Book Club January 2022 – America’s Jewish Woman

America’s Jewish Woman by Pamela Nadell

America’s Jewish Women uncovers what it has meant to be a Jewish woman in America by weaving together the stories of remarkable individuals—from the colonial matron Grace Nathan and her great-granddaughter, the poet Emma Lazarus, to labor activist Bessie Hillman and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In this groundbreaking history, we see how they and the scores of women—the wives, mothers, activists, and workers who appear in these pages—maintained their Jewish identities as they wrote themselves into American history. Defined by a strong sense of self, a resolute commitment to making the world a better place, and diverse notions of what being a Jew means, America’s Jewish women left deep imprints on their families, communities and the nation they call home.


“Painting a vivid picture of a golden land that often defaulted on its promises, Nadell creates an extremely readable portrait of Jewish women collectively realizing their power to change their destiny…America’s Jewish Women is a thoughtful history of a group of diverse, passionate, contemplative, vocal and dynamic women, and is a welcome addition to the American historical canon. It’s truly remarkable to read this book and appreciate how these women — numerically small, qualitatively great — made such a tremendous impact on this nation.”—New York Times

“This enthralling and well-doc­u­ment­ed chron­i­cle of the vari­ety of ways in which Jew­ish women have embraced the pos­si­bil­i­ties of Amer­i­ca is essen­tial read­ing for all Amer­i­can Jews. Build­ing on her deep schol­ar­ly foun­da­tions in Amer­i­can Jew­ish his­to­ry and her pio­neer­ing and inno­v­a­tive research on Jew­ish women, Pamela Nadell’s acces­si­ble and rev­e­la­to­ry nar­ra­tive begins in the ear­ly era of Euro­pean set­tle­ment and con­cludes in an ever-evolv­ing present. Much of the charm of Nadell’s approach is her focus on indi­vid­u­als, some well-known and oth­ers obscure. She brings names and per­son­al details to women’s expe­ri­ences of immi­gra­tion, edu­ca­tion, the work­place, mar­riage and moth­er­hood, and syn­a­gogue, orga­ni­za­tion­al, and polit­i­cal involve­ments, as well as of anti­semitism, sex­u­al dis­crim­i­na­tion, and harass­ment. Nadell’s approach ren­ders the larg­er pat­terns of Jew­ish women’s lives vivid and par­tic­u­lar, as do her well-cho­sen illus­tra­tions that visu­al­ly demon­strate what her book relates about women’s engage­ment in Amer­i­can Jew­ish life. Images include a fam­i­ly doing gar­ment piece work at home, and women strik­ing for bet­ter work con­di­tions, play­ing mah-jongg, work­ing for civ­il rights, and study­ing for rab­binic and can­to­r­i­al ordi­na­tion. We see Ruth Bad­er Ginsberg’s 1946 con­fir­ma­tion pic­ture and Chabad women attend­ing a 2015 week­end, as well as a pho­to­graph of female phil­an­thropy in action. As Nadell teach­es us, the diver­si­ty of America’s Jew­ish women is stag­ger­ing, but equal­ly awe-inspir­ing is their share in the ​’col­lec­tive Amer­i­can Jew­ish female past.’”— National Jewish Book Award Judges’ Remarks

See Pamela Nadell.