Exhibit: Women Who Dared
BiographiesMultimediaBy CityAbout WWD Jewish Gender Activism
What She Said
  Hadassah Blocker
  Pioneer of Conservative Jewish women's full participation in synagogue life
  Boston WWD Event 2004
  Promoted women's equality in Conservative Judaism in New England by chanting from the Haftorah and Torah and teaching other girls and women how to take part in the Torah service
Biography  up to top

Hadassah Blocker grew up in Roxbury and Dorchester, Massachusetts, in an Orthodox family as the oldest of four children of European immigrant parents. Her father, an Orthodox rabbi, worked as a Hebrew school teacher, and principal. Her mother ran the household and ensured there were coins in her kitchen's row of pushkes dedicated to different charities. Hadassah was graduated from Hebrew High School, Hebrew College, and Radcliffe College. She worked as the Director of Camp Pembroke, a Jewish camp for girls in Pembroke, Massachusetts, for 32 years.

When Hadassah's father saw her interest, as an adult, in reading the Bible, he encouraged her to learn how to chant Torah and provided her with tapes from which to learn. Hadassah developed an immediate passion for chanting Torah and knew this was a gift to be shared with others. With the support of Rabbi Samuel Chiel, Hadassah became the first woman to chant the Haftorah at her synagogue, Temple Emanuel of Newton, at a Sisterhood Shabbat over forty years ago. With that beginning, Hadassah began training other women to take part in the Torah service. She taught her first formal adult Bat Mitzvah class in 1976, focused on Hebrew, synagogue skills, and the chanting of Torah and Haftorah, to a group of thirty adult women. Hundreds of students have followed.

Despite resistance from many at Temple Emanuel, Hadassah persisted in pushing for the acceptance of women's participation in the service, continuing to teach and to advance the empowerment of women in synagogue life. Hadassah encouraged women of all ages to get involved in synagogue life, and many became B'not Mitzvah as a result of her commitment to quality adult Jewish education. For most women in her classes, the Bat Mitzvah was only the beginning. Many have pursued further study at Hebrew College and Temple Emanuel.

Hadassah lived in Newton where she continued to share the gift of Torah until her death on October 23, 2008.

What She Said  up to top
I was working at Camp Pembroke. My father visited and he saw me reading from the Chumash. He said, 'Why don't you sing it?' I said, 'I don't know how!' He said, 'I'll send you a tape.' ...More 
My mother ...had a row of pushkes in the kitchen and when we really didn't have much money, there was always a couple of pennies in those pushkes. ...More 
What is so sinful about listening to a woman's voice? ...More 
My husband, Ben, Alav Hashalom, was fully supportive and proud. In fact, I taught him how to do Haftarah, too. ...More 
Forty or fifty years ago, a Sisterhood Shabbat was planned. The Sisterhood President asked Rabbi Chiel if the women could be allowed to have part of the service, preferably the Haftarah reading. Rabbi Chiel asked which woman was able to do this. The Sisterhood President answered, 'Hadassah can.' ...More 
How can we say to the girls, 'You can go just this far and no more.' What makes a girl different? If she wants to learn, let her learn! If she wants to be a rabbi, let her! ...More 
I'm stubborn. I wasn't going to let [the men's resistance] stop [me] from opening this beautiful, beautiful material to the women. And they love it. ...More 
[When I started out] the temple was not that happy with the women [I had taught]. Any time one of the women made a mistake it was blown up way out of proportion. ...More 
When they [girls and women] get up there and sing their parts, and do a good job. And people say to me, 'Oh, you've done it again, Hadassah!' ...More 
Do it! ...More 
Multimedia  up to top
Photographs Photographs
Articles, Brochures, other papers Papers 

Thank you letter written to Hadassah Blocker

Letter from Rabbi Chiel, written after Hadassah's chanting of the Torah

Letter from Rabbi Chiel about five B'Not Mitzvah trained by Hadassah

Letter of congratulations from Rabbi Chiel upon receiving the Solomon Schecter Award for the Hebrew Literacy Program

Welcome letter sent to Bar/Bat Mitvah program for adults participants (1980)

Letter sent on the tenth anniversary of the first adult Bar/Bat Mitvah program (1986)

Letter from Dotty Sternberg, Adult Bat/Bar Mitzvah program participant

Thank you letter from Adult Bat/Bar Mitzvah program participant

Thank you letter from Adult Bat/Bar Mitzvah program participant (1984)

Letter from the president of Women's League for Conservative Judaism (1976)

Temple newsletter item about adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Thank you letter from Adult Bat/Bar Mitzvah program participant (2000)

Thank you letter from Adult Bat/Bar Mitzvah program participant

Letter from Cindy Levinson (1993)

Thank you letter (2000)

Thank you letter from Bat Mitzvah class (1992)

Letter announcing an adult Bar-Bat Mitzvah program for adult congregants at Temple Emmanuel (1976)

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How to Cite This Page
For a bibliography: Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Hadassah Blocker." <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=phblocker>.

For a footnote: Jewish Women's Archive, "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Hadassah Blocker," <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=phblocker>.