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Activism

Literature Scholars in the United States

At the start of the twenty-first century, women of all classes, races, and ethnicities are so fully integrated into American literary academia that it is astonishing that, as little as a century ago, the idea of a woman professor teaching, for example, the novels of George Eliot or Henry James to a roomful of young men and women was inconceivable. In all highly literate cultures, secular and religious knowledge used to be the domain of men, while women were in charge of the practical side of daily life and, in the upper classes, of certain social matters.

Alice Springer Fleisher Liveright

A woman from an affluent background who devoted her life to the underprivileged, Alice Springer Fleisher Liveright was part of a new generation of female professionals who helped to transform reform work from a pastime for middle-class women into a livelihood. This sense of professionalism, combined with left-leaning ideals of social justice and an outspoken manner, led her to work for equal rights for women and African Americans, and social welfare for children and poor adults.

Lilith Magazine

Founded in 1976 by a small group of women led by Susan Weidman Schneider “to foster discussion of Jewish women’s issues and put them on the agenda of the Jewish community, with a view to giving women—who are more than fifty percent of the world’s Jews—greater choice in Jewish life,” Lilith: The Independent Jewish Women’s Magazine has remained true to its mission. From its inception, it has intentionally, though not exclusively, emphasized religious and social issues, with somewhat less focus on areas such as economics or politics. In 2004 the editors changed the tag line on the cover to read “independent, Jewish & frankly feminist.” The contours of the Jewish women’s movement and its own consciousness of a role that exceeds that of a magazine can be traced through nearly three decades of publication.

Raquel Liberman

Raquel Liberman was born in Berdichev in the Ukraine on July 10, 1900. As a child, she emigrated with her family to Warsaw. On December 21, 1919 she married Yaacov Ferber, a tailor, in Warsaw, according to the Jewish rite. In l920 their first son, Joshua David Ferber, was born. A year later, while she was pregnant with her second child, Yaacov Ferber emigrated to Argentina alone, joining his married sister and brother-in-law in the small village of Tapalqué, in the province of Buenos Aires. By the time Raquel Ferber and her sons Joshua and Moshe Velvele (Mauricio) joined him in Buenos Aires on October 22, 1922, Yaacov was already suffering from tuberculosis. He died a few months later. In order to support her family and with no knowledge of Spanish, Raquel, aged twenty-three, found herself obliged to leave her children in her provincial village, under the care of trusted neighbors, and find work in the capital. Unable to makes ends meet from her work as a seamstress, she was either forced into or voluntarily entered prostitution. Facts and fiction about her actual dealings are blurred. What is undisputed, however, is that after a few years of practicing that trade, she tried unsuccessfully to leave it. After a second attempt she succeeded in publicly denouncing the Zwi Migdal, formerly called Varsovia, a Jewish organization named after its founder, Zwi Migdal, which engaged in the white slave trade.

Fanny Lewald

Often compared by critics to George Sand and George Eliot, Fanny Lewald was an enormously productive, successful and respected writer in nineteenth-century Germany. Her early works of the 1840s deal in a committed manner with the political, social and religious questions of the time. Her later popular stories and novels were often first published in serial form in widely-circulated journals. She was also a gifted autobiographical writer. Her Memories of the Year 1848 gives a lively description of that dramatic year in European politics and also of her visit to Paris, where she met Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), a writer whom she greatly admired. Later she became more of a monarchist, convinced that a longer preparation for popular rule was essential; finally, she thought highly of Bismarck because of his “Realpolitik.”

Emma Levine-Talmi

Emma Levine was born in Warsaw in 1905, the oldest daughter of Asher and Yehudit Levine. She had four siblings: Rachel (1907–1973), who emigrated to Palestine in 1929 with Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir and was among the founders of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:342]Kibbutz[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Ein ha-Horesh, where she worked as a nursery-school teacher and raised her family; Emanuel, who also emigrated to Palestine, raised a family and engaged in light industry in Tel Aviv; Yehuda, who was killed in the Holocaust; the youngest sister, Sarah (1914–1950), who studied at a seminary for nursery-school teachers in Warsaw, worked at Janusz Korczak’s orphanage and emigrated to Palestine with a Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir group. She was a member of Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan before moving with her family to Givatayim, where she established a model kindergarten. She died in childbirth at the age of thirty-six, leaving a husband and two children. Talmi’s parents immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and settled in Tel Aviv, where her father worked as a bookkeeper, writing in his spare time and publishing three books in Hebrew.

Jacqueline Levine

Jacqueline Levine is an outstanding example of female activist leadership in American Jewish life. In over five decades of service to the Jewish community, she has combined her powerfully deep liberal political beliefs and activities, which benefit the poor and disadvantaged, with her concern for the vast needs of specific Jewish communities.

Lena Levine

Lena Levine was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 17, 1903, the youngest of seven children of Sophie and Morris Levine, Jewish emigrants from Vilna, Lithuania. Educated at Girls High School in Brooklyn, Hunter College, and Bellevue Hospital Medical College, Levine graduated in 1927, married fellow student Louis Ferber, and established a private practice in obstetrics and gynecology in Brooklyn. A daughter, Ellen Louise, was born in 1939, followed three years later by a son, Michael Allen, who developed viral encephalitis in infancy and was left severely retarded. Tragedy struck again in 1943 when Louis Ferber died of a heart attack.

Anne Lapidus Lerner

When Anne Lapidus Lerner entered Radcliffe College in 1960, university-based Jewish Studies departments were virtually nonexistent. The few male professors of Jewish subjects in the United States were scattered among departments of history, philosophy, religion and Semitic languages in an equally scant number of institutions. But by the time Lerner earned her Ph.D. in comparative literature (French, modern Hebrew and American literatures) from Harvard in 1977, Jewish Studies programs were springing up in colleges and universities throughout North America. When she was appointed Vice Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1993, her fields, Hebrew literature and women’s studies, were full-fledged sub-disciplines of Jewish studies.

Lesbianism

For most of its three-thousand-year history, lesbianism has been a subject of little interest in Jewish texts and societies. Only in the late twentieth century have Jewish scholars and communities faced the issue of erotic love between women.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Activism." (Viewed on August 27, 2016) <http://jwa.org/topics/activism>.

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