A deeply religious feminist, Annette Daum dedicated her life to two causes: interfaith dialogue and feminism. Among other leadership positions, she served as coordinator of interreligious affairs at the Union of American Hebrew congregations; in this capacity she staffed two task forces on gender equality, which resulted in the creation of a glossary of substitute terminology for Reform prayer books. Daum also co-organized a task force on Jewish-Christian feminist dialogue, her desire being to bring together Jewish and Christian women to talk about issues facing women of faith. Daum was also a teacher, creating courses for religious teachers and students to promote awareness of gender inequality in religious learning materials and liturgy. In 1968 she became the first female president of the North Shore Synagogue on Long Island.
“Feminists can and should have a significant role in promoting understanding and respect between Christians and Jews.” These words of Annette Daum highlight her devotion to two causes: interfaith dialogue and feminism.
Born on June 29, 1926, in New York City to Joseph and Eva Posner, she attended Walton High School and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in statistics from Hunter College. She married Alfred Daum on October 12, 1947, and had three children: Elliot, Russell, and Sandra. In 1953, the Daums moved to Long Island, where they helped to found the North Shore Synagogue (Reform).
Interested in feminism yet deeply religious, Daum wished to bring Jewish and Christian women together so that they could share their insights on issues facing women of faith. However, she discovered to her dismay that many Christian and post-Christian feminists harbored anti-Judaic sentiments. She decided to become involved in fostering greater ties between women of the two faiths.
She became the coordinator of interreligious affairs at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and also served as the religious action consultant to the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. With Deborah McCauley, she co-organized a task force on Jewish-Christian-feminist dialogue sponsored by the Feminist Theological Institute. As a member of the Catholic-Jewish Relations Committee of Long Island, she forged close ties with John Cardinal O’Connor of the New York Diocese. In addition, she edited the journal Interreligious Currents and wrote a number of articles about feminism and Judaism.
Besides promoting interreligious dialogue, Daum distinguished herself as a teacher. She created courses for religious teachers and students to promote greater awareness of gender inequality in learning materials and in religious liturgy. In one course called “Male and Female in Religion,” she asked her students to create a nonsexist religious service for their school. While working at the Union of Hebrew Congregations, she staffed two task forces on gender equality, which created a glossary of substitute terminology for the Reform prayer book. For instance, the task forces proposed that the words “Heavenly Father” be replaced by “Heavenly One.”
In her later years, Daum became increasingly involved with the North Shore Synagogue. After working with the sisterhood, she became the synagogue’s first vice president and, later, its first female president (1968–1972). She also taught comparative religion at the synagogue’s religious school. When she tried to retire from teaching after ten years, the students petitioned her to stay, saying that they would not continue without her. She yielded to their request for a few more years.
Annette Daum died of Hodgkin’s disease on December 20, 1988.
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Daum, Alfred. Telephone interview by author, December 2, 1996
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Schneider, Susan Weidman. “Feminists and Faith: A Discussion with Judith Plaskow and Annette Daum.” Lilith 7 (1980): 14–17.
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