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Glueckel of Hameln

(1645 - 1724)

Glueckel (or Gluckel) was born in Hamburg in 1645 into a prominent patrician family. At 14, she married Chayim of Hameln in an arranged marriage. When her husband moved to Hamburg, she was his adviser in all practical matters even while bearing and raising their twelve children. Glueckel carried his business and financial enterprises after his death in 1689.

However, his death depressed her and she tried to overcome her loss by writing a diary, a memoir of her life. She began it when she was forty six. She completed the first five sections in 1699; the next year she married a banker named Cerf Levy of Metz, where she lived until her death. Glueckel stopped writing in 1700 and didn't continue until 1715.

Her original manuscript was lost but copies made by her descendants were preserved. In 1896, David Kaufmann published the Memoirs for the first time in the original Yiddish, with a lengthy German introduction. Since then the Memoirs have been translated into German, Hebrew, and English.

Although intended to be a personal memoir to acquaint her children and grandchildren with their family background, Glueckel's writings became incredibly important to historians because they are the only Jewish document about that period written by a woman. Moreover, they became an important source for Central European Jewish history and culture and for linguistic and literary studies of older aspects of Yiddish.

Though primarily a family chronicle and not intended for publication, the simple and intimate Memoirs unfolded a rich panorama of Jewish life in cities such as Hamburg, Altona, Hameln, Hanover, Metz, Berlin, and Amsterdam.

Glueckel had an excellent memory, a kind temperament, a poetic gift of expression, a good traditional education, and a pious disposition. She was well versed in the legendary lore of the Talmud and had read the popular Yiddish ethical books. She often made use of parables, fables, folk tales, and stories that illustrated a moral. She was profoundly influenced by t'chinot (devotional Yiddish prayers for women) and often echoed them in her meditations.

Sources: Gates of Jewish Heritage