Politics and Government
A leading spy for the Nili ring during World War I, Sarah Aaronsohn fought to free Palestine from Turkish rule and withstood torture for her ideals; she committed suicide after arrest by Turkish authorities and was later described as a Jewish Joan of Arc. The semi-military role Sarah carved for herself, her activity, and her voluntary death made her an icon and a model of a new “Hebrew” femininity.
Rosalie Silberman Abella became Canada’s first Jewish woman judge and youngest ever judge in 1975 at the age of twenty-nine. She headed a ground-breaking 1984 commission which pioneered the theories of equality and discrimination. In 2004 she became the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.
While halakhic discussions about abortion largely excluded the arguments and perspectives of women, in general poskim (decisors) determined that a woman’s life takes priority over the life of the fetus. Halakhic perspectives have explored the point at which the fetus is considered a human and taken the mother’s physical and psychological health into account in determining her right to abort.
Convicted of stealing lace from a London store in 1786, Esther Abrahams was transported to Australia for seven years’ penal servitude and arrived there with her baby daughter in 1788. She is an iconic figure in Australian history, having almost immediately become the lover, and much later the wife, of a Scottish marine officer who rose to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful man in New South Wales.
The first woman to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Ruth Abrams upheld the rights of women and minorities throughout her career.
Orit Adato has held many roles throughout her career in security, from head of the Israeli Women’s Corps to Commissioner of the Israel Prison Service. After twenty-eight years of work in security, twenty-four of which were in the IDF, Adato retired with the rank of lieutenant general and founded her own international consultancy firm on security.
Helen Goldmark Adler is remembered for her philanthropic achievements and her marriage to Felix Adler, philosopher and founder of the Ethical Culture Movement. In turn-of-the-century New York, Adler penned articles, established a free kindergarten for children with working-class parents, and founded an organization focused on the science of child-rearing.
Racie Friedenwald Adler helped shape a number of Jewish institutions, most significantly the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism. As the Women’s League vice president, she helped establish Jewish student houses on campuses, the forerunners of modern Hillel houses.
Nima Adlerblum was a writer, educator, and early Zionist activist in New York, whose life began and ended in Jerusalem. She wrote widely on philosophy, education, Jewish philosophy, and American history, and also founded Hadassah’s national cultural and educational program in addition to serving as its national and cultural chair from 1922 to 1935.
Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community (AWP) was founded by Shifra Bronznick in 2001 as an intervention “to advance Jewish women into leadership, stimulate new models of shared leadership, and promote policies for healthy, effective workplaces.” Over fifteen years, AWP conducted groundbreaking research and adapted strategies from other sectors that engaged women and men in decisive, systems-based change.
Agudat Israel, the world movement of Orthodox Jewry, introduced substantial reforms that changed the status of women in Orthodox society. In particular, the Bais Ya’akov model pioneered by Sarah Schenirer focused on women’s education as a way of creating a more robust Orthodox community against the pressures of modernity.
Miriam Albert became the first national president of B’nai B’rith Young Women in 1946. In the thirty years she served the organization, she helped increase its membership to 150,000, and she was praised for both her warmth and her leadership.
A Brazilian-born daughter of immigrants, Frida Alexandr was the only woman writer to describe Jewish cowboys in Brazil from the viewpoint of one who lived among them. Her only published book was the novel Filipson, which chronicled the lives and episodes of the farm where she was born in 1906 and spent two decades of her life.
Ruth Aliav-Klüger was the only women among the early members of Mosad le-Aliyah Bet, the “illegal” immigration branch of the underground paramilitary organization Haganah that smuggled Jews out of Europe and into Palestine during World War II.
Anna Marks Allen was part of a group of Philadelphia Jewish women who established and ran the first independent Jewish charitable societies in the United States. At a time when congregational Jewish life was restricted to men, Jewish women of Allen’s social status increasingly turned towards philanthropy as a way to participate in the public life of the Jewish community.
Founded in 1860 by six French Jewish intellectuals, the Alliance Israélite Universelle set out to teach Jewish children at schools all over the world. The diverse group of teachers in the Alliance carried out the organization’s mission, but its women teachers were particularly impactful in criticizing the leaders’ patronizing attitudes and pushing for female empowerment.
Israeli writer, actress, and filmmaker Gila Almagor’s acclaimed 1988 autobiographical film Summer of Aviya and its sequel Under the Domin Tree bought attention to post-Holocaust trauma and depression, which were often scorned by Israeli society. Almagor is also a founder of the Israeli Union of Performing Artists, the Tel Aviv International Film Festival, and the Gila Almagor Wishes Foundation.
Shulamit Aloni, Member of the Knesset and Minister, was an important champion of human rights, civil rights, religious freedom, and the Palestinian right to self-determination. As founder and head of the Ratz and then Meretz party, she spearheaded progressive politics in Israel both on the formal level and in civil society for over half a century.