The encounter of Jews
with the Enlightenment has so far been considered almost entirely from a
masculine perspective. In shifting the focus to a group of educated Jewish
women in Berlin, this engaging study makes an important contribution to German
Jewish history as well as to gender studies.
Naimark-Goldberg's study of these women's letters,literary activities, and
social life reveals them as cultivated members of the European public. Their
correspondence allowed them not only to demonstrate their intellectual talents
but also to widen their horizons and acquire knowledge-a key concern of women
seeking empowerment. Her descriptions of their involvement in the public
sphere, a key feature of Enlightenment culture, offer important new insights:
social gatherings in their homes served the purpose of intellectual
advancement, while the newly fashionable spas gave them the opportunity to
expand their contacts with men as well as with other women, and with non-Jews
as well as Jews, right across Europe.
As avid readers and
critical writers, these women reflected the secular world-view that was then
beginning to spread among Jews. Imbued with enlightened ideas and values and a
new feminine awareness, they began to seek independence and freedom, to the
extent of challenging the institution of marriage and traditional family
chapter discusses the relationship of the women to Judaism and to religion in
general, including their attitude to conversion to Christianity-the route that
so many ultimately took.
`A major contribution to German
Jewish history and to gender studies . . . It becomes clear that . . . Jewish
women participated in the European Enlightenment as well, although usually in a
different and unique way . . . [Naimark-Goldberg] enhances our view of the
history of German Jewry and Jewish women, the processes of modernization and
secularization, and the cultural history of the Jews at the onset of modern
Shmuel Feiner, Bar Ilan University
`This book is of great interest and significance.
Dr Naimark-Goldberg's approach is part of a newer historiographical tradition
in the study of women and culture. Her book takes a new angle of research and
makes a significant contribution to understanding Jewish women's history and
Jewish culture as a whole.'
Shulamit Magnus, Oberlin College
Natalie Naimark-Goldberg is Braun Chair for the History of the Jews in Prussia Research Fellow at Bar-Ilan University. She is the co-editor, with Shmuel Feiner, of Cultural Revolution in Berlin: Jews in the Age of Enlightenment (2011). Her fields of research include the history of Jewish women in the modern period, modern German Jewish history, and the history of the Jewish Enlightenment in Germany.
List of Illustrations Note on the Translation of Sources and the Use of Names Note on Transliteration Introduction 1 Private Letters: An Alternative Sphere for Cultural Discourse 2 Jewish Women and the Reading Public 3 Going Public: Jewish Women in the Field of Literature and Publishing 4 Sociability and Acculturation in German Spas 5 Social Gatherings in Private Homes 6 Female Emancipation 7 Between Acculturation and Conversion 8 Conclusion Bibliography Index