You think of ways you can make some sort of school for Jewish girls. In the meantime, you leave Polish public school after eighth grade to become a seamstress.

During WWI, you and your family flee from Poland to Vienna where you are able to interact with a more modern Jewish community than your own Chassidish sect. There you meet Rabbi Flesch, a student of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch [1]. In his sermons, Rabbi Flesch addresses women and emphasize their role in Jewish history. This is wild, you’ve never heard of a rabbi acknowledging women in a speech, forget about actually talking to them! You are inspired to think about the current role of Jewish women.

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Occasionally you attend lectures at a university where you make friends with the young Jews who are members of a campus program called Ruth. You observe your new friends lighting candles for Shabbat on Shabbat itself [2] in violation of the actual laws. Yikes! You understand that these women crave a religious life, but were neglected by their communities and are now under-educated.


[1] Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) was an Orthodox rabbi best known as the intellectual founder of Torah im Derech Eretz (Torah with the modern world). He was a vocal opponent of Reform Judaism and early forms of Conservative Judaism. His philosophies had more space for modern ideas, and therefore women, while maintaining strict observance of Jewish law. This balance left a traditionally observant person like Sarah Schenirer open to his influence.

[2] Jews welcome Shabbat by lighting candles, but once Shabbat begins lighting fires (and by extension using electricity) is prohibited. The members of the Ruth organization were lighting candles once Shabbat had already begun which violates the law and therefore upset Sarah Schenirer who understood that these women were looking for a spiritual connection to Shabbat and were violating the law out of ignorance.


Option 1

If you can’t beat them join them! Even if this isn’t traditional Judaism, it’s still a religious experience after all. And maybe if you stay here, they’ll learn from you.

Option 2

Wow, these girls really needed a proper education. You wonder if there is a way to open up a school here in Vienna. The people seem more open to women in Judaism and you might actually get somewhere.

Option 3

Holy crow! There is a real need for better Jewish education for women. But not just here in Vienna, also back in your hometown. If you want to make real change you should start with your own community.