The family became an object of fascination and idealization in the "bourgeois century."1 Like other nineteenth-century members of the bourgeoisie, Jews made family a central value and symbol. Far more than an ideology or a vehicle for acculturation, the family provided social sustenance as well as financial support, business resources, and connections.2 Like other Germans at the turn of the century, Jews worried that modernity, especially urbanization and an emphasis on the individual, would undermine the family.3 Anxieties about its demise notwithstanding, the Jewish middle-class family remained an essential vehicle for fulfilling bourgeois aspirations, especially in the realm of culture.
Family in and of itself did not lead to bourgeois respectability, however. Only a family that exhibited the traits of what Germans called Bildung— education and cultivation—would do. Bildung appealed to Jews because one did not have to be born into it. It could be acquired at the university, in cultured circles, and in a family of good breeding.4 Moreover, Bildung could be joined to Jewish ethnic and religious identities.
In Imperial Germany, Bildung made up an integral element of Jewish bourgeois self-perception. The growing business, educational, and professional attainments of Jewish men and the familial involvement of Jewish women furnished the material and cultural bases, respectively, of the Jewish middle classes. Women played a crucial role in the social and cultural embourgeoisement of German Jewry by crafting and maintaining a respectable