Deborah Dash Moore and Marion Kaplan

Deborah Dash Moore and Marion Kaplan's comments upon receiving National Jewish Book Award on March 14, 2012 for their Festschrift for Paula Hyman:

We knew this book would make exactly the contribution we intended when almost everyone we asked to participate said “yes.” Everyone wanted to honor Paula Hyman as teacher, colleague, friend, and especially as a pioneer who introduced gender to Jewish historical study and created the field of American Jewish women’s history. Indeed, the existence of a National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies owes its establishment to the prize-winning historical encyclopedia Paula Hyman and I edited, Jewish Women in America over a decade ago. 

Paula not only championed the importance of studying women and gender in Jewish history but she also saw their significance for changing the lives of contemporary Jewish women. As a feminist activist and member of Ezrat Nashim, she challenged reigning orthodoxies in Conservative Judaism and demanded that women be recognized as equal in Jewish religious life. Her activism extended beyond the Jewish community to the world of academe where she supported and encouraged women to pursue scholarship and to aspire to positions of leadership and authority. 

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We hope that Gender and Jewish History not only pays tribute to the path that Paula paved, but also points to where the field is heading, offering some new perspectives as to how gender affected Jewish political and economic behavior as well as religious, social and educational practices. 

We divided this book into three sections: 

Part One on “Women’s Culture in Modern Jewish History,” among other essays, surveys how marriage and courtship practices changed in Austria, and uses gender to understand how Jews were persecuted and how they reacted during the Holocaust. 

“Gendered Dimensions of Religious Change,” Part Two, analyzes women’s changing positions and roles in Modern Orthodoxy and in Reform Judaism in Europe and, among other essays, looks at the rates of conversion among Jewish women and men across Europe. 

Finally “Jewish Politics in American Accents,” the third part, highlights women as artists, photographers, political activists and scholars.

This volume pays tribute to Paula Hyman's vision and accomplishments. We are grateful that it gave us a chance to collaborate. Our only regret is that Paula did not live to attend this event and see this book honored.