Die Deborah

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DIE DEBORAH , German-language supplement of the English language weekly The Israelite, created by Isaac Mayer *Wise in Cincinnati in 1855. The first Jewish periodical in America devoted to women, Die Deborah appeared until 1902, two years after Wise's death. While ostensibly directed at women, the journal also served the larger needs of 19th century America's German-speaking Jewry, promoting a program of German identity, bourgeois culture, and Jewish Reform. The paper reported on Jewish affairs from all over the world and published essays on Jewish religion, culture, and history. It featured news from Germany and informed its readers on the cultural life of the German immigrant community in America. In particular, articles in Die Deborah discussed matters of schooling and education, and the journal prominently featured German literature, most commonly ghetto novels. Die Deborah promoted German culture, and it hailed the German concept of Bildung – the harmonious formation of the intellect and of the character – which was to inform true religiosity. The contributors to Die Deborah understood their Germanness not as an ethnic identity but as a legacy of cultural excellence, moral distinction, political progressiveness, and universalism which they wished to integrate into American society. Die Deborah promoted a Judaism based on a divinely inspired system of norms and values that encouraged free and rational thinking that was quite distinct from the patterns of male learning and halakhic observance of previous centuries. In this culture of middle-class propriety and enlightened German-Jewish sensitivity and religiosity, Die Deborah exalted the Jewish mother and wife as the pillar on which the Jewish religion rested. She instilled her children with faithfulness to Judaism and guaranteed the moral and cultural standards of Jewish family life. Domesticity, marriage, and motherhood remained central in Die Deborah, but the periodical also encouraged women's education, praised women's accomplishments in Jewish history, and encouraged women's activities outside the home, including professional careers. Thus, Die Deborah came to endorse the New Jewish Woman of the turn of the century and eventually supported women's suffrage. The importance of Die Deborah declined towards the end of the 19th century, as its readership achieved the integration into American society and the upward mobility that the journal had promoted.


M.T. Baader, "From the 'Priestess of the Home' to the 'Rabbi's Brilliant Daughter': Concepts of Jewish Womanhood and Progressive Germanness in Die Deborah and the American Israelite, 1854–1900," in: Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, vol. 43 (1998), 47–72.

[Benjamin Maria Baader (2nd ed.)]