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July 24, 1981 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-07-24

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64 Friday, July 24, 1981


Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus' Two Volumes of Evaluation
of U.S. Jewish Women a Notable Archival Endeavor

Jewish women played
important roles in history.
In all spheres of endeavor,
they have matched the men
in many skills.
Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus
makes a notable contribu-
tion towards the retention
of that record in two histori-
cally valuable books, The
American Jewish Woman,
1654-1980" and The
American Jewish Woman:
A Documentary History."
Co-published by the
American Jewish Archives,
the important documenta-
tion center of Hebrew Union
College-Jewish Institute of
Religion in Cincinnati, and
Ktav Publishers, these
volumes enrich the exten-
sive series of works on
American Jewish historical
subjects by Dr. Marcus.
ERA advocates have
much to learn from the
Marcus approach to the
element in dealing with his-
tory and with human aspi-
rations. The Equal Rights
Amendment might have a
better chance of success if
judged in the totality of na-
tional experiences, as Dr.
Marcus treats the subject of
Jewish identifications in
this country. Thus, he does
not eliminate the masculine
in treating the feminine. He
summarizes the totality of
Jewish contributions and
defines the American Jew:
"As there is a national
community, there is also an
international one; it is
dominated by American
Jewry. It is a Pax
Americana Judaica. The
only rival the Americans
have is Israel, and this in
the area of Hebraic studies.
Overtly, American Jews
with few exceptions
passionately and emotion-
ally acknowledge the
spiritual primacy of the
Third Jewish Common-
wealth, but actually
hegemony over World

Jewish life in the 1970s is
exercised by American
"It is very doubtful
whether Israel could con-
tinue as a sovereign entity
without American Jewish
economic and political sup-
port. Israel lives through
the breath of the American
Jew. American Jews, politi-
cally a reflection of the Im-
perium Americanum, are
overwhelmingly predomin-
ant over the World Jewish
scene because of their num-
bers, their advanced secular
culture, their burgeoning
Hebraic and Judaic studies,
their political power, their
wealth, their generosity,
and their total commitment
to Israel.

"Who then is this Ameri-
can Jew, this man of the on-
coming 21st Century? He is
completely and utterly
Americanistic; he is com-
pletely and utterly Jewish
in his sympathies. All told
there are less than
6,000,000 Jews in the
United States; this body of
men and women constitutes
less than three percent of
the country's population,
yet they are one of the most
productive, most respected
American religio-ethnic-
cultural groups."

While the historical
analysis is a volume of

only 230 pages, compared
with 1,047 in the
documentary, the much
smaller volume is in itself
encyclopedic, listing the
hundreds of women who
have triumphed in many
fields of endeavor.
Dr. Marcus declares that
his work is "not a hearts and
flowers panegyric of the
Jewish housewife; it is an
attempt to recapture the
past as it actually was."
Deploring the limited
consideration that had been
given to woman's role in
American Jewish history,
Dr. Marcus emphasizes that
the distaff achievements
demand due accreditation
and he emphasizes that the
story of American Jewry is
"neither his story nor her
story but their story." He
points to some records to
show the shortcomings:
"In the 1888 'Hebrews in
America' of Isaac Markens,
there are about 20 entries
referring to women out of a
total of about 400. In the
1972 edition of Rufus Lear-
si's 'The Jews in America,'
women are mentioned in
the index less than 40 times;
here there are about 2,400
"Why is this? Why is it
that women are so invisi-
ble? Did they do nothing
to merit notice? This
omission of women was
unwitting, for it is patent
that if American Jewish
history is the record of its
communities, its institu-
tions, and its achieve-
ments, it owes almost ev-
erything to the family,
and the family is the wife,
as well as the husband
and children. Without the
American Jewess there is
very little American
Jewish historical experi-
Scores of episodes are re-
corded in the Marcus ac-
count of the woman in U.S.

Jewry's history. Notable
among them is the following
about one of the heroines in
this story:
"Abigail Minis, ran into
trouble during the (Ameri-
can Revolutionary) war.
She had a great deal to lose,
for though a widow she had
managed to salvage her
husband's estate and to in-
crease it. She ran a small
plantation, owned 15 or 20
slaves, and operated a
tavern and a shop.
"When the Whigs occu-
pied Savannah she supplied
them with goods; but after
the town was captured by
the British this remarkable.
woman went into exile, tak-
ing her five daughters with
"None of her daughters
married during her
lifetime, and even her son
Philip, a businessman
and Revolutionary com-
missary officer, did not
take a wife until he was
40. Despite the fact that
he was a warden of the
city and president of the
local congregation, his
late marriage would
seem to indicate that, like
his sisters, he was under
mama's thumb.
She lived to be over 90.
She was indeed a "mother in
Israel" and a virago in the
best Italian tradition."
The lists of notable
women in many fields of
endeavor is a veritable
Who's Who in the Marcus
There is an emphasis, for
example, on Jewish women
in literature. He resurrects
an interest in the poet
Minna Cohen Kleeberg
(1841-1878), as an indica-
tion that she and Octavia
Harby Moses (1824-1904),
whose poems were pub-
lished posthumously, were
prominent women writers.
Dr. Marcus also gives
special emphasis to the

achievements of Emma
Lazarus (1849-1887), as an
indication that there were
noted women writers before
Edna Ferber, Fanny Hurst,
Rosa Sonneschein, Ger-
trude Stein and a score of
Women in social work
and welfare are promi-
nently listed, including
Rebecca Gratz, Ernestine
Rose,Lillian Wald, Han-
nah Solomon and many,
many more.
Women in education, in
the judiciary, in all profes-
sions, received due consid-
eration and cheer in this
Listing "notable contem-
poraries," Dr. Marcus takes
into account women in poli-
tics, Bella Abzug and
Elizabeth Holtzman. He
commends the efforts of
women like Lucy
Dawidowicz who have made
deep studies of the
The immense volume de-
voted to documentaries is a
compilation of historical re-
cords. At the same time it is
a biographical compilation
serving every conceivable
need — for students of
Jewish history, for
classrooms and researchers.
The 177 items listed in
the book are of such a
variety that they stagger
the imaginations of
readers delving into the
massive material
gathered by the eminent
There is an interesting
example in the sketch about
Henrietta Szold, the foun-
der of Hadassah. Linked
with her story is a letter she
had written to Mrs. Julius
Rosenwald about the early
Hadassah activities in
Palestine. This documen-
tary reveals an experience
during World War I, in the
early years of women's
Zionist activities. It is illus-

trative of perpetuation of
historic facts which other-
wise would have been hid-
den from researchers look-
ing into the record of the
Zionist movement.
example of anthological
judgment is the inclusion of
a Responsum on
religio-legal status of
Jewess who had been ra
The Responsum is by the
well-known Reform Jewish
authority on Jewish law,
Dr. Solomon B. Freehof.
This indicates the educa-
tional value of the Marcus
works on Jewish women.
The reader learns about
many notable women and
their families. The con-
tinuity in many instances
might have remained hid-
den without the reminders
contained in the Marcus
volume. A notable example
is the text of "The Bat
Mitzva Address of Susan
Brandeis Popkin," deliv-
ered June 11, 1977, at
Washington (D.C.) Hebrew
Congregation. Thus, the
reader learns that there is a
legacy and a heritage, the
granddaughter of Supreme
Court Justice Louis D.
Brandeis affirming her
Jewish identification.
So numerous are the inci-
dents related to distin-
guished Jewish women per-
sonalities incorporated in
the Marcus volumes that
only the complete texts can
be recommended for appre-
ciation of their worth.
Therefore, the simple
acclaim that Dr. Jacob
Rader Marcus, in two vol-
umes on the contributions of
American Jewish women
and their roles in history,
has made one of his greatest
contributions as an Ameri-
can Jewish historian and as
an archivist of great distinc-
— P.S.

Israel Election: Who Can Create a Stable Majority?


Special Correspondent
to The Jewish News

HAIFA — Whatever
analysis may be made of the
election results in Israel,
the grand total is what
counts, and the ability of
one bloc to set up a coalition
which can command a
stable majority in the Knes-
set. The results are in, but it
is both interesting and il-
luminating to take a close
look at some of the elements
which went into the crea-
tion of the voters' surprise.
Though Likud had all the
advantages of the party in
power, it was faced by an

almost unanimously hostile of the government.
front of the media of com-
As public opinion polls
munications. There was not began to reflect a growing
one newspaper in Israel swing back to Begin, the
which supported the Likud; Labor bloc launched a spe-
most were virulently an- cial assault on the Likud.
tagonistic, and even those The public was warned that
which leaned to it ever so a Likud victory would spell
slightly afforded liberal the end of democracy, and
space to consistently vicious the old label of "fascism"
attacks by its regular col- which had been tagged on
Jabotinsky and the Re-
Both radio and television, visionists years ago, was
though government agen- again trotted out in an effort
cies, operated under a cloak to arouse public fear.
of pseudo-freedom of the
Few stopped to think that
press, and the various com-
mentators and editors four years ago the same
shamelessly distorted the charges had been made
news into constant criticism against Menahem Begin:

that he would become a dic-
tator. If there was one
weakness of the Likud gov-
ernment it was precisely
Begin's lack of strong and
authoritative control!
There were times in the
past six months when Is-
rael's government was
engaged in struggles on the
international scene —
struggles in the UN, and in
relations with foreign pow-
ers. Elementary patriotic
duty should have dicated
that the Labor opposition
make common cause with
Likud in such circum-
stances, for the national
Instead, Peres and his
cohorts seized on every
opportunity to embar-
rass Israel's government
and to make political cap-
ital out of national crises.
Its attitude toward the
bombing of the Iraqi
reactor was indefensible
from a Zionist point of

The last moment projec-
tion of Yitzhak Rabin as
Labor's Minister of Defense,
despite all Peres's pledges to
Bar-Lev, and despite the
open animosity between
Peres and Rabin, was seen
by most of the electorate as
a cynical bit of politicking
which simply proved how
little Peres could be de-
pended on.
During the weeks of elec-
tioneering a dangerous
Pandora's Box was opened
when ethnic issues
(Ashkenazi versus
Sephardi) were introduced.
For 30 years every one in
Israel has been laboring to
eliminate artificial dif-
ferences, to bridge cultural
and social gaps, and to bring
about a spirit of national
unity. Tremendous progress
was being made.
More than 20 percent of
all marriages in Israel
today cross this historical
community difference, and
in time this alone will

eliminate the conflicts. And
then along came some
politicians who sought to
capitalize on the differences
and to seek votes based on
hostility to the other group.
The intelligent voters for-
tunately rejected these ap-
peals, but the cause of com-
munal unity has in the
meantime been set back.
The large crowds C
turned out for Per.
Labor rallies were hailed
as indicative of basic
democracy. But when
even larger crowds
gathered to cheer Begin
ecstatically, they were
openly and repeatedly
termed "rabble" by
Labor spokesmen. This
very reaction was in itself

But as we said at the out-
set, it is the final total that
counts. When the results
are so close, any coalition
set up must inevitably be

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