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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘women’s’

A Bundle Of Letters: The Women’s Secret Of Survival

Monday, May 9th, 2016

On a Friday afternoon, November 22, 1619, a seemingly trivial event occurred. A messenger carrying fifty-four letters from the Ghetto of Prague to the Ghetto of Vienna was detained on the Austrian border and his consignment confiscated. The letters were held back by the Austrian censor and then dispatched to the Archives of the Imperial Court where they have remained ever since.

The detained letters have become a historical treasure and reveal remarkable insights into the lives of the Jews in the ghettoes of early seventeenth century Prague and Vienna. Thus, the seemingly trivial event that occurred three hundred eighty-three years ago turned into an extraordinary historical episode.

What is the story behind the bundle of letters? The two prominent Jewish centers in Europe, one in Prague in the Kingdom of Bohemia, and the other in Vienna in the Austrian Empire, maintained close contact – a number of Prague Jews had businesses in Vienna and Jews from Vienna as a rule sent their sons to study at the Yeshiva of Prague, generating an intensive correspondence.

The outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618 disrupted official correspondence. Communication between the two ghettoes, however, continued through the clever device of a Prague Jew with business in Vienna, Lob Sarel Gutmans, who hired a messenger to carry the letters of Viennese Jews to his wife in Prague who distributed them and then collected their replies.

As the war was raging on that fateful Friday in 1619, the suspicious Austrian border police held up the package of return mail. Worried Jewish parents, wives, business associates had no way of relieving their anxiety because the replies to their letters never came: they arrived instead into the hands of twenty-first century Jewish historians doing research at the Imperial Archives.

Most of the letters are written by women, revealing the incredible tale of their lives in the Ghetto of Prague. Centuries melt away as one reads mothers’ bits of advice to their daughters married to Viennese businessmen, wives inquiring about the health of their husbands engaged in commerce in Vienna, friends chatting about their daily joys and worries, sisters exchanging little confidences. One can hear echoes of concern about daily fears for life and liberty, the danger of war and fear of an epidemic that had broken out in Vienna, riots against Jews in Prague and imprisonment of innocent Jews for ransom. And yet, in the midst of it all, the Jewish women of Prague managed to retain a mundane yet vital interest in their physical appearance.

The following was written by Freidel Hammerschlag of Prague to Mirel Auerbach of Vienna: “My dear relative and good friend, I let you know that I discharged your commission well, and ordered the coat to be made for you in the best and finest fashion possible in the world. Lining 10 ells double damask, 2 ½ scores for laces, 2 scores for linen cloth, 2 for velvet, 1 score for silk, wages for the tailor 2 scores. Therefore, do not forget to send more money so that I can give it to Abner son of Henoch Schik of blessed memory, that he may buy a beautiful smooth otter fur in Poland; I think if you send me forty gulden more, I will have money for everything. I will buy everything as economically as it were my own. I could buy otter fur here but it is dyed. And I want to have it made from the finest fur. Write me through whom should I send it to you. And so, blessing of the Almighty to you, from your good friend Freidel, daughter of the excellent and learned Israel Hammerschlag.”

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Israeli Organization Empowers Arab and Druze Women

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Under the auspices of MASHAV-Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, Mazal Renford has worked to promote the cause of both Palestinian and Israeli Arab women. In her capacity as director of Haifa’s Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center, Renford has made great strides to this end. Speaking to participants at the Stand With Us International Women’s Conference, Renford discussed her work to “bring Israelis and Palestinians together,” which involves frequent consultations with Palestinian women from Judea and Samaria.

According to Renford, “If we educate for peace, maybe one day we will enjoy it.” As “a city of peaceful coexistence” where Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and Bahais live side by side, Renford believes Haifa is the ideal location for her work. Renford’s organization was founded on former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s belief that “women weren’t taken into consideration in the process of development,” despite their pivotal importance. In this regard, Renford emphasizes that “Israel has been a pioneer in promoting” women’s development, with the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center providing Palestinian women an opportunity to “come, learn how to set up a business, and stand up for their rights.”

Vered Sawied, a former mayor of Netanya who is presently working for the Prime Minister’s Office as an Advisor for Social and Welfare Issues, notes that while Israeli Jewish women often struggle to find the right balance between work and family, “the situation in Arab society is more difficult.” For this reason, explains Sawied, Israel set up an authority to provide jobs for Arabs as well as specific scholarships for Arab women seeking to enter the hi-tech profession.

Hiba Zaidan, a young Druze PhD student, credits Israeli professors and her family with helping her advance. She claimed that in Druze society, it is considered taboo for a woman to drive, go to school, or even leave the village without an escort. This has created major problems for Druze women who wish to work and study outside the village.

However, Zaidan also emphasized that Druze society is changing due to courageous and bold strides made by Druze women, with many of them now driving and studying to be teachers. She noted, however, that psychological research at the PhD level is still very rare for Druze women. “Lots of people in my village were against me getting a PhD,” she stated. She added that her Israeli professors were very understanding of her situation and always offer her assistance.

Dr. Janan Faraj-Falah was the first Druze woman in Israel to receive her PhD and today works as a lecturer at the University of Haifa, as well as the Arab Academic College for Education. Her book “The Druze Woman” is widely acclaimed both in Israel and around the world as the first book to discuss the status of women in the Druze community. Additionally, she is the founder of the Women’s Vision of Akko Foundation, which brings Jewish and Arab women together to work towards peace.

According to Dr. Faraj-Falah, “I established this association to improve women’s status and support peace. Women bring life into this world so women can also bring peace.” Some of her organization’s projects include constructing peace gardens in which Jewish and Arab children play, teaching Arabic to Jewish women and Hebrew to Arab women, and bringing both Jewish and Palestinian writers together for joint meetings. She emphasizes, “We will continue our march for peace and never give up.” Her work is supported by Renford, who notes, “Bringing Arabs and Jews together can make a big difference.”

Visit United with Israel.

Rachel Avraham

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/israeli-organization-empowers-arab-and-druze-women/2013/09/11/

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