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Top Ten Moments for Jewish Women in 2019

Jewish Women of Color Marching. Photo via Bend The Arc.

When I look back over the past year, I can’t say that many happy highlights come immediately to mind. But that’s why an exercise like a top ten list can be helpful—to force us to sift through, find, and celebrate the positive moments, which can get lost in the chaos that is life in 2019 (#gratitude, anyone?).

So here, in no particular order, are a few of JWA’s favorite memorable (sometimes bittersweet) moments for Jewish women in 2019:

1. In the midst of much controversy over the 2019 Women’s March, Jewish women of color took leadership under the banner of Jewish Women of Color Marching and were a powerful presence. In doing so, they taught the larger movement an important lesson about the complexity of intersectionality and how conversations on this topic too often ignore the existence of Jews of color.

2. 2019 marked the end of Broad City, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Transparent. While it was hard to say goodbye to some of our favorite Jews on TV in such quick succession, their powerful finales assured us that Abbi and Ilana, Rebecca Bunch, and the Pfefferman family—and all the lessons they’ve taught us over the years about friendship, mental health, identity, and family—will continue to inspire, amuse, and challenge us.

3. In May, Brookline—the home-base of JWA—became the first municipality in the country to tackle menstrual injustice by making free menstrual products available in all of the town-owned public bathrooms. And just as exciting for us is the fact that JWA’s own Sarah Groustra, an alumna of our Rising Voices Fellowship, sparked this campaign by writing an op-ed in her high school newspaper!

4. Of the hundreds of thousands of young women who became bat mitzvah this year (including my own daughter!), one was particularly exciting for comedy lovers. Mazel tov, Tiffany Haddish, for celebrating this milestone on the bima and in your hilarious comedy special, Black Mitzvah (one of several great Jewish women’s comedy specials this year, including Jenny Slate’s Stage Fright and Amy Schumer’s Growing).

5. Also on the bat mitzvah theme, Batya Sperling Milner made bat mitzvah history when she chanted her Torah portion from braille, using the first ever braille trope system created especially for her. Her groundbreaking bat mitzvah and her mother’s innovative scholarship on the treatment of blind people within Jewish law help make the Jewish community more inclusive of people with disabilities. Listen to Batya and her mother in JWA’s podcast episode “The Torah at her Fingertips.”

6. This was a banner year for concrete organizing for gender equality in the Jewish community. In August, leaders from the 5779: Year of the Jewish Woman Facebook group published a piece in E-Jewish Philanthropy declaring “Ally is a Verb” and suggesting meaningful ways that men can pledge to be allies in the fight for gender equity. Other leaders from the group took up the charge, creating clear, bold resources for people to “Live the Pledge.” This fall, the leaders of the Gender Equity in Hiring Project created and circulated a Jewish salaries spreadsheet to promote greater transparency, inspired by a similar project in the journalism world. It is inspiring to witness a critical mass of people walking the walk and inviting others to join.

7. Bella Abzug, the fearless, one-of-a-kind political pioneer, was celebrated in her own solo show, in which she was channeled with humor and sensitivity by Harvey Fierstein. This comes after the Gloria Steinem show, Gloria: A Life, which played in New York in late 2018 and early 2019, and is coming to Boston in January. Stay tuned for a special opportunity to see the show with JWA on February 1!

8. In September, Jodi Rudoren, a leading journalist at The New York Times for 21 years, including three years as Jerusalem Bureau Chief, became the Editor in Chief of The Forward. Rudoren brings new energy and expertise in digital engagement to the historic Jewish newspaper, founded in 1897. We look forward to its next 122 years!

9. When she won her second Emmy for portraying agent Susie Myerson in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Alex Borstein gave a speech that quickly went viral. In it, she told the story of her grandmother, who survived the Holocaust because she stepped out of line when she was about to be shot into a pit. Borstein credited her and her children’s existence to her grandmother’s bold risk, and called upon women to “step out of line, ladies. Step out of line.” This is a great rallying cry to take into the coming year.

10. And while we’re on the topic of the power of stories… this year brought a new, handy tool for story-collecting: JWA’s Story Aperture mobile app! We invite you to be our partners in documenting history, by both recording the stories of family and friends, and by documenting your own participation in history as it unfolds.

Here’s to Jewish women making more history in 2020!

Topics: Jewish History
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Wonderful list! But please note, per #7, that "Gloria: A Life" is not a one-woman show. It features eight actresses, including a friend of mine. Great show; enjoy it in Boston!

How to cite this page

Rosenbaum, Judith. "Top Ten Moments for Jewish Women in 2019." 17 December 2019. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 9, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/top-10-moments-jewish-women-2019>.

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