The changed role of Jewish immigrant women in the USA from 1840 to World War I - Different images of Jewish women in their old countries and their new country


Seminar Paper, 2006
11 Pages, Grade: none ("fine paper")

Excerpt

Structure

0. Introduction

1. Traditional Role of Jewish Women
1.1. Jewish Women in Contrast to Jewish Men
1.2. Jewish Mothers in East European shtetls
1.3. Jewish Mothers in Germany

2. Changed Jewish Life in America
2.1. Jewish Mothers
2.2. The Relationship between Jewish Men and Jewish Women
2.3. Charity Ladies

3. Rebecca Gratz – A typical Jewish Woman in the USA?

4. Conclusion

Works Cited

0. Introduction

During the course Jewish-American History and Life from the 1840ies to World War I we only touched the field of Jewish women, especially those who immigrated to the United States of America. As far as we have come it is clear that Judaism is in its tenor patriarchal; that is the role of male persons is particularly strong. Women seem to play only a minor role. But is it really that easy to determine the role of Jewish men and women? And, in how far do Jewish women in Germany and East Europe differ from each other? Did the image of Jewish women change at all after immigrating to the United States of America? A lot of questions remained unanswered. So, this paper is an attempt to deal with some of them. The focus lies on the description of the image of Jewish mothers in East Europe, in Germany and after immigrating to the States. First of all, of course, overall features of Jewish women are explained. Afterwards, the situation in the new country is examined. Besides, the life of Rebecca Gratz is introduced to show an almost typical Jewish woman. Finally, a conclusion is drawn.

1. Traditional Role of Jewish Women

1.1. Jewish Women in Contrast to Jewish Men

As mentioned above the tenor of Judaism is patriarchal. So, there are complete different tasks and features of Jewish men and Jewish women. At first sight it seems that women only play a minor role. What happens if one takes a closer look is that women play also a major part, only in a completely other field than men. The whole religious service is task of the men. Normally, better traditionally, women are only allowed to sit on an extra gallery in the synagogue, separated from their men by the mekhitza. Contrary to that, at home the woman seems to be the 'stronger sex' or at least stronger than in the synagogue. The Talmud declares the women as the men's inferior, dependent on them and dominated by them. The third order of the Mishna, the Nashim (Women), deals with issues between the sexes, including both laws of marriage and of divorce (Ortag 29/ 30, 39).

Herweg regards the Jewish home as a place of learning Jewish traditions. It is the place where Jewish tradition is lived by everyone and hence the children gain the skills and abilities to act out Judaism. Each Jewish woman has to know how she makes her home halacha and how Jews behave halacha. So she can pass it to her children. Their men ask for their advice and they are willing to give advice, so they indirectly influence the halachic decision-making process. Jewish women stand up personally for the study of their sons or husbands; it is one of her tasks, part of her work. "Die Aufgabe der jüdischen Frau […] [ist es] die neue Generation zur Übernahme der göttlichen Lehre zu erziehen, sie diese im konkreten Handeln erfahren, internalisieren und schließlich reproduzieren zu lassen" (Brayer 16 in: Herweg 87). Women have to pay attention that the food at home is kosher, they are responsible for the embodiment of Jewish holidays, and it is their task to show the beginning of Sabbath with lighting the candles. The Jewish home is like the temple of the woman. In the Talmud one finds the recommendation that

"[der] Mann, der sich geistreiche und tugendhafte Kinder wünscht, […] den Willen Gottes und den Wunsch seiner Frau in Erfüllung bringen [soll]. Zur Erhaltung des häuslichen Friedens soll er seine Frau beschenken – ihr schöne Kleider, Schmuck und Kosmetika kaufen -, sie sexuell befriedigen und niemals kränken, selbst unter seinen Verhältnissen essen und trinken, sich gemäß seiner Verhältnisse kleiden, seine Frau und Kinder aber über seine Verhältnisse ehren." (Herweg 91/92).

This recommendation shows how strong men adore their women and how much respect they pay her.

1.2. Jewish Mothers in East European shtetls

In East European shtetls the mothers were responsible for family life, which included not only the observance of religious life at home but also the economic survival (Herweg 167). So, as we know from a German television advertisement, she runs a small successful family business. Mostly, the man can only study the Torah the whole time because the woman makes the living. She is the realistic one in the family and has to mediate between her scholarly husband and everyday life. Women show themselves as extrovert and busy. The shtetl -mother participates actively in life and is not only restricted to be a housewife. In the middle of the 19th century this image changes. Of course, she carried on passing the Jewish traditions to her children and earning the living for her family, but the economic situation deteriorated strongly. Now, mothers are overwrought, desperate and do not have much time for their children. Often that results in what superficially seems as lovelessness. (Herweg 167-171). They still want to fulfil all her tasks and want only the best for her family, but life is hard at this time.

[...]

Excerpt out of 11 pages

Details

Title
The changed role of Jewish immigrant women in the USA from 1840 to World War I - Different images of Jewish women in their old countries and their new country
College
University of Potsdam  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
Course
Jewish-American Hisory
Grade
none ("fine paper")
Author
Year
2006
Pages
11
Catalog Number
V66313
ISBN (eBook)
9783638589611
ISBN (Book)
9783638814546
File size
484 KB
Language
English
Tags
Jewish, World, Different, Jewish-American, Hisory
Quote paper
Antje Kurzmann (Author), 2006, The changed role of Jewish immigrant women in the USA from 1840 to World War I - Different images of Jewish women in their old countries and their new country, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/66313

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