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Additional resources for Modern Jewish Women Writers in America
As Ferber explains in a 1946 preface to the story: “The persecution, torture, and death of six million European Jews had actually brought little or no protest from a Christian world whose religion was based on the teachings of a Jew. I took the story and characters involved in the birth of the infant Jesus and modernized these to ﬁt the German Nazi pattern” (One Basket, 515). “No Room at the Inn” begins with Joe and the pregnant Mary in their comfortable home, Mary sewing baby things for the expected child.
If in real life she could only send her father a check, in Bread Givers, she, as Sara Smolinsky, the youngest rebellious daughter, could return home, choose to make sacriﬁces, reconcile with the old man, and be rewarded by marriage to an enlightened, traditional Jewish man. But this immigrant novel written in 1925 is not the same work that today has become popularized, as Alice Kessler-Harris writes, by “the women’s movement, [which] has [made] Bread Givers more meaningful than ever” (xxxvi). Moishe Smolinsky is a Talmudic scholar who demands that his wife and four daughters support the family, provide a room for his holy books, the best of the food, allocation of scarce funds, and allow him to ﬁnd matches for his daughters.
My ancestors were studying the Talmud and writing the laws the civilized world now lives by when theirs were swinging from tree to tree” (145). Of course, Sol builds his business into the Levy Mercantile Company, whose building sports the only penthouse in Oklahoma. While Sol Levy is a product of Ferber’s imagination and childhood torment, Great Son’s Regina (Reggie) Dresden is, in 1944, all too real. The 18-year-old blonde daughter of a German Jewish father and an American Gentile mother, Reggie escapes Hitler’s thugs and plays the initially minor role of companion to Exact, the 90-year-old matriarch of the venerable Melendy family, pioneering founders of Seattle.