Publication Year: 1981
Published by: State University of New York Press
In 1976, the Women's Division of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago asked me to speak on the role of Jewish women in American history. It seemed to be an appropriate request. I am an historian of American women who is Jewish. However, there was one serious problem. I was not a specialist on the lives of Jewish women in America. But the subject intrigued me; it appeared to be a natural synthesis of my interests in women and in the group of...
Jewish women, as Jewish American women, have experienced both unanticipated pleasures in the new American environment and the expected responsibilities of the Judaic tradition. They have continued to be the homebodies, the keepers of tradition, the mainstay of family ritual. As in modern Europe, they worked outside of the home as seamstresses, salesclerks, and professionals. But America ...
2. Jewish Women Workers
When contemporary Americans think about Jewish women, they rarely think of them as factory workers, women who spent sixty hours a week in sweatshops where the doors were locked from the outside. Yet this was a reality for thousands of European Jewish women immigrants in the early twentieth century. Jewish women worked on rented sewing machines with thread they paid for out of their meager wages. Unskilled and poor, these young Jewish women left home to seek employment not in schools or settlement houses or ...
3. Inspired by Judaism: Radical Jewish Women Activists
People raised within the Jewish fold, like people raised within any religious culture, have a number of choices regarding their relationship to that religion: they may actively follow its tenets, actively reject them, passively step away from them, or selectively practice them. Most people, I think, fall into the last category. The zealous carry out all of the religious principles with enthusiasm and precision; the rebellious few defy religion with equal zeal. The conscious...
4. Volunteer Activists: The First Two Generations
A loyal minority of Jewish Communists, male and female, never abandoned their original faith to radical change. But as external conditions tested that loyalty-the anti-Semitic trials in Russia during the 1930s, the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939-some gave up Communism for New Deal Democratic politics or American-brand socialism. The Jewish working class was diminishing in number as the immigrant generation grew older and their children moved into ...
5. Volunteer Activists: 1945-1980
This is a true story: In the 1970s, a young Christian woman converted to Judaism in order to satisfy the religious requirements of her Jewish boyfriend. She completed the religious-instruction program, went to the mikvoh (ritual bathhouse), and married her Jewish fiance. Two years later, at a Friday night dinner at her in-laws' house, she mentioned casually that she had just joined Hadassah....
6. Jewish Women Writers
Jewish women writers represent another part of the public record of Jewish women's lives. As creative artists, their work reveals both private and social struggles reshaped through unique intelligences. The fictional stories they create offer the reader a different angle of vision. While the sociological and historical accounts of Jewish women's lives offer important and authentic records, so does the imaginative prose of the Jewish women writers. Further, Jewish women writers deal with psychic and emotional realities often unexpressed ...
7. Successful Mergers
Each of the previous discussions of the public lives of Jewish American women highlighted successful mergers between Judaism and American culture. Jewish women factory workers discovered a rude mixture of the two cultures. They had to adjust their commitments to Judaism to the realities of factory life. Their devotion to justice, to prophetic truths, and their optimism that the Judaic heritage could be realized in America made them union activists. To...
8. Future Directions
The recent past provides us with a backdrop for the future. Jewish women on American college campuses in the 1960s and 1970s are becoming the adult generation, the leadership generation, for the remainder of the century. Their participation in all of the social-protest movements that characterized campus life in the 1960s and early 1970s surely has and will influence their postcollege behavior...
Page Count: 167
Publication Year: 1981
OCLC Number: 794701286
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