Activism: Reproductive Rights
The chief biblical source referring to abortion is Exodus 21:22–25 concerning the man who inadvertently strikes a pregnant woman, causing her to lose the pregnancy.
Born in the Bronx on July 24, 1920, Bella (Savitzky) Abzug predated women’s right to vote by one month. A tireless and indomitable fighter for justice and peace, equal rights, human dignity, environmental integrity and sustainable development, Bella Abzug advanced human goals and political alliances worldwide.
Jewish women from a range of social and economic backgrounds found common political cause in the American birth control movement and profoundly affected its successes in the early twentieth century.
Women have played an important part in the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) since the organization was first established after World War I.
The dedicated commitment of great numbers of American Jewish women to their country’s long and controversial crusade to legalize birth control had its origins in 1912, when the movement’s formidable pioneer Margaret Sanger—baptized a Catholic, and married to a Jew, but by then calling herself a socialist—was working part-time as a visiting nurse in the immigrant districts of New York City’s Lower East Side.
The first wave of feminism in Israel washed over the country as early as the pre-statehood Jewish community in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. "Old Yishuv" refers to the Jewish community prior to 1882; "New Yishuv" to that following 1882.Yishuv period.
Jewish women have played a significant role in all aspects of the American feminist movement.
Firestone, a founder of radical feminism, brought together the dialectical materialism of Marx and the psychoanalytic insights of Freud in an effort to develop an analysis of women’s oppression that was inclusive of the dimensions of class and race. Although she wrote for a popular audience, her work was broadly grounded in classic texts and raised many questions that have since been taken up and developed by feminist theorists within the academy.
A stubborn nonconformist from an early age, Käte Frankenthal was a physician and politician active in Germany’s Social Democratic Party. While running her own successful private practice, she was active in sex reform legislation and played a prominent role in the Federation of Women Physicians.
Considered by many as the “mother” of the second wave of modern feminism, activist and writer Betty Friedan was one of the most influential feminist leaders of the second half of the twentieth century, a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and its first president. She served on the boards of leading women’s organizations, fought for legislation to ensure women’s equality and wrote books analyzing women’s role in society and the women’s movement.
Emma Goldman was a potent voice of anarchism in North America and Europe in the early twentieth century, and her controversial beliefs made her many powerful enemies. Yet even after enduring many contentious interactions with law enforcement, Goldman continued to speak, write, and teach on freedom and individual rights, inspiring her followers to question authority at every turn.
Born on December 8, 1866, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ida Espen Guggenheimer was the oldest child of Jacob and Fannie (Bachman) Espen. She had one brother, Frank, and two sisters, Hannah and Sophie. Her father and his brother were importers of lace. She was educated at the Friends School in Philadelphia and attended school in Dresden, Germany, when her family traveled in Europe.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Smith College in 1966, Jane Harman graduated from Harvard Law School in 1969 and became a member of the bar in the District of Columbia. She has two children, Brian Frank and Hilary Frank, from her nine-year first marriage to Richard Frank. She also has two younger children, Daniel Geier Harman and Justine Leigh Harman, with her husband Sidney Harman, an audio equipment manufacturer, whom she married in 1980.
American women have been the “perennial health care reformers.” According to Carol Weisman, professor of Health Policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health: “Activism around women’s health has tended to occur in waves and to coincide with other social reform movements, including peaks in the women’s rights movements.” At all of those pivotal moments, Jewish women have played central roles.
A staunch Zionist and dedicated volunteer, born in Berlin on October 9, 1921, Esther Herlitz inherited many of her admirable traits from her beloved “Yekke” parents. Her father, Georg Herlitz (1885–1968), was born in Oppeln, a small town in Upper Silesia, into a totally assimilated Jewish family and received a typical Prussian education. However, since his parents could not afford to send him to university, he registered—with the help of the local rabbi—at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, a center for the scientific study of Judaism and a rabbinical seminary. Here the liberal Jewish administration awarded him a stipend and here, also, both his studies and the Zionist movement introduced him to a new world. Returning home, he led the first A seven-day festival to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt (eight days outside Israel) beginning on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Also called the "Festival of Mazzot"; the "Festival of Spring"; Pesah.Passover Lit. "order." The regimen of rituals, songs and textual readings performed in a specific order on the first two nights (in Israel, on the first night) of Passover.seder ever held in the history of the family and when he resumed studies, this time at the University of Berlin, he became an ardent Zionist activist. On completing his studies in 1919, he refused to become a rabbi and instead founded the Central Zionist Archive. When the Zionist Federation, which was interested in influencing the local Jewish community, asked him to infiltrate the city’s large 3,500-member Reform synagogue, Herlitz and his friends took on the role of wardens and replaced the rabbi with one who was a Zionist. His wife, Irma (née Herzka, 1888–1970), who came from a traditional home in Moravia and whose father was a melamed (teacher) of little children, hated what she perceived as the empty ceremonial of the Reform Jews, but Esther herself came to love it.
Bertha Beitman Herzog was an active participant in local and national women’s associations in Cleveland, Ohio. From 1928 to 1930, Herzog served as the first woman president of the Jewish Welfare Federation (later the Jewish Community Federation) in Cleveland and received the Charles Eisenmann Award for outstanding community service in 1941. She helped create several local organizations for Jewish women, including the Cooperative League of Jewish Women’s Organizations of Cleveland (later the Cleveland Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations), which she chaired in 1926. Herzog presided over the local Council of Jewish Women (CJW), later the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Cleveland Section, from 1920 to 1924, and served as women’s cochair for the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
A member of the generation that came of age in the 1960s, Elizabeth Holtzman has pursued a public career epitomizing some of the most important trends in postwar American and Jewish life. In her successive roles as a congresswoman, Brooklyn district attorney, and comptroller of New York City, she emerged as an effective and activist public servant, a forceful campaigner, and a champion of liberal and feminist causes. Her career illustrates the recent empowerment of ambitious, highly motivated, professional young women and the increasing role of Jewish figures in electoral politics. In addition, she has been a dedicated Jew, with a highly regarded record of communal commitment and achievement.
A pioneer in many realms—birth control, women’s suffrage, peace activism, and envisioning a wider future for women—Aletta Henriette Jacobs was born on February 9, 1854, in the small town of Sappemeer, Netherlands, the eighth of eleven children of Abraham Jacobs, a country doctor, and Anna de Jongh. Her assimilated Jewish family maintained social and intellectual ties with other Jewish families in the area.
Kagan’s Knesset career was studded with important legislative achievements and contributions. As a member of the First Knesset she initiated deliberation in 1951 on the Law of Family and the Equality of Women, a very detailed bill dealing with the broad issues of equality of the sexes in society and in the family.
Régine Karlin’s resistance activities would alone have warranted esteem and recognition, but she did not desist from further work. Totally bilingual in French and Dutch and even polyglot, since she was also proficient in both English and Russian, she had a brilliant career as a lawyer, characterized by her militant and unwavering support of causes that she considered just.
The specifics of Madeleine May Kunin’s life, as she herself states in her autobiography, Living a Political Life (1994), hardly suggest a typical governor of Vermont: “As a feminist, an immigrant, and a Jew, I was perhaps too different from the average Vermont voter, yet it was this identity that inspired me to enter public life and shaped my values.”
Lena Levine was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 17, 1903, the youngest of seven children of Sophie and Morris Levine, Jewish emigrants from Vilna, Lithuania. Educated at Girls High School in Brooklyn, Hunter College, and Bellevue Hospital Medical College, Levine graduated in 1927, married fellow student Louis Ferber, and established a private practice in obstetrics and gynecology in Brooklyn. A daughter, Ellen Louise, was born in 1939, followed three years later by a son, Michael Allen, who developed viral encephalitis in infancy and was left severely retarded. Tragedy struck again in 1943 when Louis Ferber died of a heart attack.
As cochair of the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey made women’s health issues a priority. In the fiscal year of 1995, when the National Institutes of Health received only a three percent increase in funding, Lowey secured a seventeen percent increase in funding for breast cancer research. As a member of the Committee on Homeland Security, she works to achieve safety from terrorism for all Americans. Also serving on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Lowey is a staunch supporter of the State of Israel.
Gynecologist, professor, and family planning pioneer, Bessie Louise Moses spent a long professional life as a public health advocate and women’s health specialist.