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Civil Rights

Francisca Flores, a Dissenter from the Inside

If you want me to learn something that I don’t care too much about, the solution is simple: teach it to me in Spanish. Over the winter break, my two-year-old cousin visited for a day and we went to a children’s science museum together. The highlight of the afternoon was spending time with my cousin and seeing her enjoy the museum; the museum itself was underwhelming, especially since I’ve never been much of a science person. At least, that’s what I thought until we got to a temporary exhibit that was presented in both English and Spanish.

I was so focused on trying to translate all the Spanish without looking at the English that my cousin lost interest in the exhibit before I did.

Rosa Parks at the Wall

For as long as I can remember, Rosa Parks has been the star of every social studies lesson. In third grade, we learned about the nice lady who worked as a seamstress and boarded a bus to go home from work. In eighth grade, she was the strong woman who stood up for herself and played a significant role in the civil rights movement. In eleventh grade, we learned that her historic refusal to give up her seat was not random, but planned by civil rights leaders.

But the message of Rosa Parks goes beyond the classroom.

Different Shades of Daring

Just the other day I took part in a big rite of passage for many suburban teens and braved a very imposing vacant parking lot to tackle one of my larger anxieties: manning an automotive vehicle. I clearly failed when it came to predicting the required amount of tenacity needed to control that metal monster, but like most teenagers that golden fantasy of independently cruising down the road in a glorious car overrode the shaming jerks, scratches, and damaged vegetation. I cannot deny that driving is scary; with just one misplaced press of a pedal I could jeopardize the safety of many people (and my parent’s car). But in the end, my rallied courage was worth it—now I can confidently drive without my eyes glued to the gearshift!

Though my anecdote is whimsical, the theme of persistence is relevant to next week’s MLK day.

Teaching Action and Understanding Justice

We were sitting in a circle, but the teacher spilt the class down the middle. Half received stickers, an apparent reward, while the other half sat and watched. No one knew exactly what was happening. We had always been told to work cohesively, so we recognized that the division was significant.

Mandela, Suzman, and All Those Who Stand Together

It was beautiful, last month, listening to the many tributes that went out for Nelson Mandela in the wake of his death. I wanted to say something about my own feelings about the loss of this man who embraced his enemies and helped transform a country, but I felt like I didn’t have the right.  What could I—a Jewish-American white woman—have to say? Then a colleague suggested that I write about Helen Suzman, whose death we remember this week. I drew a blank. Helen who?

Savina Teubal

Savina Teubal was an accomplished biblical scholar and the founding president of Sarah’s Tent: Sheltering Creative Jewish Spirituality. Sarah’s Tent is an organization that offers Shabbat dinners, retreats, classes, and holiday festivities such as Pesach seders and Rosh Chodesh gatherings.

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz has been an activist since the early 1960s civil rights movement in Harlem. She served as co-chair of the New Jewish Agenda Task Force on Anti-Semitism and Racism, and was the first director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice in New York City (1992-95).

Lynn Gottlieb

Lynn Gottlieb entered pulpit life at the age of 23 in 1973, as rabbi to Temple Beth Or of the Deaf in New York City. In 1981, she became the first woman ordained in the Jewish Renewal Movement. Gottlieb's creativity, peace and justice activism, feminism, and focus on spiritual meaning helped shape the Jewish Renewal Movement.

Ordinary Role Models: Going Beyond Pop-Culture

We continue looking at pop culture and role models with this post from one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.

I’m no “gleek,” but from time to time, I confess, I’ll catch an episode of Glee. In a recent show, one of the main characters, Marley, was told to portray a pop singer whose behavior was completely different than her own. When she refused, she was suspended from rehearsals for not being a team player.

My first reaction was, “You go, girl!” Glee portrayed this girl as strong—someone who was willing to pay the price for remaining true to herself.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Sonia Pressman Fuentes graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in 1950 and first in her class at the University of Miami School of Law in 1957. She had a 36-year career as an attorney and executive with the federal government and multinational corporations.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Civil Rights." (Viewed on September 2, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/civil-rights>.

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