JWA's celebration of 350 years of Jewish Women building communities in North America
In September 1654, a small group of twenty-three Jewish men, women, and children arrived in New Amsterdam on the ship St. Cathrien. The presence of women and children indicates that these Jews were the first to come to the North American continent in search not only of trade, but of a home. The year 2004 marked 350 years since this first communal settlement of Jews in North America. To mark this milestone, JWA took the initiative to ensure that women's stories would find a prominent role in the narratives of American Jewish history that emerged during the national 350th Anniversary celebrations.
JWA's focus for the 2004–2005 celebratory period was to provide communities and schools across the country with the resources they needed to present a rich and accurate portrayal of American Jewish life. These efforts illuminated the ways in which women have built community in North America and how their work has embodied and shaped American Jewish life.
JWA's 350th programs included a speaker's bureau, curricular materials, film and book discussion guides and research fellowships sponsoring scholarly work on the history of Jewish women's activisim in 9 communities across North America. JWA's Honorary Committee for the Celebration of 350 Years of Jewish Women in America gathered a distinguished array of accomplished American Jewish women including writer and poet Adrienne Rich, Rabbi Sally Priesand, singer Barbra Streisand, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and historian Gerda Lerner.