Seyder Tkhines: The Forgotten Book of Common Prayer for Jewish Women

By Devra Kay | Go to book overview

2
CHAPTER
Profit and Prayer:
Women and a Unique
Pan-European
Printing Industry

The advent of Yiddish printing began in earnest in Europe in the 1540s, enabling publication and circulation of cheaply produced, vernacular books for a mass Jewish audience of both men and women. Its success was due, in part, to the uniquely high level of literacy in the Ashkenazic community. There were other distinctive aspects to the Yiddish printing industry.

It profoundly affected the religious and cultural lives of Jewish women. They were not only a major part of its readership, but they were also involved in both the creative and practical processes of publishing. They became printers, translators, editors, adaptors of existing literary works, copyists, and even typesetters, and at the height of their prestige, they composed new prayers, sermons, and religious songs for both men and women.

As authors, Jewish women held equal status with their male counterparts. Their writings were not like those of the individual voices of the few privately educated Christian women writing in Europe1 in

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