Jewish Women in Civil Rights - Jacqueline Levine
Jacqueline Levine was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926 to an upper middle-class liberal Jewish family. Her mother and grandmother had been active in the suffragist movement. Levine received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and started graduate school at Columbia University where she met her husband. She soon left school to raise a family.
Not long after Levine's husband asked her, "Are you just going to take care of the children and the house, or are you going to do something with your mind?" did Jacqueline embark on a forty-year career of volunteerism and leadership in the Jewish communal world. In Newark, NJ, Levine and her five-year-old daughter marched in an endless circle protesting Woolworth's segregated lunch counter. When she saw police turning the fire hoses on people in Birmingham in 1963, she wanted to go south, but did not have a Jewish organizational context in which to go. However, Jackie eagerly attended the 1963 March on Washington which her mentor, Rabbi Joachim Prinz helped organize. She describes her participation in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March as "a pivotal event" in her life. One of her major goals is promoting equality of treatment of women in Jewish communal life. As a highly visible leader, Levine represents untold numbers of women in Jewish organizations who have pushed the Jewish community to live up to its social justice ideals in twentieth century race relations. She continues to work on women's issues, Black-Jewish issues, and Middle East peace issues.
As president of the Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress and a vice-president of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, Jackie Levine appealed in 1972 to the General Assembly of the council (the country's most influential Jewish organization) for the greater participation of women in Jewish communal life:
Seven years ago last March I participated in the glorious March from Selma to Montgomery, a march undertaken for the purpose of securing voting rights for all Americans. I stood, one balmy Alabama night, under a starry Alabama sky, and I heard the never-to-be-forgotten voice of Martin Luther King ring out in his never-to-be-heard-again prophetic cadences as he said, "We are all witnesses together." He did not mean witness as onlooker, witness as voyeur. He meant witness-participant. And so are we women, when we ask to share in communal responsibility, asking to be witnesses, participants, in our own Jewish community.