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.