- Reading and Modernization: The Experience of Jewish Women in Berlin Around 1800
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 15, Spring 5769/2008
- pp. 58-87
- View Citation
- Additional Information
This essay focuses on the reading practices of a group of Jewish women who lived in Berlin in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The copious personal sources left by such women as Henriette Herz, Rahel Levin, Sara Meyer and Dorothea Mendelssohn, among others, contain detailed evidence on their reading habits, pointing at the centrality of this activity in their lives. As emerges from these documents, reading was intimately related to their acculturation and played a crucial role in their modernization. It served as a source of knowledge and a means of entertainment, and simultaneously fulfilled an important social function, by enabling them to become part of the rising cultivated public. The study of their reading habits not only provides an acquaintance with this specific group of women; it also illuminates the experience of Jewish women in modern times.