by Paula Hyman

The Volunteer Organizations

Vanguard or rear guard?

Jewish women’s organizations were not always out of touch with the needs of their members. When they were founded, at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, they offered middle-class women an important opportunity to leave the confines of the home and engage in socially useful activity which was also of great value to the entire Jewish community. Paid employment was out of the question for middle-class married women, and serious volunteer work constituted an assault on the concept of the refined and helpless Victorian lady.

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Volunteerism: The Great Debate

The articles in this special section:

The Volunteer Organizations

by Paula Hyman

In their early years, the major Jewish women’s organizations were not only revolutionary but responsive to Jewish women’s needs. How did the current "good works" come to mean ignoring women’s needs?

The Experience of Two Volunteers

by Pearl Water

A 31-year veteran of the National Council of Jewish women argues that the organization’s members are strong on social justice but "weak" in commitment to their own sex.

The Experience of Two Volunteers

by Betty Lieberman

A community activist with 27 years in Hadassah believes the organization’s leadership excludes its members from decision-making the way men traditionally excluded most women.

The Sheltered Workshop

by Aviva Cantor

The volunteer organizations are a ghetto where Jewish women are warehoused to safeguard the male monopoly on money, power and status.