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Hannah Greenebaum Solomon

SOLOMON, HANNAH GREENEBAUM (1858–1942), founder and first president of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). The fourth of ten children born to Sarah Spiegel and Michael Greenebaum, a successful Chicago merchant, she married Henry Solomon in 1879 and the couple had three children. Solomon brought leadership and ideological vision to the NCJW, helping it become the premier Jewish women's organization in late 19th and early 20th century America. Representative of a generation of middle-class Jewish women who paved the way for giving women a voice in the public affairs of the Jewish community, Solomon made a career out of voluntarism and social reform. A member of Chicago's most prominent Reform synagogue, Temple Sinai, Solomon had a strong commitment to Jewish life and the larger community; she and her sister, Henrietta Frank, became the first Jewish members of the prestigious Chicago Women's Club in 1876. Already well known, Solomon emerged as an obvious choice to chair the Jewish Women's Congress that convened when Chicago hosted the 1893 World's Fair. At the conclusion of the four-day Congress, delegates founded the National Council of Jewish Women and unanimously elected Hannah Solomon as president.

In the NCJW's early years, Solomon and other leaders often confounded expectations about proper gendered behavior. As Council president, Solomon was the first woman to speak from several synagogue pulpits throughout the country. Through her presidency of the NCJW and directorship of the Bureau of Personal Service, an agency that served Jewish immigrants in Chicago's seventh ward, Solomon established herself as one of the premier community leaders of Chicago. She served for years as the only woman on the Executive Board of the Associated Jewish Charities. Under her leadership, the Chicago NCJW chapter created a Sabbath School for girls in order to inculcate Jewish values and provide young women with educational opportunities. Solomon's support for an initiative within Reform Jewry to move the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday as a means of conforming with American standards and encouraging greater Sabbath observance within the Jewish community created dissension within the NCJW and motivated an attempt to remove her as president. During the contentious debate, Solomon issued her often quoted statement, "I do consecrate the Sabbath. I consecrate every day in the week." Solomon and her allies managed to keep the opposition from ousting her as president and steered the NCJW toward a pluralistic position that supported Sabbath observance without taking an official position on the Sunday Sabbath issue. However, Solomon's stance on Sabbath observance remained a source of divisiveness through her years as president, which concluded in 1905. She wrote the autobiographical Fabric of My Life (published posthumously in 1946) and A Sheaf of Leaves (1911), a privately printed collection of essays, speeches, and other writings.


F. Rogow, Gone to Another Meeting: The National Council of Jewish Women, 18931993 (1993); J. Sochen, Consecrate Every Day: The Public Lives of Jewish American Women, 18801980 (1981), 48–61; B.S. Wenger, "Jewish Women and Voluntarism: Beyond the Myth of Enablers," in: American Jewish History 79 (Autumn 1989), 16–36.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.