Galicia’s Rebellious Daughters, and the Birth of Orthodox Schools for Girls

Dec. 23 2021

Now comprising most of southern Poland and part of northwestern Ukraine, Galicia is the former Polish territory that, from the late 18th century until World War I, belonged to the Austrian empire. Its Jews had their own dialect of Yiddish, their own liturgical customs, and their own way of making gefilte fish. While Galician Jews had a reputation for intense piety, the changing world of the turn of the century brought defections. Rachel Manekin notes some of the instances of young women leaving the fold—sometimes to pursue higher education, more often to pursue Gentile lovers, and sometimes conversion to Catholicism—and their stories as they were told in the press, and in literature.

In 1907, a Yiddish melodrama was published . . . based on the true story of a young Jewish woman, the daughter of a tavernkeeper in a small Galician village, who fled from her parents’ home on the first night of Passover, then converted to Christianity and married her Polish lover in 1889. In the theatrical version, the Jewish woman elopes with her lover after her mother reveals to her the identity of her groom-to-be, a Jewish yeshiva student, and the date of her impending marriage. Unlike the story on which it was based, the play ends happily for the Jewish audience, with the young woman returning to her family and her faith.

A similar story is related by [the great Hebrew writer] S.Y. Agnon in the chapter “Solomon Jacob’s Bed” of his novel Hakhnasat kalah (translated into English as The Bridal Canopy). The narrator tells the tale of a village tavernkeeper who quickly arranged a match between his daughter and a yeshiva student after he and his wife learned of their daughter’s romance with a Pole. The story is told from the viewpoint of the naïve yeshiva student, who knows nothing of the background to the engagement. . . .

What none of these writers anticipated was the change in the educational ideology within the Orthodox camp that aimed at controlling the drive for higher education among their daughters and channeling it to other areas. This change was first conceived by Sarah Schenirer, who was well aware of the problem of the prodigal daughters and personally experienced the double life of being attracted to lectures in [Cracow’s] Reading Room for Women on the one hand, and love for her ḥasidic parents and their religious values, on the other hand. Her solution to the rebellion of the daughters was to strengthen their religious identity and weaken the attraction of secular education. Her innovative approach was later developed by Agudat Israel into a formal and well-developed educational system that turned the passion for intellectual creativity and freedom into a passion for religion and commitment to Orthodox ideology and practice.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Conversion, East European Jewry, Galicia, Orthodoxy, S. Y. Agnon, Women in Judaism

 

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism