Amer­i­can Jew­ish Women and the Zion­ist Enterprise

Shu­lamit Rein­harz and Mark A. Raider, eds.
  • Review
By – August 10, 2012

This work, with ori­gins in a Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty sym­po­sium, cov­ers the peri­od 1848 – 1948, from the Yishuv to the birth of Israel, with empha­sis on the decades after the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion of 1917. The con­trib­u­tors elab­o­rate on the twin themes of female and Jew­ish lib­er­a­tion” — even before the Holo­caust sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of Jew­ish women were active in build­ing” Pales­tine and con­se­quent­ly becom­ing per­son­al­ly empow­ered. These women demand­ed their own orga­ni­za­tions. This gen­der-based Zion­ism was an Amer­i­can suc­cess story.

Essays describe the lives of famous Amer­i­can Jew­ish women, such as Emma Lazarus, Hen­ri­et­ta Szold, and Marie Syrkin, who rep­re­sent­ed stages in the evo­lu­tion of the move­ment, and intro­duce many less well-known fig­ures, some of whom fol­lowed a con­sum­ing idea to Pales­tine and Israel. The orga­ni­za­tions that women cre­at­ed as an expres­sion of their goal are deft­ly ana­lyzed. There is valu­able and intrigu­ing mate­r­i­al here which calls for the atten­tion of schol­ars in the fields of Amer­i­can his­to­ry, women’s his­to­ry, fem­i­nism, and Zionism. 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this work is uneven and loose­ly orga­nized, and intro­duc­tions to parts and chap­ters vary in use­ful­ness. Whether all the biogra­phies mer­it inclu­sion is a mat­ter of schol­ar­ly judge­ment. Bib­lio., gloss., index, map.

Lib­by K. White is direc­tor of the Joseph Mey­er­hoff Library of Bal­ti­more Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty in Bal­ti­more, MD and gen­er­al edi­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries Newsletter.

Discussion Questions