American Jewish Women’s History
This class explores the experiences of Jewish women over the course of three centuries of Jewish communal existence in America. It will examine how Jewish women have had a history that makes their experiences unique when compared to Jewish women elsewhere, to other American women, and Jewish men. The course as such asserts –and questions the premise—that Jewish women in America had a distinctive history, worthy of analysis in its own terms. That history includes the role of Jewish women in building Jewish communal institutions in America, their participation in the immigration process, their impact upon their families, and the ways in which they engaged with the larger American public. It will examine a few individual lives through scholarly biographies. The course, which will fit under the rubric of social history, will balance the lived experiences of Jewish women in America with the expectations which limited or enabled them to take advantage of American opportunities. It makes no claim to studying the full sweep of that history but rather uses selected moments in it and examines the formative works of scholarship which have shaped the field. As such it will not proceed in a chronological but rather a topical arc.