Last year in honor of Tu B'Shevat, we created a new page on jwa.org to feature Jewish women in environmental activism, and honored six women actively engaged in that work. After it “went live,” we were excited to find that several people submitted comments suggesting other Jewish women who deserved recognition. We heard those suggestions, and this year we brought the question to you—“who would you add to our list?” We asked, and you answered! We have received the names of over 30 women in response to our call.
On Sunday afternoon, twelve women sat around a table at the sunny education center of Mayyim Hayyim, in Newton, Mass. Each of us clutched -- gently, lovingly -- a few old photos, sepia-toned, worn at the edges. These photos held pieces of our history, and as many questions as answers.
Saturday is Tu B'Shevat, known as the "Jewish New Year for trees," the "Jewish Arbor Day," or the "Jewish birthday for trees." The holiday has an interesting history that, believe it or not, began with taxes. Lenore Skenazy explains in The Forward:
Back about 2,000 years ago, Tu B’Shevat — literally the 15th day of the month of Shvat — was a tax deadline, of sorts. Any trees planted before Tu B’Shvat were considered to have been “born” the previous year. Those planted after Tu B’Shvat (or, perhaps those that started blooming after Tu B’Shvat) were part of the next year’s crop. As the amount of fruit you were required to tithe from each tree was determined by its age, this date was significant. And since the easiest way to remember a tree’s birthday was to plant it on that day, that’s what some folks did: planted.
Today, when most Reform synagogues have a social action committee and when legal segregation is a thing of the past, it may be hard for us to understand how some American Jews could not support and participate in the Civil Rights Movement. Over the last seven months, as I’ve worked on a high school curriculum about Jewish participation in the Civil Rights Movement for the Jewish Women’s Archive, I have been examining this issue and many others that highlight the complexities of Civil Rights history.
Since we celebrated the beginning of a new millenium, Jewish women have continued to make important "firsts" in a variety of fields, and have made their voices heard in the Jewish community, in American culture and politics, and in forums around the world. Here are just some of the important events of this decade in Jewish women's history. Please do add other important events and accomplishments in the comments.
Last week, the students of the Weber School, a Jewish community high school in Atlanta, GA, participated in the exciting AdDRESSING Women's Lives project. In 2002, two faculty members at the Weber School conceived of this interdisciplinary project for high school juniors and seniors studying the history of Jewish women in America. Humanities and Bible teacher Barbara Rosenblit and conceptual artist Sheila Miller combined their interests and talents to create an innovative way for stud
In 1968, the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Council for Jewish Women embarked on an oral history project to record the experiences of Jewish Eastern European immigrants, who came to the U.S. between 1890 and 1924. In 1973, the project was expanded to collect the stories of Pittsburgh Jewish men and women who made contributions on local, national, and international levels. Today, this project is the longest running and largest oral Jewish history project known to exist in the world. Now the 500 plus interviews have been digitized and made accessible to the world, creating a "treasure trove" of primary source materials.
If you follow JWA on Twitter or Facebook, it should be pretty obvious that we think Making Trouble, the film about six trailblazing Jewish women entertainers, makes a great Hanukkah present for the whole family. Normally, the idea of pushing a "product" makes me queasy. Afterall, I chose to work for a non-profit, not an advertising firm! So I feel that I owe the JWA audience a real and honest explanation for why I think Making Trouble is something you should own.