“Woman and American Judaism: Historical Perspectives”

Women and American Judaism: Historical Perspectives (edited by Pamela S. Nadell and Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University Press, $24.95) is a compilation of essays about Jewish women in America that covers a wide range of time periods, regions, and approaches to gendered history. One contribution takes us back to the lives of Jewish women in Colonial times (Holly Snyder’s “Queens of the Household: The Jewish Women of British America, 1700-1800”), while Deborah Lipstadt’s essay surveys Jewish-American feminism from the 1960s to the present day. The regional range of these essays is just as wide. William Toll writes about Jewish women in the American West, Dianne Ashton discusses the lives of Jewish women in both the North and South during the Civil War, and Felicia Herman covers Jewish Sisterhoods in New York City at the turn of the Twentieth Century. While a few essays describe the lives of individual Jewish-American women (for example, Joyce Antler’s piece on Justine Wise Poller), others discuss the shifting cultural definitions of Jewish women’s identity (Eric L. Goldstein’s “Between Race and Religion: Jewish Women and Self Definition in Late Nineteenth Century America”). This diversity of approach and subject matter attests both to the rich history of Jewish women in America and to Jewish women’s history as a dynamic and growing field of study.