1896 saw the expansion of the American Jewess with the opening of a New York office, though the content of the magazine appeared largely unchanged at the beginning of 1897. The January issue of the publication contains many articles that were themed similarly to the previous issues of the magazine, though there is a decidedly more practical nature to many of the articles included in the issue. "Household hints" and similar sections had been regular appearances in the magazine since its inception, but this issue contains articles on creating happiness in the home and on the history of the shoe -- with a definite feminist-Jewish perspective. While still engaging in abstract, intellectual and scholarly pursuits, the content of the magazine is also shifting towards direct daily usefulness.
The issues began to shorten noticeably as 1897 progressed, and as the number of articles depleted the ratio of directly targeted articles in relation to those with a less focused and broader cultural/artistic/scientific/literary perspective seems to have decreased. For every article with a title like "The New Woman," there is one simply delivering the news of the local music scene. A growing number of articles, however, attempt to bridge this gap; the September 1897 issue also contains articles regarding London and Paris fashions, as well as "The summer Girl" and "fascinating Women," which blend popular culture with the grander political aims of the magazine. This could be taken as a sign that the central message of the publication and Sonneschein's intent in founding the magazine were beginning to wear thin with the reading public; these articles reinforce the central ideas without completely ignoring the entertainment and diversionary aims of the readers.
The dawn of a new year, however, seems to have also heralded another transition in the content of the magazine, however subtle; each article in the January issue of 1898 is directly related, in one way or another, to the social, cultural, and political position of being a woman and/or a Jew in contemporary society. Though some of these articles are as apparently frivolous as more fashion reviews and a discussion of point lace -- which ends up being a remarkable treatise o economy and feminism, in a somewhat surprising fashion -- all eventually relate to the needs and concerns of women, and especially of Jewish women. There is a sense that energies and purposes have been refocused, and the continued reduction in the size of each issue is countered by an increasing fervency and consistency in its tone.
Later on in the year, following Sonneschein's sale of the magazine in an attempt to keep the enterprise afloat, the issues again became longer, no doubt because of the additional capital and new ownership/management that the American Jewess was under, but the fervency and consistency of the magazine's articles did not alter a whit, no doubt because of Sonneschein's continued editorship. A new topic did rise to prominence during the year, however; the September 1898 issue of the magazine contains several opening articles devoted to the subject of Zionism -- "Zionism," "A Vision of Israel," United Israel," and "hearken to the Call" all appear in the first dozen pages of substantial material in the issue, and the other articles are equally focused on relevant and current political issues for the Jewish people in general and Jewish feminists in particular. The self-awareness of the group and the growing sense of cohesion with the global Jewish community is evident in the tenor of these articles.
1899: The End, and an Overview
There were only three issues of the American Jewess published in 1899, in January, May, and August, and the articles contained therein seem to reflect the haphazard and resistant dying breaths of the short-lived but high-impact publication. The January issue contains a great number of articles that are relevant to Judaism in both theology and history, with a much greater emphasis on the latter, and though there are several articles dealing with feminist and Jewish-feminist issues these have definitely taken a back seat to wider Jewish concerns. In this, there can possibly be seen a reflection of the growing Jewish population, many of whom were immigrants less attuned to the gender politics of the New World.
In the next issue of the magazine, which appeared four months later though it was still ostensibly trying to be a monthly at the time, the dilution of the magazine's message continues; there is an amalgam of different articles whose very titles, let alone content, seem at once more varied and less certain and strident than in the magazine's earlier years and issues. "A Lily Pond" is a short piece in the decorating vein whose advice consists solely in the need to get one of the titular ornaments for one's lawn, and one of the more strident Judeo-political articles in this issue is title rather half-heartedly, "Can We All Be Zionists?" Again, the influx of Jewish immigrants that was reaching its peak at about this time must necessarily have had an effect on the readership of the American Jewess; a new sense of common identity and nationalism was forming in the Jewish community that made Zionism and other political issues less popular (Sarna & Golden par. 3).
In August of 1899, what would be the last issue of the American Jewess -- though this was not known at the time of its release -- the watering-down and refocusing of the magazine's content continued. There is only one article, "The Need of a Jewish Working Girl's Home in Philadelphia," that even tangentially touches on the Jewish-feminist perspective, and even this is better understood as relating to the politics of simply being Jewish without real gender qualification, as are most of the other articles in the magazine. theological discussions are also less prevalent and less rigorous and innovative, becoming at once more secualr and less concerned with non-Jewish political situations. The cohesion of what was really a disparate group of Jews almost necessitated such an evening-out of the magazine's tone.
As the American Jewess progressed, its readership and its business structure went through significant changes, and this is definitely reflected in the articles and overall content of the separate issues of the magazine. The magazine went through periods of more in-depth theological and religious introspection, highly feminist-oriented content commingled with other issues of practical use to women, and a turn to more secular cross-gender Jewish concerns. At every turn, it can be reasonably assumed that the articles in the American Jewess reflected the changing perspectives and concerns of its readers; though the magazine no doubt played at least a partial role in the shaping of these perspectives and concerns, it was almost certainly more at the mercy of larger forces at work in the Jewish community in America -- such as rising immigration levels -- and it could even be suggested that even the amount of persistence of message that the magazine attempted to retain under Sonneschein's editorship simply did not allow for continued appeal to the changing Jewish community.
Regardless of why the magazine folded, the American Jewess did cease publication less than four-and-a-half years after its first issue was published. Its preservation in both print and digital formats has preserved this slice of American Jewry, however, as well as created a truly lasting legacy for Rosa Sonneschein. Her contributions to the culture and society of her own time were worthy of such ongoing recognition, and the fact that these contributions can continue to educate and inspire increases these contributions even more.
Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - "The American Jewess" begins publication." Accessed 6 March 2010. http://jwa.org/thisweek/apr/01/1895/american-jewess
Rothstein, Jane H.. "Rosa Sonneschein." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. Accessed 6 March 2010. http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/sonneschein-rosa.
Sarna, Jonathan and Golden, Jonathan. "The American Jewish Experience in the Twentieth Century: Anti-Semitism and Assimilation." National Humanities Center. Accessed 6 March 2010. http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/jewishexp.htm