Synopses & Reviews
Beyond the Synagogue Gallery
recounts the emergence of new roles for American Jewish women in public worship and synagogue life. Karla Goldman's study of changing patterns of female religiosity is a story of acculturation, of adjustments made to fit Jewish worship into American society.
Goldman focuses on the nineteenth century. This was an era in which immigrant communities strove for middle-class respectability for themselves and their religion, even while fearing a loss of traditions and identity. For acculturating Jews some practices, like the ritual bath, quickly disappeared. Women's traditional segregation from the service in screened women's galleries was gradually replaced by family pews and mixed choirs. By the end of the century, with the rising tide of Jewish immigration from Russia and Eastern Europe, the spread of women's social and religious activism within a network of organizations brought collective strength to the nation's established Jewish community. Throughout these changing times, though, Goldman notes persistent ambiguous feelings about the appropriate place of women in Judaism, even among reformers.
This account of the evolving religious identities of American Jewish women expands our understanding of women's religious roles and of the Americanization of Judaism in the nineteenth century; it makes an essential contribution to the history of religion in America.
Most worshipers in American synagogues (outside the Orthodox) may not remember the absence of women in their sanctuaries, but this wasn't always so...[Beyond the Synagogue Gallery] unfolds the history of the transformation in synagogue design and organization that shaped American Judaism. Jack Fischel
Karla Goldman's scholarly and well-researched book Beyond the Synagogue Gallery...was such a pleasure to read that not only did I take prolific notes while reading it, I also found myself laughing aloud at some of the quirks of synagogue life revealed in her exploration of the role of women in American Jewry...Her study exposes every major transformation of the American synagogue as being bound up with major redefinitions of the place of women in public and private life. She demonstrates that the emergence of women as a dominant presence in public worship began to define both the synagogue and American Jewish public life. Indiana Jewish Post - & - Opinion
An important component of this interesting and well- written study is the author's decision to place this narrative within the larger context of the nineteenth- century American Jewish women, but because Goldman widely utilizes the plethora of excellent scholarship that describes and analyzes the gendered lives and activities of Protestant women and white middle-class society, she places her narrative within the larger context of American religious life in the nineteenth century. Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild - Jewish Chronicle
Exegesis -- interpretation and explanation of sacred texts -- is the quintessence of rabbinic thought. Through such means and methods, the written words of Hebrew Scripture have been extended since antiquity, and given new voices for new times. In this lucid and often poetic book, Michael Fishbane delineates the connections between biblical interpretation and Jewish religious thought. The Exegetical Imagination is a collection of interrelated essays that together offer new and profound understanding of scriptural interpretation and its central role in Judaism.
About the Author
Karla Goldmanis Historian in Residence, <>Jewish Women's Archive, Brookline, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Women and the Synagogue
1 Jewish Women: Acculturation in Old and New Worlds
2 Women's Emergence in the Early American Synagogue Community
3 The Quest for Respectability: Mixed Choirs and Family Pews
4 The Trouble with Jewish Women
5 Women in the Reforming Synagogue: Resistance and Transformation
6 Kaufmann Kohler and the Ideal Jewish Woman
7 Beyond the Gallery: American Jewish Women in the 1890s
Epilogue: Twentieth-Century Resonances