Thursday, September 18, 2008
Teach Them Girls
COL showed this today, memoirs from the Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah and the story of her lineage from the Alter Rebbe written in her own handwriting. I'm surprised to see it, really I am. This may shock some of you, but where my family comes from, especially in the parts where the girls were not forced to go to Government schools, women didn't know how to write. period. They couldn't sign their own name, let alone write a memoir, and they definitely could not write like THAT! I imagine other women in Russia and Lithuania could write as well; she wasn't the only one got a private tutor to teach her to write. So we see a different approach in women's education, even at a time where everything else was basically the same. The Rebbetzin was born in the 1860s, so there is no "modern" excuse here, as can be made a generation or two later. Her father was a Poilishe Rebbe who went from Chabad while his father the Tzemach Tzedek was still alive and assumed the ways of Chernobel, so its safe to assume that they had the same set of rules and priorities that the other Chernobler kinder had.
I've been told by scholars and amateur historians alike that much of what we do and believe as Jews today has no real basis in Judaism. I mean behavioral and cultural things, not Mitzvos, c"v. Whether Ashkenazic or Sefardic (Sefardim maybe especially so.) We're superstitious like the Goyim and we used to treat the women like our non-Jewish neighbors did. They were meant to stay home, wash laundry, clean and cook and womanly things like that. We could chalk it up to Talmudic statements saying how you mustn't teach your women Torah, but what does that have to do with learning how to sign your name? The other option would be to say that it had nothing to do with Judaism, it was a cultural thing. For some reason it seems like some Jews saw past the cultural thing and decided it WAS important for their female offspring to at least have a basic education, no matter what conventional wisdom said. To be fair, it may have had something to do with lack of funds, as most Jews could hardly afford Melamdim for their boys, whereas Rabbonishe, Rebbishe, and Balebatishe types may have had some extra cash for amenities like that.
So maybe it's not an Hungarian thing.