Women’s 1923 Conference Heralds Peace


“A real step forward to world peace and international understanding” is how Estelle M. Sternberger, executive secretary of the Council of Jewish Women, described the First World Conference of Jewish Women, held at the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria, May 6-11, 1923.

The American and European Conference of Jewish Women was organized by the National Council of Jewish women, which was founded 30 years earlier at the Chicago World’s Fair.

“The very scene of the Conference’s opening sessions was a silent witness of democracy’s triumph,” Sternberger wrote in the June 8, 1923, edition of the JT. “In the castle where Austria’s emperor had once lived and reigned, were assembled Jewish women, representatives of practically every European country, and through the Council’s delegation of America, Austria, in whose borders the spark of the World War had been kindled, greeted an international gathering that talked of world peace and humanity, in the hall where royalty alone had been accustomed to meet in imperial council.”

Sternberger writes of a “remarkable incident” during the opening session, when conference chairwoman Rebekah Kohut, Anita Mueler-Cohen of Vienna and Austrian Republic President Michael Hainisch and his 83-year-old mother and “veteran champion of women’s rights” entered the hall.

“While students throughout Austria’s universities clamored for anti-Jewish restrictions and while unreasoning mobs were flaunting the ‘Swastika,’ the symbol of their hate toward the Jew, the president of Austria gave a silent rebuke to this raging intolerance of his fellow citizens.”

Also noted by Sternberger was that every session during the conference was attended by Jewish and non-Jewish observers and students.

“Their eager attendance indicated that the problems of the Jew reflects the wrongs and injustices that touch the whole world’s progress and welfare.”

Flashback is a feature that honors the JT’s 100th anniversary. Have a particular date you’d like us to look at? Let us know.


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