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Jewish Holidays

How and Why We Remember

The people of a certain culture devote an entire week of each year to commemorating one of the worst parts of their history. They taste bitter things to appreciate the suffering of their ancestors. They consciously abstain from consuming bread to remind themselves what was eatenor rather, what was not eaten. They mourn the deaths of their ancient oppressors. They drink the metaphorical tears of their forefathers and foremothers. And year after year after year, they gather around tables to recount the suffering and the humiliation and the turmoil of their own people.

Vashti, Purim, and Women's History Month

I have a vague recollection of the first time I learned about Vashti. I was sitting at circle time on a primary-colored rug in my pre-K class at Sunday school and was told, “Vashti was not nice to the King. She would not dance for the King.” And we all just nodded our heads in sympathy for King Ahashuarus. “Poor King.” We all thought, “Vashti is evil.”

Lilly Rivlin

Lilly Rivlin has used her skills as a historian and documentary filmmaker to capture Jewish history in the making.

Shirley Cohen Steinberg

Shirley Cohen Steinberg helped make the Jewish holidays fun and interactive for children with her Holiday Music Box albums, featuring “One Morning” (popularly known as the Passover “Frog Song”).

Birth of Esther Broner, co-creator of "The Women’s Haggadah"

July 8, 1927

Esther Broner "made room for us at the table by creating a whole new one—a Seder table at which women’s voices were heard.”

Nima Adlerblum

Nima Adlerblum’s scholarship and Zionist activism helped shape worldwide perspectives about the land where she was born.

Passover in Charleston

I went to Charleston, South Carolina during the week of Passover to escape the fact that this year my holiday didn’t really feel like a holiday. My three kids were with their father for the week, according to the custody schedule. My parents and siblings were in Israel, and I’d decided not to join them there.

My boyfriend and I had picked Charleston because it was a city I’d never been to and as a Southerner myself, I’d always wanted to visit. But until now, it had never made it to the top of the list – and indeed, my own sense of myself as a Southerner was fading. The longer I lived away – in New York and now in Boston - the less present that personal and family history felt, more a piece of where I come from, but less and less who I am.

Ruth Weisberg

Ruth Weisberg’s art helped bring the Reform Movement’s Open Door Haggadah to life with inclusive, feminist imagery.

E.M. Broner

Esther M. Broner’s revolutionary women’s Seder opened up new possibilities for reimagining Jewish rituals to include women’s voices.

Freedom Stories

The first books I ever fell in love with were the American Girl books. The American Girl Company as a whole was a big part of my childhood, and its influence is still with me today: if it weren’t for it and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” I don’t know if I would have passed US History last year. Educational value aside, the books have held up as fantastic examples of children’s literature, with their beautiful illustrations, interesting historical notes in the margins, diverse characters (including their cast of thirteen young female protagonists), and, most importantly to me, simple but solid stories.

Pages

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Holidays." (Viewed on April 21, 2015) <http://jwa.org/topics/jewish-holidays>.

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