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Civil Rights

Sing a New Song: Jews, Music, and the Civil Rights Movement

In the 1960s, American Jews made up a large percentage of those white Americans who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Many of them were motivated by liberal American values, Jewish values, and a belief that they understood the African American experience. At rallies, sit-ins, and marches they stood shoulder to shoulder with African Americans, and they were strengthened by the same freedom songs. This Go & Learn guide uses the letter of a Jewish civil rights activist and several freedom songs to explore how this music, based in African American church music, was able to cross racial and religious boundaries and build community.

Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity

On Purim we dress in costume to create a new persona. We delight in unexpected images. We poke holes in the humdrum everyday roles of men and women, rich and poor, young and old. Our assumptions about people shift, and thus, the holiday transforms us.

The American Jewess on Liberation and Freedom

Passover is the holiday of liberation and freedom. What do these terms and this holiday mean to us as Americans? This Go & Learn guide features an editorial from the April 1897 issue of The American Jewess exploring the meaning of Passover in relation to the Fourth of July. The editor, Rosa Sonneschein, asks what it means for Jews to celebrate Passover in the context of American religious and national freedom.

Meet Sammie Moshenberg - Mazel Tov!

At its gala dinner on Tuesday, the National Council of Jewish Women will honor Sammie Moshenberg, Director of Washington Operations, for 30 years of service in NCJW’s Washington office.

Guess What's Being Taught in my Sunday School Class?

A few weeks ago, on the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I posed a question to the students in my class on "Jews and the Civil Rights Movement": "If you could plan a Jewish commemoration for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, what would it be? Who would be the audience? What would you do? Why should Jews, as Jews and in Jewish communities, commemorate this holiday?"

Where Are You? Searching for our Social Justice Role Models

This piece was inspired by a webinar on “Jews and the Civil Rights Movement” presented by the Jewish Women's Archive in collaboration with AVODAH as part of the AVODAH Alumni network’s distance learning program. It  was originally posted on AVODAH's blog on February 5, 2013.

In 2009 I attended a workshop focused on Anti-racist organizing for white folks. The presentation allowed for self-reflection and next steps in our own organizing. At the end of the workshop, we were asked to share who our white social justice role models were. It was shocking, although not surprising, that the majority of the attendees shared that they did not have any white, social justice activists to look up to. I’ve been searching for my answer to this question ever since.

Tikkun Olam in a Mississipi Freedom School

On February 1, 1960, four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at a race-segregated lunch counter in Woolworth’s and asked for service. When the waitress refused to serve them, they remained seated. This act of passive resistance launched a mass Civil Rights Movement involving tens of thousands of black southerners demanding equality and an end to the hideous system of racial segregation. I was a vocal music teacher in junior high school in the Lower East Side of Manhattan then, and not that much older than these students. Their courage and dignity in the face of constant violence fired my heart and mind.

A few more stories for the road

As I prepare to leave my position as JWA’s Director of Public History after more than 12 years here, my mind keeps returning me back to the summer day in 2000 when I first stepped into the offices of the Jewish Women’s Archive. At the time, I was a disgruntled graduate student, disillusioned with life in the Ivory Tower and the academic study of women’s history. (Was a library really the best place to learn about women’s activism, I wondered?).

Helen Suzman eulogized as indefatigable foe of apartheid

January 4, 2009

Helen Suzman eulogized as indefatigable foe of apartheid

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Civil Rights." (Viewed on July 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/civil-rights>.

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