Politics and Government: Civil Service
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.
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.
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.
An ardent suffragist, Jenny Apolant served as a board member of the General Association of German Women from 1910 to 1925. In Frankfurt, she was one of the first women municipal councilors from 1919 to 1924, founded the Political Workers Association in 1922, and strove to improve the condition of women through profound social change.
From her upbringing in a traditional Iraqi family to her work in the Knesset and as Israeli Minister of Health, Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino’s life spanned countries, careers, and experiences. She will be remembered as an active member of Knesset who fought for the rights of the working class and for the equal status of women in Israeli law.
Margaret Gene Arnstein was a principal architect of the American nursing profession. Her belief that nurses should be involved in health policy and research helped transform her profession. Renowned for her work in public health, Arnstein also advanced nursing education and research.
Rebelling against her privileged upbringing, Angelica Balabanoff embraced socialism and rose to become one of the most celebrated activists and politicians in the early decades of the twentieth century, becoming especially involved in the Italian socialist movement.
Helen Bentwich was an active community organizer, activist, and local politician. She and her husband, Norman, aided in helping people escape Nazi persecution and split their time between Palestine and England for many years.
Cécile Brunschvicg was one of the grandes dames of French feminism during the first half of the twentieth century. Although her chief demand was women’s suffrage, she also focused on a range of practical reforms, including greater parity in women’s salaries, expanded educational opportunities for women, and the drive to reform the French civil code, which treated married women as if they were minors.
Hortense Calisher was a significant presence in American letters for over forty years, producing novels, short stories, and memoirs of striking originality and intelligence. Although she did not achieve popular fame, the literary community holds her in high regard and even her critics agree she is a consummate stylist.
The positive aspect of the Canadian mosaic has been a strong Jewish community (and other communities) which nurtured traditional ethnic and religious values and benefited from the talent and energy of women and men restrained from participation in the broader society. The negative aspect has included considerable antisemitism and, especially for women, the sometimes stifling narrowness and conservatism of the community which inhibited creative and exceptional people from charting their own individual paths.
A perennial firebrand of the Israeli Right, Geulah Cohen was a major fixture in Israeli politics from the pre-state era through to the twenty-first century. She was a Lehi-affiliated member of the Jewish Underground in British Mandatory Palestine, served in five Knessets from 1974 to 1992, and was one of the first prominent female Israeli politicians of Mizrahi origin.