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