Fun, But Free? Jewish Sororities and Acculturation
Tens of thousands of Jewish students gained admission into American colleges and universities in the twentieth century, but acceptance into college was only the first step for many.
Students sought out extracurricular activities to pursue their interests and learn more about the social landscape of what were often elite, white spaces. Jewish sororities offered qualifying young women a chance to see “carefree” collegiate life up close, but also forced them to contend with social antisemitism and other forms of discrimination still present in American life
The integration of Jews into the university is one of the great success stories of modern American culture and Jewish life. Penn was at the forefront of this success story, with the first Jewish Students’ Association formed here in 1924. But recent events at Penn and at other campuses have led to accusations that the university has been too tolerant of antisemitism and become less welcoming to Jews. This series of lectures is an effort to share insights from history, sociology, education studies, and other fields that can help put the present moment into context and provide understanding far deeper than what social media conveys.
Shira Kohn is a member of The Dalton School’s high school history faculty in New York City. She co-edited A Jewish Feminine Mystique? Jewish Women in Postwar America (Rutgers University Press, 2010) with Hasia Diner and Rachel Kranson.
This program was made possible by a grant from the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation. Cosponsored by the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History.
The Herbert D. Katz Center gratefully acknowledges the support of the Klatt Family and the Harry Stern Family Foundation.