Jewish Women on the Map - Jane Mendel and the Women?s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC)
The Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) formed September 12, 1958 in response to the decision by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus to close Pulaski County schools to avoid desegregation.
Jane Mendel was a key player in the foundation and activities of the WEC, and worked tirelessly to mobilize voters to elect pro-desegregation school board members and put pressure on officials to reopen schools in the district. Facing heavy opposition in the community, Jane was responsible for maintaining and initiating the WEC top-secret telephone chain master list. In the days before internet-based social networking, the WEC could mobilize over 2,000 members in a short period of time to address quickly changing tides of political process and public opinion.
Jane was also an active member of the Jewish community in Little Rock. In 2003, the Jewish Federation established the Jane Mendel Tikkun Olam Award to recognize leaders who fulfill the mitzvah of repairing the world. After a long life of social activism and community organizing, Jane Mendel died on January 20, 2006.
For more information on Jane Mendel and other Jewish activists in the Civil Rights movement, visit: The Institute of Southern Jewish Life:http://www.msje.org/ and JWA's Living the Legacy: A Jewish Social Justice education project: http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy
Photo of Jane Mendel courtesy of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life.