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Jewesses with Attitude

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Raise your hand

Raising My Hand

At sixteen years old, I’m entering that phase of my life in which I have to state my personal qualities fairly often, whether in a personal essay for school or in a conversation at a Yom Kippur break-fast. Depending on whom I am speaking to, my answer varies, but it almost always includes a few basic attributes: I am a reader, a writer, an athlete … and I’m a feminist Jew.

Topics: Feminism
Ray Frank cropped

Icons for the New Year: Ray Frank

While seeking stories of transformation this holiday season, most of the tales that have caught my attention involved women who exchanged quiet domestic lives for active involvement in the public sphere. Ray Frank did the opposite: she swapped her life as a trailblazing Jewish leader for one away from the spotlight.

Maud Nathan cropped 3

Icons for the New Year: Maud Nathan

In Maud Nathan’s second life as an activist, she became president of the New York Consumers League, vice president of the Woman’s Municipal League of New York, and chair of the industrial committee of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Her husband, once her companion at parties and fundraisers, began marching beside her at suffrage parades.

Estelle Getty in 1985

Icons for the New Year: Estelle Getty

When actors make it big later in life, they usually have a long history of smaller roles and near misses to back up their rise to fame. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, and so on. Estelle Getty’s journey to her star-making role in The Golden Girls was really just that—an overnight transformation—though it may not have felt that way for Getty.

Elisheva Cohen cropped

Icons for the New Year: Elisheva Cohen

This Rosh Hashanah, I’m thinking about change. We look at transformation as something that happens overnight, but if the women I learn about every day at JWA are any indication, change happens in surprising ways and at unexpected times. It can be sudden or slow, a product of one determined action or years of effort.

Topics: Art
Galit Breen with her family

Kindness Wins: An Interview with Galit Breen

Galit Breen is a writer who works to combat body-shaming and create safe conversation spaces on the Internet. We chatted about cyberbullying, her new book, and how Judaism informs her activism. 

Topics: Activism
Julie Wise Oreck cropped

New Orleans “Normal”: An Interview With Julie Wise Oreck

In Katrina’s Jewish Voices, JWA’s collection of video interviews with New Orleans women in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Julie Wise Oreck discussed the extraordinary collaboration of the Jewish community to rebuild the city. In 10 years, she predicted then, “we’ll look back and say we could have done it better.

Topics: Activism, History
Ann Lewis Collection Taxation Postcard

This Women’s Equality Day, Let’s Celebrate the Women Who Got Us Here

As we approach yet another election year, American voters may be drawing nearer to an enormous landmark: electing a woman president. With Hillary Rodham Clinton polling as the top Democratic contender, it’s never felt more possible.

French Quarter, New Orleans

The More Things Change

Susan Hess first came to New Orleans as a young bride in 1965, three days before Hurricane Betsy, and she remembered the one good thing about that storm was that it cemented her identity as a New Orleans insider in a way that would have taken decades otherwise.

Topics: History
Giving Hands

The Arrogance of Giving: Lessons from Katrina’s Jewish Voices

For the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, JWA created an exhibit to highlight the stories of evacuees and survivors of the storm, based on interviews we had recorded shortly after Katrina. I listened to stories of heartbreaking losses, narrow escapes, and rare moments of unexpected humor. 

Topics: History
Alice and Marv Olick in Dillingen, Germany 1953-1954

Big Plans in Small Spaces

When my grandmother graduated High School in the late 1940s, the American dream for women was to get married and raise children. Wartime propaganda told individuals to reject the communist behavior of their Russian counterparts and contribute to society by creating nuclear families. While women were expected to fill roles once occupied by men who went to war, these were seen as temporary positions, not long-term careers. Women often worked as secretaries or store clerks, jobs that paid little and offered few opportunities for advancement. “You just kind of lived life and it happened. You didn’t make big plans,” Alice says. Alice did, despite those expectations, make big plans. In her high school yearbook, she wrote about her aspirations to become a journalist.

Topics: History
The Beth Israel Congregation's Menorah

Katrina's Jewish Voices, Ten Years Later

When most of us think of Hurricane Katrina, the Jewish community of New Orleans is not the first thing to come to mind. We’re more likely to think of the devastation of the Ninth Ward, of the homes marked with the number of bodies found inside, of the desperate conditions in the Superdome.

Topics: History
Sarah Barasch-Hagans in "clergy" vest

One Year Since Ferguson: An Interview with Activist Sarah Barasch-Hagans

Sarah Barasch-Hagans is a rabbinical student and activist who has been deeply involved in the fight for justice for Black Americans in Ferguson, Missouri. Her new venture, Fargesn Media, seeks to give a voice to the people of Ferguson and empower them to tell their own story. Sarah spoke to JWA about Jewish activism, her experiences in Ferguson since last August, and where we as a community should go from here.

Wedgwood Room, Pines Hotel, South Fallsburg, NY by Marisa Scheinfeld

An Interview with Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld: Part II

This year, photographer and Catskills native Marisa Scheinfeld mounted her first museum exhibit, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt.” We spoke to Marisa about her haunting photographs, what drew her to the ruins of the famed Jewish play land, and why the Catskills are so important to Jewish American culture. Don’t miss Part I of JWA’s interview with Marisa!

Indoor Pool, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Liberty, NY by Marisa Scheinfeld

An Interview with Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld: Part I

This year, photographer and Catskills native Marisa Scheinfeld mounted her first museum exhibit, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt.” We spoke to Marisa about her haunting photographs, what drew her to the ruins of the famed Jewish play land, and why the Catskills are so important to Jewish American culture.

Lauren Shapiro in Blue Suit with Aunt Jennie cropped

“Can We Throw the Skirt Out?” A First-Generation Story

I am first generation American, as were most children and, for that matter, many of the teachers, in our public school. Not coincidentally, the word perseverance appeared often on our vocabulary lists. We used it in sentences, like “If you don’t have perseverance, you will not amount to much”—but I already knew that before I started kindergarten. Perseverance was my Aunt Jennie’s word of the day, every day. 

Topics: Family, History

My Grandmother, My Mother and I: Finding Our First Tallitot

My grandmother, my mother, and I walked into a store. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? Actually, the three of us were on a mission to find a tallit for me. My bat mitzvah was approaching, and, since neither my mom nor my grandmother had a tallit of her own, they both wanted to accompany me.

Topics: Ritual
Woman Silhouette cropped

Being a Woman

For me—and, I imagine, a lot of other trans women out there—the recent flurry of media attention around the appearance of Caitlyn Jenner in Vanity Fair has given rise to a whole complicated array of feelings, not the least of which may be longing for a time when everybody will finally stop talking about Caitlyn Jenner.

Yana Kozukhin writing

From Wanderer to Rising Voice

My experience with Rising Voices has, in many ways, mirrored my early writing experience as a little kid. Blogging was a foreign medium for me, and writing for JWA meant making my work available to a larger audience than ever before. I will admit that, at least at first, the fellowship was scarier than I had anticipated. 

Topics: Writing
Ellie Kahn GALS Club

Malala and Me: Finding Power Through Writing

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” 

I have this quote written on a piece of paper taped to my ceiling above my bed; it is the first thing that I see when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I see before I close my eyes at night. This quote means everything to me, because of both the message it conveys, and the story behind it.

Topics: Feminism, Writing
Ilana Goldberg at prom cropped

Facebook Feminism and Beyond

Though I have always supported the general, frankly vague, idea of “women's rights,” I never thought that I of all people had to be an advocate for them. I didn't even really understand what rights women around me were being denied. Until high school, I truly thought that the only disparity that American women faced was that we could not participate in Major League Baseball. 

Topics: Feminism, Writing
The Brosgol Family

A Flipped Father’s Day: Ask Not What You Can Buy For Your Father, Ask What Your Father Can Buy For You

I’ve reached the age where if there’s something I want, I’ll buy it. I’ll see a soccer jersey on TV and order it online. I’ll buy a book and read in on my Kindle without thinking twice. I don’t need to go through the charade of asking and waiting, and will at the same time happily accept all of the trinkets and art projects that wind their way home through my kids’ backpacks.

Topics: Children
Maya Sinclair Black and White Portrait

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

For as long as I can remember, I have been inspired by my mother’s ability to craft words into beautiful stories and articulate articles. Throughout high school, my Mom would help me write all of my essays by giving me feedback and helping me through the editorial process. However, the biggest impact my mom made on my journey as a writer happened when I was in fourth grade. 

Topics: Writing
The Body Journey 3

Body Talk: Delving into The Body Journey with Creator Miriam Ross

In a society where we’re constantly told what we should love and what we should hate about ourselves, we can forget that our bodies belong to us. There is little space for women to create their own narratives, express their own fears, and admire their own features. Artist Miriam Ross gives women the opportunity to do exactly this in her project, The Body Journey.

Topics: Feminism, Art
Rachel Landau reading

Writing as Meditation

When I first started writing, I thought people would want to read my writing just because I had written it. I was wrong. If I have learned anything about being an adolescent writer, it is this: first, you have to read a lot of books. The books don’t all have to be Crime and Punishment but Dostoevsky does a good job with storytelling and Raskolnikov is quite the character, so at least one of the books should be Crime and Punishment

Topics: Writing


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Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on October 4, 2015) <>.


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