In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, over three hundred young Jewish women from Orthodox, mostly Hasidic, homes in Western Galicia (now Poland) fled their communities and sought refuge in a Kraków convent, where many converted to Catholicism.
Relying on a wealth of archival documents, including court testimonies, letters, diaries, and press reports, in The Rebellion of the Daughters: Jewish Women Runaways in Habsburg Galicia
(Princeton University Press, 2020), Rachel Manekin reconstructs the stories of three Jewish women runaways and reveals their struggles and innermost convictions. Unlike Orthodox Jewish boys, who attended "cheders," traditional schools where only Jewish subjects were taught, Orthodox Jewish girls were sent to Polish primary schools. When the time came for them to marry, many young women rebelled against the marriages arranged by their parents, with some wishing to pursue secondary and university education. After World War I, the crisis of the rebellious daughters in Kraków spurred the introduction of formal religious education for young Orthodox Jewish women in Poland, which later developed into a worldwide educational movement. Manekin chronicles the belated Orthodox response and argues that these educational innovations not only kept Orthodox Jewish women within the fold but also foreclosed their opportunities for higher education.
Exploring the estrangement of young Jewish women from traditional Judaism in Habsburg Galicia at the turn of the twentieth century, The Rebellion of the Daughters
brings to light a forgotten yet significant episode in Eastern European history.
Rachel Manekin is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland. Her area of specialization is the social, political, and cultural history of Galician Jewry. She is also the author of The Jews of Galicia and the Austrian Constitution: The Beginning of Modern Jewish Politics
(Jerusalem: Shazar Institute, 2015).
Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com.