You may have noticed a former beauty queen in the news lately, but I'm not going to write about her. Instead, I'd like to focus on Bess Myerson, the first and only Jewish Miss American, who won her title on September 8, 1945, just four months after V-E Day. Ms. Myerson's victory was seen as a symbol of America's post-war rejection of Europe's anti-Semitic horrors.
Crossposted on JVoices
A few years ago, I read Devil in the White City, Erik Larson's non-fiction account of the history of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, complete with architecture, politics, and a murder mystery. Good stuff. But I didn't realize that the Chicago World's Fair was also the site, 115 years ago this week, of the first Jewish Women's Congress, which was part of the Fair's World Parliament of Religions.
It's been 88 years since the 19th amendment gave American women the right to vote -- a right I hope we'll all take very seriously this year. I'd like to add to Lily's reflections on this anniversary the story of one Jewish woman who worked for the suffrage campaign in her homestate, Montana, in the 1910s.
Thirty-eight years ago today, thousands of women nation-wide responded to Jewish feminist Betty Friedan's call for a Women's Strike for Equality. In addition to a huge march down New York's 5th Avenue, women around the country demonstrated in support of three main goals: free abortion on demand, free 24-hour community-controlled child care centers, and equal opportunity in jobs and education.
With the exception of Tisha B'Av, the day of fasting and mourning in commemoration of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, not much happens on the Jewish calendar between Shavuot in May/June and Rosh HaShanah in September/October. Or so we thought...
Fifteen years ago this week, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman - and the first Jewish woman - to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Considering that of the court's 110 justices, 7 have been Jewish and only 2 women, Ginsburg's appointment was no small feat.
The ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, is one of the oldest continuously used documents within Judaism. That said, over the course of the past thirty years or so, many ketubahs have undergone a makeover so that rather than simply act as a business document that lists the items in the bride's trousseau and the amount of zuzim (silver pieces) that the groom has to set aside for her well-being, many contemporary ketubahs reflect the equal partnership that the marrying couple are entering in to.
Usually, we have used this space to review new books (see recent reviews of The Book of Dahlia, Away, and The Zookeeper's Wife), but I can not let the opportunity pass to write a bit about Amy Bloom's non-fiction book, Normal, which was first published in 2002. I had initially put Normal on the Jewesses with Attitude Summer Reading List as a whim - an aside, even, just something to accompany my reading of Away if I decided that I liked Amy Bloom. I liked Away a lot, and now, having read Normal, I like Ms. Bloom so much more.
The first Olympics I remember well were the 1988 Summer Games, held in Seoul. We were sitting shiva for my grandfather on Long Island. I remember my sister and I lying on our grandparents' bed (my grandmother always had pink satin sheets) and being completely mesmerized by the tiny female gymnasts as they tumbled across the floor. To my knowledge, none of those women were Jewish (Kerri Strug made her debut in 1992, and the Israeli gymnasts who competed in 1988 likely did not make it to American television), but American Jewish women have made a strong impact on the Olympic Games over the past 100-plus years.
Those of you whose lives don't involve a weekly update on what new comics have come out this Wednesday might not be familiar with Y The Last Man, a 60-issue comic book (10 volume graphic novel), whose much anticipated final issue just came out last month. The premise of Y The Last Man is that a mystery plague instantaneously wipes out every man and male mammal on planet Earth except for Yorick Brown, a 22 year old magician/slacker, and his capuchin monkey, Ampersand.
I made the mistake of picking up The Zookeeper's Wife and reading it as though it were a novel. Maybe I was just in that headspace because the first two books on the Jewesses with Attitude Summer Reading List were fiction. The Zookeeper's Wife, however, is a genre-bending piece of prose that defies the conventions of history, memoir, and naturalist writing, all of which it employs.
Pretty much since moving to Boston last summer, my friends have been making weekly pleas that we watch Mad Men on AMC. It took until last week, because in spite of critical acclaim and the insistence of friends whose opinions I trust, who wants to watch a television show about an advertising agency? (Of course, by that logic, who wants to watch a show about a paper sales office, NBC corporate headquarters, or a misanthropic doctor?). But I was wrong, wrong, wrong to delay! Why? Because aside from a smart script, good acting, etc.
I just came across a fascinating series in Slate, challenging the science of sex differences. (It happens to be written and edited by two brilliant Jewesses - Amanda Schaffer and Emily Bazelon - whom I am privileged to know.) Schaffer and Bazelon take on what they call the new "sex difference evangelists" and offer powerful, data-driven rebuttals to their arguments on sex differences in the brain.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted on the horrifying (and ongoing) story of the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa. Since then, the Uri L'Tzedek boycott against the Rubashkins was lifted due to a feeling that the federal compliance officer assigned to the plant was getting the labor practices into the shape they needed to be.
It goes without saying that Jewish women have so many accomplishments to be proud of. A quick search through the Jewish Women's Archive's Discover pages reveals women both lauded and nearly forgotten who have made strides in business, medicine, philosophy and the arts. Telling their stories is our mission. And this story is a big one.
Summer? Summer is the time that you eat sticky popsicles, ride your bike to the beach, and watch fireworks, right? Oh wait, I think summer is the time that you have to plan six months in advance to find a single weekend that you can go away with your friends because everyone is off traveling. Yes, even this year, with gas prices sky-high. And we are not without good company. Jewish women have made it their business to see the world for hundreds of years.
From a first-grilled Shabbat meal of the summer on Friday night (and my first beef hamburger in maybe a year), to picking up our remarkably green CSA farm veggies (what will we do with so many radishes?), to baking a lemon-blueberry pound cake for my friend's birthday yesterday, for me this weekend was all about food. Which inevitably, in my house, means long, drawn-out discussions about food, kashrut, and ethics. Seriously. Every week we talk about it.
Since leaving my 5th floor walkup apartment building and graduating to a home with enough space for a bicycle, I have been a woman obsessed. Riding my bike is faster, cleaner, and way more fun than riding the subway or the bus. Apparently, I am not the first Jewish woman in Boston to feel this way.
Today marks 55 years since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed, convicted of "conspiracy to commit treason." The passage of 55 years - and the release of previously-classified documents - haven't yet succeeded in putting this case to rest.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on October 10, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.