THE JEWISH WOMAN IN AMERICA by Charlotte; Paula Hyman & Sonya Michel Baum


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An explorative, well written study which draws upon both social history and significant popular fiction to trace the American Jewish woman's heritage from its roots in Talmudic times to the present. Although the traditional role of the Jewish woman was that of a spiritually and intellectually ""inferior"" being who embodied a threatening sexuality, she was paradoxically spared the effects of the ""macho"" mystique of other western cultures. Jewish men, usually prohibited from participating in politics or bearing arms, created a scholarly or spiritual masculine ideal. They were ""permitted"" to be gentle and emotionally expressive and the women, who relieved them for study by attending to all economic and domestic matters, were allowed to become ""strong, capable and shrewd."" The authors follow the implications of this legacy via the two large emigrations to America--that of the German Jews and the later Eastern Europeans--as both the urbane, more emancipated German ""uptowners"" and the shtetl downtowners made the transition. Along the way they discuss the changing cultural influences of bourgeois America, as the family protector, breadwinner, and morality-guardian was deposed from the role of financial manager and gradually became an object of contempt for the very qualities that had guaranteed survival in Europe--his strength and ferocity in providing for the family. These days, thanks to ridicule heaped on Jewish mothers, mainly by Jewish men, ""Their bowls of chicken soup have become philters of hemlock."" There's still hope, however, that Marjorie Morgenstar may be superseded by Rhoda Morgenstern. A convincing, stimulating examination of Jewish woman in all her diversity--from labor organizer to ""salon"" lady; from pushcart vendor to philanthropist--with a strong contemporary message for all women.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1975
Publisher: Dial