Pamela Nadell

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Pamela Susan Nadell
Alma materState University of New Jersey (BA)
Ohio State University (MA), (PhD)
OccupationHistorian, Researcher, Author, and Lecturer

Pamela S. Nadell (born 1952) is an American historian, researcher, author, and lecturer focusing on Jewish History. Former President of the Association for Jewish Studies, she currently holds the Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women's and Gender History at American University. Nadell has focussed her research on Jewish Women and their role within Jewish history as well as in shaping the history of the United States through their role in various social and political movements.

Life and education[edit]

Nadell was born to parents Alice and Irwin M. Nadell in 1952.[1] She has one brother.

After graduating from Livingston High School, Nadell attended Douglas College of the State University of New Jersey, studying Hebraics and graduating with high honors. Nadell would also spend her Junior year abroad studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. While studying at Hebrew University, Nadell would meet her husband Edward Farber, another American student studying abroad.

She continued her studies at Ohio State University where she would earn her Masters in Jewish History (1976) and doctorate in American Jewish History (1982). While completing her doctorate on Eastern-European Jewish Migration patterns, Nadell would be honored by Ohio State President, Harold Enarson, for her excellence in Jewish and American history instruction. [2]

Nadell has two children and one granddaughter.


Nadell has contributed much scholarship to the topic of Jewish women's history. Dedicating two books to the subject, Women Who Would be Rabbis: A History of Women's Ordination and America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, her works look to uncover the actions of Jewish women that have previously been left out of history books.[3] Much of her research has been dedicated to the role women have played in changing historically set precedents. In doing so she has publicized the names of the first women to push against the established male-only rabbinates of the United States, tracing the origins of such debates to the late 19th century in works such as the often forgotten editorial from the Jewish Exponent, "A Problem for Purim," by the journalist Mary M. Cohen, that can be seen as setting off the chain of events to provide women equal membership in synagogue life in the historic Congregation Mikveh Israel.[4]

Outside of the religious domain, Nadell has looked to not only expand the idea of women's involvement in the foundation of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, but also into other areas such Zionism with the creation of the early Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization, and civil rights in their participation in Freedom Schools.[3] Dedicating her work to continuing the scholarship laid down by historians of Jewish Women's history, Nadell has ventured to explore the means in which women traditionally shut out of religious spaces continue to assert influence within and outside the religious domain.[5]

Along with her scholarship on how women have asserted their influence, Nadell has published scholarship to highlight the oft-neglected history of violence against women who attempt to move these boundaries. This has included highlighting sexual assaults of sweatshop workers during the mid-20th century, as well as the hardships many women would endure as agunot.[6]

Role in public life[edit]

After being elected in 2014, Nadell served as president of the Association of Jewish Studies From 2015 to 2017. While serving as president, Nadell would pen an open letter to Hungarian President Zoltán Balog in opposition of the controversial amendments being made to the National Higher Education Law.[7] The amendment, which would add additional obstacles to universities operating outside European Union (EU) countries with sister-schools inside the EU. In her letter, Nadell would express concern that such obstacles with encumber scholarship coming out of the Budapest-based Central European University.

Nadell would pen another letter as president, along with the Association of Jewish Studies executive board to Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer expressing concern over amendments made to the Israeli Entry into Israel Law. The law, which would prohibit the issuing of visas to foreign nationals who have made "public calls for boycotting Israel." For Nadell, who herself identifies as a free-speech advocate, an attempt to suppress the speech of others would be seen as a deep concern.

Nadell would voice similar free-speech concerns in 2017 before the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing on antisemitism on college campuses. The hearing would come as Members of Congress debated adding language to a proposed bill defining antisemitism as language which would "demonize, delegitimize, or apply a double standard to Israel."[8] In her testimony, Nadell would allege that such a definition would only limit free speech, and stated that Jewish students "feel safe on campus" without restrictions.



  • Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press. 1988. ISBN 978-0313242052. OCLC 906507190.
  • Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women's Ordination, 1889–1985. Boston: Beacon Press. 1999. ISBN 9780807036495. OCLC 604018015.
  • America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2019. ISBN 9780393651232. OCLC 1037810222.


  1. ^ Nadell, Pamela (2019). "Introduction". America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393651249.
  2. ^ "Student Gets Teaching Award". New Jersey Jewish News. June 11, 1981. p. 40.
  3. ^ a b "How American Jewish Women Shaped American Culture: An Interview with Pamela S. Nadell". World Religion News. 2019-04-25. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  4. ^ Ashton, Dianne (1999). "Book Reviews: Pamela S. Nadell, Women who Would be Rabbis" (PDF). The American Jewish Archives Journal. 51: 155–158.
  5. ^ Schneider, Rabbi Ilene (2000). "Review of Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women's Ordination. 1889-1985". Contemporary Jewry. 21 (1): 147–148. ISSN 0147-1694. JSTOR 23455325.
  6. ^ "America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today". Publishers Weekly. 2019-01-10. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  7. ^ Nadell, Pamela (April 4, 2017). "Letter to the Hungarian government" (PDF) (Letter). Letter to Zoltán Balog.
  8. ^ Korn, Sandra (November 14, 2017). "Why the President of the Jewish Studies Association Opposes the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act". Lilith Magazine. Retrieved 2019-05-03.

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