Ellen K. Rothman
On April 20, 2006, President George W. Bush officially proclaimed May Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) to recognize Jewish contributions to American culture over the past 350+ years. President Obama’s 2011 proclamation declares that “this month, we embrace and celebrate the vast contributions Jewish Americans have made to our country… We remember that the history and unique identity of Jewish Americans is part of the grand narrative of our country…”
Last Friday, I joined members of the Jewish Women’s Archive “family” on a sad drive to New Haven for the funeral of Paula Hyman, who died on Thursday at the much-too-early age of 65. The Lucy G. Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History at Yale for the past 25 years, Paula was, in the words of the New York Times, “a social historian who pioneered the study of women in Jewish life and became an influential advocate for women’s equality in Jewish religious practice.”
Anyone who knows me would have been surprised to see me walking down Mass Ave in Cambridge the other night and into a hip club on the edge of the M.I.T.campus. What was I doing there?
In 1998, Northeastern University announced that it had received a two-year federal grant to “identify, locate, secure, and make accessible the most important and at-risk historical records of Boston’s African American, Chinese, gay and lesbian, and Latino communities.” Later that year, I met Joan Krizack, Northeastern’s University Archivist and Head of Special Collections, who had conceived the “Documenting Diversity Project.” I could see immediately that this diminutive woman (who has been a member of the Jewish Women’s Archive Technical Advisory Committee since 2006) had a “tiger by the tail” and was not about to let it go.
On Friday, May 6th, Auburn Seminary in New York held its annual “Lives of Commitment” breakfast.
Next Monday, February 28, 2011, PBS will broadcast a new American Experience documentary, Triangle Fire, about one of the most horrific, and most consequential, workplace disasters in American history. A variety of special programs—gallery exhibitions, musical performances, conferences, even an HBO movie—are taking place over the next month to mark the centennial of the fire that left 146 workers dead. (A full listing of events is online at www.rememberthetrianglefire.org.)
The lead story in the first edition of the New York Times yesterday began this way: “Unusual is a relative term in American political life, but Representative Gabrielle Giffords fits the bill: avid equestrian and motorcycle enthusiast, repository of arcane health care data, successful Democrat elected three times in a Republican Congressional district, French horn player and wife of an astronaut.” Only near the end of the article did the Times mention another unusual fact about Gabrielle Giffords: that she was the state’s first Jewish congresswoman.
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