Your FIJW Submissions!
We received wonderful tributes from the JWA community responding to our call for submissions on the Fiercely Independent Jewish Women that have inspired us in our lives. Today and tomorrow as we celebrate our country's independence, let us toast these fine women (and those in our thoughts not mentioned here) for the fierce independence they have sparked, kindled, and set ablaze in each of us.
Ode to LTG
She was a New Yorker, born and bred. Practically orphaned by the time she was a teenager, there was no one around to show her the way to act like a Jewish woman of her day. Sad, but in a way I think it was destiny. Off she went to work, to basketball games, to Frank Sinatra concerts, to Socialist Party presidential conventions (just because she was curious). Married, living in the Bronx, two children, a move to the far out suburbs of Long Island – Lake Ronkonkoma. Are there even Jews in Lake Ronkonkoma? She was a pioneer in more ways than one – fiercely independent, she went to college in the 1960’s with two children in tow on school breaks; part of a community raising children in the hinterlands, owner of an ancient house with newspaper stuffed in the walls and a claw foot bathtub; taking trips on her own to Spain and Israel. She worked for Social Services until she retired and then she and her husband traveled the world – China in 1986; The Soviet Union right before the fall of Communism; Israel. She, the leaver of awkward answering machine messages; sender of Washington Post clippings; signer of birthday cards “LTG”; and the woman could not cook to save her life. For all that she was and wasn’t, she was Grandma, and I am so proud to have known her and to be able to put her up there as my shining example of a fiercely independent Jewish woman.
--- Contributed by Jennifer Steinberg
Dvori Ross- an Orthodox woman who was brave enough to become a single mother by choice- and knowledgeable enough to do the halachic research to enable it, and confident enough to write and speak about it publicly, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.
---Submitted by Judy Heicklen
A Fiercely Independent Jewish Woman
Rosie Rosenzweig has energized and inspired countless women. She is indeed a fiercely independent Jewish woman! Click here for credentials!
Selected Chutzpadik Adventures: Rosie approaches life with a real zest and has been known to approach and challenge famous individuals such as Arthur Miller, Zero Mostel, Louis Armstrong, Fareed Zakaria, Fritz Perls, Garrison Keillor and Donald Hall. She coined the current phase of Judaism “Post-Triumphal Judaism” and traveled to Berkeley for three years to become an ordained Jewish Meditation Teacher because she felt that Judaism was lacking this element. She accepted the challenge of her son's Buddhism by meeting with leading Buddhist gurus of the world, refusing to bow down when Thich Nath Hanh requested it and by writing a book about this transformative experience.
Rosie was involved in the Women's Strike for Peace (1961) when such protests were unpopular. She opposed McCarthyism via the Council for Rights and Reforms, which she founded at Wayne State University (1955); she met her husband there and married him 2 months later. Rosie participated in the anti-Vietnam war movement, introduced Jewish Meditation into Jewish classrooms (1995) despite objections from principals and is presently writing a chutzpadic book on creativity.
---Submitted by Linda J. Hirsch, Photographer
Barbara Osband had devoted most of her adult life to kids. She stayed at home to raise her family, and then became a kindergarden teacher when her own had grown. Tragically, her husband died in 2001. A doctor, he had created a small biomedical company. Barbara could have closed the company. She had no formal business experience. Nor did she have a background in medicine or chemistry. Yet, she's run with Cambridge Biomedical and done pretty well. In 2001, it had four employees. Now it has forty.
It's not easy to be a woman in the biotech world. She has attended meetings where people assume that the men with her are her bosses, so they naturally address questions to them rather than to her. She isn't always given the benefit of the doubt. But she has worked hard and self-resiliently become a successful female CEO.
Albeit one who makes a wicked pot of chicken soup.
----Submitted by Noam Osband
Just yesterday I painted my room the color of black raspberry ice cream. Maybe because I wanted you there, your witnessing this moment of partnership, this defining moment of moving in with the nice Jewish boy you always hoped I would find and keep. Just yesterday it seems, when I was seven and you were seventy, we were at the dairy farm and you caught, in that little cup, my scoop of black raspberry ice cream that fell from my cone. You saved the day. You have saved many.
Like when you were young, and my mother was younger, and you jumped from your beach chair, and raced to the water, and swam and swam, and saved the little boy who drifted out to sea. There were firemen. And there were priests. And he was given his last rites. But. He. Pulled. Through.
Just like you taught me to: how to survive and how to save, that for every challenge, there is a way, encapsulated in your classic phrase: “Carry on.”
And I try. And I do. And it helps when I think of you, such a Fierce. Independent. Jewish. Woman.
--- Submitted by Gabrielle Orcha
Abigail van Buren and Ann Landers
On Independence Day we celebrate the birthdates of two Fiercely Independent Jewish Women who helped raise just about every baby boomer I know.
Growing up in the ‘50s in a working-class suburb of Columbus, Ohio, as soon as I could read, I was instructed by Abby (Abigail van Buren) and Ann Landers on what to say to the grocer who cheated you, how to handle a friend who’s bad-mouthed you or whether or not to leave your husband (heretical in that pre-Feminine Mystique era). Their mantra: “Are you better off with him or without him?”
Even then I knew the issues in their columns were more real than the ‘news” that packed the rest of the paper. And, as millions of fans around the globe looked on, as often as they held letter-writers’ feet to the fire, they also sent solace and an innately Jewish ethical sensibility into the world.
One memorable response, even a half-century later: When a woman wrote that her boyfriend was perfect except for one small flaw––he was extraordinarily cheap––Abby warned her to break up with the guy, and pronto. A man who can not give of material resources, she wrote with a heat that radiated off the page, will not be able to give time or tenderness either. Now aint that the truth.
Though much has been made of their professional rivalry, I prefer to think of the twins as teamed up for eternity (like those two other lovingly competitive sisters, Rachel and Leah), dispensing their shared wisdom to the grateful souls in the Higher Realms.
– Deborah Fineblum Raub
When I first met Judi Hirsch in the mid-1970s she was a schoolteacher who had fled what she felt was Albert Shankar’s totally counter-productive teaching union in New York after a divisive, destructive strike. She was living and working in Israel and at that particular moment spending her days pressuring Israeli authorities to tell her where they had imprisoned her Palestinian significant other for what reason and when were they going to release him. It took a while, but they released him.
She had lost none of her fierceness when we both found ourselves in the San Francisco Bay area a few years later and became best friends for a critical part of my life. By now, she was teaching grade school kids again. Working in poverty-confined school districts in Oakland, her students began publishing award-winning books of prose and poetry, taking advantage of new “desktop publishing” technology. When that wasn’t enough, she went back to school for another degree and began winning more awards, teaching other teachers how to teach better, given a world where teaching resources were never going to be adequate, but where chutzpah and smarts could be nurtured and strengthened.
When cancer took her a couple of years ago, she was still unbowed, and had made more difference in one short life than most of us could hope to achieve given all the time in the world.
---- Submitted by Ari Davidow
The other Dr. King
My paternal grandmother, Dr. Diane Averbach King, has always been a fiercely independent and adamantly Jewish woman. Savta (grandmother in Hebrew) was both studious and social as a young woman, and while she resisted my Grandfather’s attempts to woo her, she was ultimately won over by my Grandpapa who impressed her with his persistence and inclination towards poetry.
When my father (her third and last child) was six months old, Savta decided to pursue a Masters in Jewish Education at Dropsie College. While raising her family and teaching, she slowly racked up credits taking just one class a semester. After several years, she was one of a few students in the program invited to enter a PhD program, which she did. At one point, after years of balancing work, motherhood, and school Savta told Grandpapa that she “wasn’t going to bother with the dissertation.” My grandfather immediately stepped in and with some cajoling, convinced her to finish what she had started. Over 20 years after beginning graduate school, my Savta became the first to get a PhD in Education at Dropsie.
My Savta always describes herself first as a student, then as a teacher. She has an undying thirst for knowledge, a love for people, and a passion for wordplay. Ironically, what I have learned from this fiercely independent Jewish woman has to do with her one major co-dependent, my Grandfather. Without the mutual love, encouragement, and support that they have shared, neither would be as happy nor as successful. In a way, my Savta’s greatest lesson in becoming an FIJW is this: Independence is best enjoyed with a steadfast partner, supporter, and cheerleader. Even the fiercest among us need an extra push sometimes.
----Submitted by Etta King