The Rabbi’s Wife : The Rebbetzin in American Jewish Life

Shuly Rubin Schwartz

Publisher: NYU Press

“Schwartz adds a new and important dimension to the history of American Judaism, to the history of American women, and to the history of American religion. She has introduced a new set of actors to the historic drama of religion in America.” -Hasia R. Diner, author of The Jews of the United States, 1654-2000

“This is the definitive work on the American rebbetzin. At once well-written and well-researched, it makes a notable contribution to the history of women in American Judaism, and puts forth a highly persuasive thesis: that many rabbis’ wives in America married what they wanted to be. A landmark study.”-Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History

“In this original and inventively researched study, Shuly Rubin Schwartz offers a moving portrait of women who have played an important, yet unheralded role in the religious and educational history of American Jews. The Rabbi’s Wife compels us to rethink the nature and contours of leadership.”-Jack Wertheimer, Jewish Theological Seminary

Long the object of curiosity, admiration, and gossip, rabbis’ wives have rarely been viewed seriously as American Jewish religious and communal leaders. We know a great deal about the important role played by rabbis in building American Jewish life in this country, but not much about the role that their wives played. The Rabbi’s Wife redresses that imbalance by highlighting the unique contributions of rebbetzins to the development of American Jewry.

Tracing the careers of rebbetzins from the beginning of the twentieth century until the present, Shuly Rubin Schwartz chronicles the evolution of the role from a few individual rabbis’ wives who emerged as leaders to a cohort who worked together on behalf of American Judaism. The Rabbi’s Wife reveals the ways these women succeeded in both building crucial leadership roles for themselves and becoming and important force in shaping Jewish life in America.



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