Gluckel Of Hameln: The Identity Of Jewish Women

1846 words - 7 pages

Women had important roles in seventeenth century Eastern Europe; they were mothers, wives, and businesswomen. They cooked meals, cleaned houses, and educated children. In addition to the domestic roles women played in society, they also played roles in the trade and commerce. Gluckel of Hameln authored one of the earliest-known Jewish memoirs detailing the rise and fall of her own fortunes (Schachter.) She had great judgment for business transactions, and when she was widowed at age 54 she took over her husband’s business to ensure her children’s future. In her memoir, Gluckel describes her marriage as a business partnership, boasting that her husband would turn only to her for business advice. Jewish women of Eastern Europe were far more influential than the commonly believed. In addition to being housewives and having the daily responsibility of cleaning the house, they were also businesswomen and religious teachers. Gluckel of Hameln’s autobiography was a powerful story that showed the importance of hard work, religion, and family to the common Jew in a Christian dominated Germany.
Gluckel of Hamlin, was not just a regular housewife, thought to be like other women in the 17th century, but she was also a business women, who showed that not only men controlled the economy. She was born in to a Jewish family in Hamburg, Germany in 1646. Due to religious persecution her family moved to Hamlin, Germany. She was betrothed at age twelve to Hayyim Hamel and was married at age 14. Gluckel gave birth to fourteen children, two of whom, a two-week old infant son and a three-year old daughter, died prematurely. Gluckel was an active partner in her husband’s business, which consisted of trading jewelry and stones and giving out loans and transactions. After her husband’s death, Gluckel wrote a memoir of her life to tell her children about their family, and what struggles their mother went through to make sure they had happy marriages and lives. Gluckel died on September 19, 1724 (Turniansky).
The themes of the book “Memiors of Gluckel of Hameln” showed how family was important to the common Jew in Eastern Europe. Gluckel told her children about their relatives, from their grandparents to their great aunt’s second cousin, because in Jewish society it was especially important to know and respect one’s elders and ancestors. Gluckel wanted to be sure that her children knew “from what sort of people you have sprung, lest today or tomorrow your beloved children and grandchildren come and know naught of their family” (Hameln [32].) To make sure that her descendants would not be ashamed of their ancestors, she spent much of her time looking for respectable matches for her children. In the situation of Gluckel’s own family, she spoke fondly about her parent’s partnership: prior to the marriage, Gluckel’s mother’s family was destitute since Gluckel’s grandfather died from the plague. Gluckel’s father brought in The whole mother’s family and treated Gluckel’s...

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