Our 10 Plagues
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a rock-star of Jewish feminism, delivered a speech called “The Ten Plagues According to Jewish Women,” at the Downtown Seder on March 25 in Manhattan. An adaptation of this speech has been published on The Sisterhood blog, and it is fabulous. Pogrebin goes through each of the 10 Plagues and demonstrates how each symbolizes a problem facing Jewish women today.
I won't spoil the fun for you by summarizing them here, but I do want to put special emphasis on the 9th plague: darkness. Pogrebin writes:
There’s a dark hole where Jewish women’s history should be. The people of the book have too many blank pages because women’s voices have been largely unrecorded or silenced by the arbiters of what and who gets into the text. Half the Jewish people, its women, are mostly invisible. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Ruth, Naomi, and Esther. How many other biblical women can you name? Henrietta Szold, Emma Goldman, Hannah Senesh, Golda Meir. How many other “famous” Jewish women can you identify? How many can your children name? At the 35th annual Feminist Seder, which will be my fourth seder this year, two large kiddush cups will stand on the table — one for the prophet Elijah, and one for the prophet Miriam, Moses’ sister, who put him in the basket to save his life, and without whom there would not be a Jewish people.
As Women's History Month draws to a close, we must remember that the struggle for inclusion is a war we fight all year long. That is the war we fight at the Jewish Women's Archive, but it is not a war we fight alone.
There are a number of ways to take up the battle cry and join us in the fight to preserve and share Jewish women's history, especially during Passover. The internet is full of ideas for including women in your seder, from oranges to Miriam's Cups, and beyond. Passover provides a wonderful opportunity to connect with your friends and family, and challenge them to think about the ways women and other marginalized groups are still enslaved by cultural prejudice. You might try asking a different set of questions this year, or perhaps celebrate a Jewish woman in your life by putting her On the Map. I, for one, plan to share Letty Cottin Pogrebin's 10 Plagues at my family's seder tonight. Might you do the same?
How to cite this page
Berkenwald, Leah. "Our 10 Plagues ." 29 March 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 31, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/our-10-plagues>.