No Longer Ladies and Gentlemen
Gender and the German-Jewish Migration to Mandatory Palestine
Viola Alianov-Rautenberg


Introduction: Migration, Gender, and Change
chapter abstract

The introduction locates migration within the field of Jewish gender history as well as in the context of two national historiographies, those of Germany and of Israel. It outlines how gendered policies, laws, and normative doctrines, defined both by National Socialist politics and by the immigration policies of the absorbing authorities in Mandate Palestine, set the framework for immigration. It also discusses how crucial gender was on the micro level, resulting in differences between men and women in their attitudes towards emigration, their positions within the decision-making process, and ultimately in their chances to leave Germany. Finally, it lays out the unique character of Palestine as a main country of refuge for German Jews in the 1930s, relating to the political conditions of the British Mandate as well as the character of the organized Jewish community striving for autonomy.

1Liftmenschen in the Levant: Voyage, Arrival, and Absorption
chapter abstract

The chapter takes the reader on the journey from Nazi Germany to Mandate Palestine through different scenes: packing for Palestine, shipping their households in lifts (large wooden containers), the anxiety and ambivalence of leaving Nazi Germany on trains bound for Southern Europe, the week-long interim on the ships to Palestine, the intimidating arrival at the harbors of Jaffa and Haifa, and the first steps in their new homeland. The chapter considers the place of gender in preparation, the physical journey, and absorption, as well as in expectations of life in Palestine, and in the immigrants' networking and agency. It also discusses questions of sexuality and prostitution, as well as rebuilding homes. It argues that while men and women both experienced the shock of arrival, the different roles that were prescribed to them by the immigration apparatus, as well as by the immigrant community, shaped the outcome of their migration.

2We Are the West in the East: Gendered Encounters in Mandatory Palestine
chapter abstract

From the moment they set foot on the shores of Palestine, immigrants engaged with the absorbing society. This chapter takes a close look at how gender mattered in interactions both within and outside of the Jewish community. It shows how gender intersected with class, and how race shaped the dynamics of these encounters with other Jews (Mizrahim and Eastern European Jews) and with non-Jews (British and Arabs). The chapter argues that German Jews' self-perception as Westerners in the East was crucial for how they interacted with the absorbing society, and that being a German immigrant—both being perceived as such and identifying as such—was different for men and women, as the various interactions were framed in gendered terms. It explores orientalism not as a scholarly debate but as an everyday practice, and connects this concept with questions of masculinities and femininities, the body, apparel, hygiene, and memory.

3Capable Women and Men in Crisis? German Jews in the Yishuv Labor Market
chapter abstract

One of the most crucial challenges for the immigrants was finding an income. The third chapter investigates the integration of immigrants into the labor market in two ways. First, it discusses the attempts of the absorbing apparatus to monitor and support the immigrants. It argues that gender, intersecting with class, age, and the body, played a crucial role in this process. Secondly, the chapter turns to the perspective of the immigrants themselves and explores how they coped with occupational change, unemployment, and loss of their former status. It shows how women and men experienced this process differently: they worked in different jobs, under different conditions, and for different wages. The chapter challenges the common perception, in the research literature, of women as the better immigrants, arguing for a different interpretation of the omnipresent story of "women of valor."

4How to Cook in Palestine? Homemaking in Times of Transition
chapter abstract

In the process of rebuilding their lives in Palestine, immigrants' homes were in no way sheltered from the all-encompassing demands of the new society. The fourth chapter takes the readers into those homes. It discusses homemaking as a social practice and sheds light on the ways in which the necessary transitions were embedded in broader political and social questions in the Yishuv, such as nation-building and boundary construction. The chapter argues that the immigrants' housework was not an invisible and private practice, but highly visible. It reveals the seemingly private homes as arenas of intervention by social workers, the authorities, and the immigrant community. This chapter returns to the narrative of women as valor and demonstrates how this normative ideal was embedded in Zionist demands to build the new society at home, as well as away from it.

5Qualities That the Present Age Demands: Gender and the Immigrant Family
chapter abstract

Relationships between family members were one of the most intimate realms in which migration created decisive changes. The fifth chapter continues the exploration of the seemingly private realm and turns a gendered lens on the immigrant family. The distribution of responsibilities according to gender that had obtained in Germany changed, against the immigrants' will, in the process of immigration, as did the distribution of roles between parents and children. The final chapter of this book discusses the myriad challenges to which families were subjected through the immigration process and their consequences, such as family separation and chain migration, pressure on marriages, and new forms of parenting. It also tackles questions of age and generation. The chapter argues that the immigrants and the absorbing bodies were both anxious, for different reasons, about the moral decay of families, and that this was a highly gendered discourse on both sides.

chapter abstract

What was unique about the German-Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine? The conclusion reflects on both specific and universal features of this immigration wave to Palestine, in the context of German-Jewish emigration to other countries in the 1930s and, more broadly, of gender and involuntary migration in the twentieth century. It argues that German-Jewish women and men in all countries of exile faced gendered crisis and role reversals. The manifestations of this experience differed, however, due to the range of gender relations and ideals of masculinity and femininity in the respective countries. The chapter points out both generalizable gendered patterns—such as relational strains, renegotiated gender relations, and family dissolution—on the one hand, and, on the other, the unique situation of the absorbing Jewish community of pre-state Palestine at the height of its nation-building efforts.