Glückel of Hameln: The Life of an Early Modern Jewish Woman

Resource Kit by
Julie Rezmovic-TontiJessica Kirzane

Module Content

Introduction

Introduction

The memoirs of Glückel of Hameln (1646-1724) offer a detailed portrait of the life of an affluent Jewish woman in seventeenth century Europe. A mother of fourteen children, twelve of whom survived to adulthood, Glückel was an active partner in her husband’s business in addition to being in charge of running her family’s domestic concerns. After her first husband’s death in 1689, Glückel continued to manage her family’s business affairs. She began writing her memoirs in 1691, and the work, written in Yiddish, serves as an ethical will as well as a chronicle of her experiences and events that occurred in the Jewish community of Germany and beyond. Through an examination of excerpts from Glückel’s memoirs and other related resources, this kit aims to provide a picture of Jewish women’s lives in Europe in the seventeenth century, focusing particularly on the key themes of family life, religious life, communal Jewish structure, motherhood, and economics.

A note about her name: “Glückel of Hameln” is not what the author would have called herself. She likely referred to herself as “Glikl” or “Glikl bas Judah Leib” (daughter of Judah Leib). The name Glückel von Hameln was given to her by the first publisher of her memoirs in 1896, revising her first name to sound more German, and giving her a last name that referenced her first husband, Chaim, who was born in the town of Hameln. In this resource kit we have chosen to use the name that has been most commonly used in English-language texts and resources, on the assumption that this will make the kit more usable for teachers.

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