Books by Naomi Shepherd

Released: Sept. 1, 1993

Fastidiously researched explanation for the emergence of Jewish women as radicals. In most Jewish histories, women are a footnote. Shepherd (Teddy Kollek—Mayor of Jerusalem, 1988, etc.) remedies this in her often dramatic depiction of the lives of some prominent Jewish women radicals from 1870 on—Anna Kuliscioff, Rosa Luxemburg, Esther Frumkin, Manya Shochat, Bertha Pappenheim, Rose Pesotta, Emma Goldman, et al. Showing how Judaism was traditionally a complex legal and social system as well as a religion, the author explains that Jewish scholarly tradition excluded women from the lifelong male responsibility of studying the Talmud. Segregated in the synagogue, without ceremonies to celebrate their birth or their lives, women were given the family to govern. (The Talmud describes Jewish women as ``a nation apart, bound to the community by marriage.'') In the 16th century, a book called T'sena Ure'ena (Come Out and See) gave women a way to learn, domesticating the Bible with accessible language. But it took until the late 19th century for life to really change for Jewish women—when ``the [Russian] revolution awakened among Jewish girls from comfortably off families a burning desire for higher education and independence and this shook the very foundations of Jewish life, far more seriously than the educational development of the male intelligentsia.'' The women portrayed here led exceptional lives as political figures in the Russian Revolution; in Zionist history (Shochat helped found the kibbutz movement); in psychoanalysis; in the Bund (the Jewish Socialist movement); and in the American work force. What binds them is an elusive Jewish component in their character and politics, as well as a shared reaction to a traditional community whose limits may have produced their remarkable actions. A dense, credible, scholarly portrait of a missing piece of Jewish history. (Photographs) Read full book review >