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Badt-Strauss, Bertha


BADT-STRAUSS, BERTHA (1885–1970), writer, Zionist, feminist. Badt-Strauss was born in Breslau. She was descended from a well-known family of Jewish scholars and studied literature, languages, and philosophy in Breslau, Berlin, and Munich. One of the first women awarded a doctoral degree in Prussia, she worked as a researcher and publisher. She became a Zionist and deeply involved in the Jewish Renaissance: the creation of a Jewish community with a special Jewish culture. With her husband Bruno Strauss, a teacher and expert on Moses *Mendelssohn, she lived in Berlin from 1913 on. In 1921 their only son, Albrecht, was born. Shortly after his birth Badt-Strauss fell ill with multiple sclerosis. In spite of this she continued writing numerous articles for Jewish publications, such as the Jüdische Rundschau and the Israelitische Familienblatt, and also for leading non-Jewish newspapers. She also co-edited the first scholarly edition of Annette von Droste-Huelshoff's works and translated and edited volumes of works by Gertrud Marx, Profiat *Duran, *Suesskind von Trimberg, Heinrich *Heine, Rahel *Varnhagen, and Moses Mendelssohn. She contributed to the Juedisches Lexikon and the Encyclopaedia Judaica, wrote short stories, a serial novel, and a collective biography of Jewish women.

As a religious Jewess and a patriotic German, Badt-Strauss became not only one of the protagonists of the Jewish Renaissance, she also participated in the German women's movement, wrote about German literature and included (supposed) "Assimilanten" like Moses Mendelssohn or converts like Rahel Varnhagen in her agenda. She tried to reinterpret the return of prominent Jews to Judaism as a self-determined step in the right direction and offered new role models for identification.

Badt-Strauss' intensive engagement with Jewish women should also be mainly attributed to her aim of creating new role models. Her only belief was in the need to return to Judaism and eventually to Ereẓ Israel. By not specifying too narrowly what this return should be like and what role women had to play in Judaism and in the "Jischuw," she invited women to take part in the creation of a Jewish community that had not seen women's role in this context because of the rigid male definition of Jewish femininity. Badt-Strauss was most successful with her individual interpretation of the aims of the Jewish Renaissance – her list of publications includes more than 600 editions and articles.

In 1939 Badt-Strauss immigrated to the United States. She continued writing and published a biography of the American Zionist Jessie *Sampter.


M. Steer, Bertha Badt-Strauss (1885–1970) (2005).

[Martina Steer (2nd ed.)]

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