A Jew­ish Fem­i­nine Mys­tique? Jew­ish Women in Post­war America

Hasia R. Din­er, Shi­ra Kohn, and Rachel Kran­son, eds.
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
Hur­ray for schol­ar­ly Jew­ish women’s con­fer­ences! It was just such a con­fer­ence that respond­ed to some trou­bling aspects of the find­ings that Bet­ty Friedan pre­sent­ed in her 1963 ground­break­ing book, The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique. Did Jew­ish women feel impris­oned” and depressed in sub­ur­bia because they were over­ly tied to hearth and home as report­ed by Friedan, her­self a Jew­ish woman? Were there Jew­ish women who were movers and shak­ers” in post­war Amer­i­ca? To arrive at some answers to those ques­tions, plus more, a three day con­fer­ence was held in 2005 at New York Uni­ver­si­ty. The con­fer­ence explored the diver­si­ty of Jew­ish women’s expe­ri­ences in the imme­di­ate post­war decades.” Out of that grew a fas­ci­nat­ing anthol­o­gy, A Jew­ish Fem­i­nine Mys­tique? Jew­ish Women in Post­war Amer­i­ca edit­ed by Hasia R. Din­er, Shi­ra Kohn, and Rachel Kran­son.

Each arti­cle presents a high­ly read­able socio-cul­tur­al his­tor­i­cal analy­sis of far-rang­ing top­ics, all of which are con­nect­ed by the thread that Jew­ish women were involved in mak­ing impor­tant con­tri­bu­tions in a wide vari­ety of areas of post­war Amer­i­ca. These activ­i­ties include polit­i­cal activ­i­ty in Mia­mi, orga­niz­ing the Nation­al Coun­cil of Jew­ish Women, Hadas­sah, Grossinger’s hotel com­plex, star­ring in movies, lead­ing social wel­fare agen­cies, and being engaged in polit­i­cal and schol­ar­ly work. The arti­cles also describe how Jew­ish women faced such issues as being refugees and start­ing life anew after the Holo­caust, flee­ing per­se­cu­tion in Arab coun­tries at the birth of Israel in 1948, the Hun­gar­i­an rev­o­lu­tion in 1956, and Cas­tro in Cuba.

For read­ers (like me) who rel­ish the joy of read­ing Jew­ish and Amer­i­can his­to­ry, this book will be a delight. Biogra­phies of con­trib­u­tors. End­notes, index, photographs.
Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

Discussion Questions