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Jewesses with Attitude

Lynn Amowitz: physician for human rights

Lynn Amowitz was born and raised in North Carolina.  Her community had very few Jews –- so few that her parents founded a synagogue in order for her to have a Bat Mitzvah.  Amowitz suffered anti-semitic harassment from her peers, an experience which, she said, led to her work in human rights.

"[Being discriminated against] definitely shaped what I do now, it shaped my career, which is looking at discrimination and human rights abuses. And a lot of things have -- having to learn about the holocaust, having to learn about the Bolsheviks, having been in a situation where I was discriminated against for many, many years - it was definitely what shaped how and what I do... We're taught Tikkun Olam, and I definitely have that guilt and the idea that if I don't take a stand, who will?"

Amowitz spent her residency in Africa, working to bring healthcare to rural communities. She later returned and brought aid to refugees in Rwanda and Zaire.  After doing similar work in Albania, her direction shifted towards advocacy and policy, so that she could work to fix the circumstances that cause refugee situations. She focused on women's health in Afghanistan as a Fireman Fellow in Health and Human Rights as part of the Physicians for Human Rights program. She also has been involved in human rights trainings for Kosovar doctors and worked on a study of sexual violence in Sierra Leone.  Currently she is an Associate Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

Click here to listen to Amowitz discuss both the challanges and advantages of being a woman in the human rights field.  (This is particularly interesting since she mentions the patriarchical nature of organizations like the UN, which coincidentally is organizing the Human Rights Day campaign.)

In another great audio clip, you can listen to Amowitz discuss how she explained her work to her young son, Ari.

I urge you to visit her page in Women Who Dared, and read through her words about her work, her Jewish values, her path to activism, the struggle to balance work and family, and the impact her work has had on herself and the world. 

"[The most rewarding thing about my work is] that I feel like I'm contributing, that the work that I'm doing and the work that I love to do is making some difference. Maybe not large, maybe sometimes it is large - increased humanitarian aid, or whatever the policies are that we set out that we think should be changed. And the fact that I am finally happy at what I do, and not struggling to figure out who I am and what I should be doing."

Jewish women have a strong tradition of Human Rights advocacy and activism.  For more human rights stories, check out Rita Arditti, Ruth Gavison, Frances Rayday, Donna E. Arzt, or Bella Abzug. Honor Lynn Amowitz, and these other human rights champions, by reading their stories at jwa.org.

Lynn Amowitz in Afghanistan
Full image
Lynn Amowitz in Afghanistan

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Lynn Amowitz: physician for human rights." 10 December 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 21, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/lynn-amowitz>.

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