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The Jewess—from the Bible to the Present, a Timely Book

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The Jewish Library, Third Series; edited by Rabbi Leo Jung; the Jewish Library Publishing Company, New York, 1934.

“Woman, Dear and Damned,” is the subject of the third series of this symposium of Jewish culture. Twenty chapters of comments upon the histories and mores of the distaff side of the House of Israel from Biblical days to the present compose the work. And the twenty writers, among them such authorities as Rebekah Kohut, Dr. Cecil Roth, Lotta Levensohn, Dr. Nima Adlerblum and Dr. Jung himself, have formed an illuminating if somewhat conservative composite.

Significant in the face of this conservatism is the inclusion of the damned as well as the dear. It is interesting to know that among our forbears were illustrious villainesses along with the great Sarahs and Gracia Mendes’ of Jewish history. The chapters devoted to the Middle Ages and the grandes dames of Western Europe, particularly, have the fluidity and color of an impelling drama. The Spanish Inquisition has given to the race a fund of material that should save the Semitic playwright the ennui of searching the annals of the Borgias for his rather hackneyed heroines. Here in this volume is the key to less known but equally vivid ladies of his own persuasion.

Of even more immediate interest with the dawn of the present German Inquisition is the description of the great women of Germany whose grace and wisdom contributed so conspicuously to the social and cultural welfare of their land.

DUTIES ARE OUTLINED

Into so determinedly comprehensive a volume as this the more prosaic aspects of the Jewish woman must enter. Here her communal, marital and domestic duties are didactically outlined. And upon comparison with the earlier chapters it appears thtat the enfranchised contemporary is expected to behave very much as did her Biblical ancestresses. The probity of this might more appropriately be discussed from the rostrum than in the column. But the dictates obviously emanate from the pulpit.

The volume is definitely timely and important. It was projected, says Nima Adlerblum, “less as an account of the achievements of Jewish women than as a stimulus to further development on their part. The twentieth century Jewess seems to be faced with the hardest task in her history. It is incumbent upon her to reconstruct the Jewish home so that the values of old may impenetrate the life of today and transform it into an harmonious whole.” To that end, if she will, here is her guide.

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