This series highlights the lives of four Jewish women (three from Poland, one from Germany) who lived in the early modern period (16th-18th centuries).
Each of these women was notable in her own society and era and they retain historical importance as both exemplars and shapers of the early modern European Jewish historical experience.
Each one's story exhibits the fragility of historical female Jewish stereotypes and demonstrates there is no knowing history without understanding women's share in it.
The Jewess and the Jewish Woman
We meet two women who represent two different gender profiles of Jewish women. Beila Falk (1573-1631) was the wife of one eminent rabbi and the mother of another. She was famed for her piety, good deeds, charity, teaching Torah to women and aliyah to Eretz Israel. Yet her occasional forays across the gender boundary into the halakhic bailiwick of men made her a figure of some controversy long after her death.
Gitl Kożuchowski (d. 1666) was one of the wealthiest Jews in seventeenth century Cracow, managing a burgeoning mercantile empire and a large family, at first in partnership with her husband. As a widow for the last eighteen years of her life, she took complete charge of both business and family affairs