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Family

All of the Above: Refusing to Choose

There was a moment in my late twenties when I seriously considered rabbinical school. I was changing careers, trying to figure out what my next step would be, and becoming a rabbi would have allowed me to blend my love of Jewish ritual, my intellectual curiosity, and my passion for helping people into a calling. It made sense, on a deep level. But the more I talked about it with friends who were already rabbis and rabbinical students, the more they cautioned me, “As a woman, if you become a rabbi and you’re not married yet, you need to accept that you’ll probably never marry. Men don’t want to date women who are authority figures; it’s too emasculating.” I wanted to be a rabbi. But I also wanted marriage and children. When I believed that I needed to choose between them, I couldn’t bear the thought of never having children of my own. I quietly turned my focus to other graduate programs.

A Tradition of Taking Risks

In traditional society, men are seen as the risk takers, while women are supposed to be docile homemakers. When women step up to the plate, it stands out. To me, the women who bravely put aside their fears and take matters into their own hands are the ones who make the difference and are role models for all people.

In the Torah, there is a story of two women, Shifra and Puah, and the risks they took to save the lives of some children in Egypt. These midwives worked for the Israelites and took orders from Pharaoh, who knew the two of them and specifically told them to kill any male children born to Hebrew mothers, but they chose to not listen to him. It’s not clear if these two women were part of the Jewish people or if they were Egyptians. Still, their story takes place for a reason, not just to explain how Moses survived, but also to bring a lesson to future Jews about courage and the impact of the risks they take.

Natalie Goldstein Heineman, a friend of children, is born

March 16, 1913

Natalie Goldstein Heineman was a voice for children at every level of government.

Dr. Ruth Finkelstein

A beloved doctor for generations of Baltimore women, Dr. Ruth Finkelstein promoted women's health and reproductive rights over a career that spanned half a century.

Althea Diesenhaus Stroum

Born in 1922 in New York City, Althea
moved to Seattle with her family at age 14 in 1936. Married for 58 years to Samuel N. Stroum, they had two children, and together dedicated their lives to philanthropy and community service. Althea received the Israel Bond Woman of the Year award in 1980. In 1991, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle honored her by creating the Althea Stroum Woman of Distinction Award. In 2000 she received an honorary doctorate from Brandeis University. She is a member of many community and national boards, serving both the Jewish and larger communities with her energetic devotion.

Frieda Piepsch Sondland

A designer of haute couture, Frieda Sondland used her creative skills to survive the Holocaust. Born in Berlin, Germany in 1921, she married Gunther Sondland when she was sixteen and a half years old. When she was seventeen, and pregnant with her first child, Frieda and her parents were forced to leave Germany for South America. Frieda supported herself and her daughter by working as a clothing designer in Montevideo, Uruguay. Eight years later, Gunther joined them. Frieda and Gunther moved to Seattle in 1953 to reunite with Gunther’s family who had emigrated there after the war. In Seattle, Frieda worked in the alterations department for both John Doyle Bishop, and Frederick and Nelson until she and Gunther opened their dry cleaning and alterations business in West Seattle. In 1957, their son, Gordon, was born. Since arriving in the United States, Frieda has become a beloved and active member of Seattle’s Jewish community.

Missode Israel Piha

Born in Tishmay near the Isle of Rhodes, Greece where she was raised, Missode Piha spent her childhood in a tight-knit Sephardic family of which her father was Hazzan [cantor]. In 1928, she met and married her husband, Sam, an American visiting his family in Rhodes, and leaving her family behind, moved to the United States with him. First settling in Atlanta, Georgia, they moved to Seattle in 1932 where they raised four children and Missode became a beloved volunteer and member of Seattle’s Sephardic community and Congregation Ezra Bessaroth. Missode Piha died on October 17, 2003.

Bernice Mossafer Rind

A child virtuoso on harp and long-standing champion of the Seattle Symphony, Bernice Rind’s musical career began at age seven. At age 11 she debuted professionally and retired from touring at age 23 when her mother grew ill and Bernice longed for a more "normal" life. A Seattle native whose parents emigrated from the Isle of Rhodes, she attended both Ezra Bessaroth Congregation (Sephardic) cofounded by her father, and the Ashkenazic Reform synagogue, Temple de Hirsch Sinai, (co-founded by the Rind family).

Meta R. Buttnick

Born in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1913 to Irish émigré parents, Meta grew up among “living libraries,” men who told stories of their lives on Alaska’s frontier. Educated in Dublin and Paris, she moved to Seattle in 1939 with her husband, Harry, where they raised three children. Meta became active in Seattle’s Orthodox community, and soon, she began compiling the oral and written histories of Seattle’s Jewish people and institutions. The Jewish Archives at the University of Washington-thanks in large measure to Meta-now houses many of these histories, including Meta’s own wonderful story among them.

Rebecca Benarooya

A renowned community leader and philanthropist, Becky Benaroya and her family extend the love and generosity she learned as a child. Born and raised in Seattle’s Sephardic Jewish community, Becky is devoted to Seattle’s elderly populations, the city’s Symphony and arts programs, and the preservation of her Sephardic heritage. She and her husband Jack raised three children. Active in the Jewish and larger Seattle community, her life continues to grace the civic, cultural, Jewish, and family life in the city she loves.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Family." (Viewed on December 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/family>.

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