Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§25 Rebekah Hyneman
(1812–1875)

Rebekah Hyneman (née Gumpert) was born in Philadelphia, the daughter of a Jewish-German storekeeper and a Christian mother. She had no formal education but acquired her literary education and a mastery of French, German, and later Hebrew through self-study. She married Benjamin Hyneman, a Jewish jewelry salesman in 1835, but when she was pregnant with their second son, he disappeared on a trip and was presumed murdered. She never remarried. Hyneman wrote short stories, novellas, including Woman's Strength, and serial novels published in a newspaper edited by her brother-in-law, Leon Hyneman. Her poetry was published in the Jewish journal, The Occident, and later as a collection, The Leper and Other Poems (1853). Her poetry intimated that her Jewish faith sustained her through loneliness and tragedy.25

Like Aguilar, Hyneman exalted Sarah. She developed the significance of the meaning of Sarah's name as "princess," naming her "queen of a high and noble race; proud mother of a princely line." Her use of jewelry images recalls her murdered husband's profession. In a surprising interpretive move, Hyneman put a positive spin on the wife-sister stories in Genesis 12 and 20. She imagined Sarah protected by Abraham's arms when she was taken into the households of Pharaoh and Abimelech, who "bent in homage to her charms." Hyneman's identification of Sarah as queen and her association of Sarah with heaven may provide a Jewish counterpart to the Roman Catholic designation of Mary as Queen of Heaven.

From Rebekah Hyneman, "Sarah," The Occident and American Jewish
Advocate
4.4 (June 1846).


–Sarah–

Room! for that queenly one;
Room! for the peerless gem;
Place on her form the regal robe,
On her brow the diadem.
And hail her as the queen
Of a high and noble race;
Proud mother of a princely line,
Radiant in every grace.
She comes, a husband's pride,
Protected by his arms;
And haughty kings and princes bend
In homage to her charms.
From her our race hath sprung—
She has given us a dower
More dear than gems or robes of price,
Or the pomp of earthly power.
Then blest, forever blest!
Be she, who thus hath given
Unto her weary, earth-born sons,
A heritage in heaven.

25 There is some debate about Hyneman's date of birth and about whether she was a Jew all
her life or converted to Judaism after her husband died. See Abraham J. Karp, From the Ends
of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress
(Washington D.C.: Library of Congress,
1991). Excerpts located online at Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/
jsource/biography/Hyneman.html; also see Jewish-American History on the Web, "Biography
of Rebekah Hyneman" http://www.jewish-history.com/Hyneman/hynemanbio.html.

-138-

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