History of Education for Women

Gender Roles in Ordination,Leadership and the Public: An Analysis of the OU Paper

JOFA Research Library Publications

This paper deals with the 3 main issues that were discussed in the OU's paper (addressed orthodox women clergy) which are the meaning of the term Mesorah and its use as an argument tool, the Halachic arguments used as proof that women can not be clergy and the general issue of gender roles.

Women and Jewish Law: The Essential Texts, Their History, and Their Relevance for Today


How has a legal tradition determined by men affected the lives of women?  What are the traditional Jewish views of marriage, divorce, sexuality, contraception, abortion? Women and Jewish Law gives contemporary readers access to the central texts of the Jewish religious tradition on issues of special concern to women. Combining a historical overview with a thoughtful feminist critique, this pathbreaking study points the way for "informed change" in the status of women in Jewish life.

Mitzvah Girls – Bringing up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn


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.



And All Your Children Shall Be Learned: Women and the Study of Torah in Jewish Law and History


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.

The Women who Reconstructed American Jewish Education 1910-1965

Brandeis University Press

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/).

Sara Schenirer

The Encyclopedia of Religion

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.

Families, Rabbis and Education: Traditional Jewish Society in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe


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. 

Book Review of Families, Rabbis and Education: Traditional Jewish Society in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe


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.

Book Review of The Women who Reconstructed American Jewish Education 1910-1965


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.

Spirituality, Textual Study and Gender at Nishmat: A Spirited Chavruta

Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal

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.

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