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Families, Rabbis and EducationEssays on Traditional Jewish Society in Eastern Europe$
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Shaul Stampfer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774853

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774853.001.0001

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Gender Differentiation and the Education of Jewish Women

Gender Differentiation and the Education of Jewish Women

(p.167) Eight Gender Differentiation and the Education of Jewish Women
Families, Rabbis and Education

Shaul Stampfer

Liverpool University Press

This chapter addresses the role, function, and extent of women's education in nineteenth-century east European Jewry, the way this education was integrated into broader gender classifications, and the implications and consequences of women's education. There is a widely held misconception that, in nineteenth-century eastern Europe, almost all Jewish women had a poor Jewish education whereas many received a good general education. Although males and females were provided with very different frameworks for acquiring literacy education, women were not necessarily inferior to men in Jewish knowledge. Women not only knew how to read but read often. It is quite possible that of all the books sold in eastern Europe, the two bestsellers were books specifically intended for a female audience and read only by women: Tsenah urenah and tekhines. The Tsenah urenah is a Yiddish text consisting of a free retelling of aggadic material on the Bible. It is clear, therefore, that in traditional Jewish society, the differences between the educational achievements of boys and girls on the level of elementary education were more perceived than real. The amount of knowledge a boy acquired in a full day of non-intensive study in a ḥeder was not necessarily much more than those of tutored girls who may have studied for an hour or two a day.

Keywords:   women's education, east European Jewry, gender classifications, Jewish women, Jewish education, literacy education, Jewish knowledge, Tsenah urenah, tutorial

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