Re: Literacy of Jewish women in the Old Country #general

Felicity Bartak

It depends what is meant by 'literate.' While some girls may have
been less educated than boys, the common language was Yiddish and
written using Hebrew script. Those with higher education under Russian
rule, would have learnt to read and write in Cyrillic Russian too.
Neither script was the Latin script that we and other 'Western'
countries use. My grandmother, born in Odessa in 1881, migrated to
Palestine as a child, and read and wrote and spoke in Yiddish. After
marrying and moving on to Australia, her youngest child (my mother)
born in Melbourne, was embarrassed to have to write any necessary
notes to the teacher on behalf of her mother who never learnt to write
or read English. Of course such immigrants eventually learnt how to
sign their names in the accepted script. But they continued to write
to distant family in Yiddish, enjoy Yiddish theatre and cinema, and
read Yiddish literature and newspapers so were hardly 'illiterate'.

Felicity Bartak

From: David Laskin <>
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2017 07:49:42 -0700

...I know that
Jewish girls in the Russian Pale did not receive as much education as
boys, but I had always assumed most (especially those >from middle
class families like my grandmother) were literate. I'd like to hear
what others have to say on this.

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