My grandmother's tkhine: Immigrant Jewish women's lives, identities and prayers in early twentieth-century America

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Abstract

The Shas tkhine rav pninim published in New York by the Hebrew Publishing Company in 1916 was the first volume of tkhines-Jewish devotional prayers in Yiddish-to be published for immigrant Jewish women in America in the early twentieth century. This article focuses on the volume's history and historical significance. After discussing its contents and its differences both from earlier and contemporary European counterparts and from previously published prayer compilations and devotionals for Jewish women in America, the article moves on to address the role played by devotional prayers in the construction of immigrant identity and empowerment. How did the tkhines differ from standard Jewish public prayer in this respect? How did this multiplicity of religious ties enable the immigrant to better cope with a new reality? And how well does the popularity of these prayers among traditional early twentieth-century Jewish women immigrants in America fit the research postulate that immigration is often a disruptive event that alienates immigrants from religious practice? For the immigrant Jewish women who recited the tkhines at home, it seems, these prayers functioned in multiple ways: They reflected these women's immigrant Jewish identity, but at the same time, by the very act of doing so, they also took part in constructing and strengthening that identity. By referring to the nature of immigrant Jewish life in America or the major events that molded the lives of immigrant Jewish women, the tkhines became more than traditional Jewish prayers. They were now a text with which these women could identify as members of the new American Jewish immigrant culture, giving their experiences and changing identities a form of textual legitimacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-168
Number of pages23
JournalNashim
Issue number31
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

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© 2017 NASHIM.

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