Swift-paced and concise ...[Nadell's] task is an ambitious one. In America’s Jewish Women, she sets out to compose a social, political, labor and cultural history covering more than three centuries. The price of the book’s sweep is often superficiality. It’s a primer, not the last word on the subject.
Focusing on specific individuals and even specific families, the author presents a personalized story that is slanted toward progressive Jewish women and the legacy of Reform Judaism. Nadell follows a natural and predictable progression through the history of American immigration ... The author largely succeeds in providing a fascinating portrait of American Jewish women, though her subject matter is definitely slanted toward Reform and even secular Jews. She offers little examination of Orthodox or even Conservative Jewish women’s lives, especially in the modern era ... A worthwhile history given the difficulties of capturing such a wide-ranging population.
A brisk overview ... [Nadell's] particular strengths are social, labor, and cultural history ... She also turns out strong mini-profiles of several dozen prominent figures and unearths the little-discussed oppressive side of American Jewish women’s history, including sexual harassment of sweatshop workers and economic hardships that forced some Jewish women into prostitution. The broadness of the topic means there are some omissions: the writers Grace Paley and Edna Ferber are mentioned but not, say, Tillie Olsen or Cynthia Ozick; some prominent Jewish women are covered too cursorily (two 20th-century political firebrands, Emma Goldman and Bella Abzug, are accorded all of three sentences each); and American Sephardic women and Jewish feminist theology are barely dealt with. It is easy to kvetch, but Nadell has taken on a big job in covering such a multidimensional, important subject. Nadell does it in informative and succinct style, and the result is a readable, valuable text.