Activism

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Collection

Cecilia Razovsky

Cecilia Razovsky was a remarkably active woman who spent her life striving to assist immigrants in adapting to life in the United States and other countries.

Puah: Midrash and Aggadah

Puah was one of the two Hebrew midwives (Shiphrah and Puah) who delivered the children of the Israelites during the Egyptian servitude. The Torah chronicles (Ex. 1:15–21) that they disobeyed Pharaoh’s command and did not kill the Israelite male newborn. Apart from this brave act, the midwives are not mentioned elsewhere in the Exodus narratives, nor in the entire Bible. The Rabbis identify the midwives with various Biblical heroines, thereby transforming them from secondary characters to central, fully developed figures whose annals spread over additional chapters of the Torah.

Project Kesher

Project Kesher is a feminist Jewish organization empowering women in the Independent States of the former Soviet Union (FSU) to build a society in which inclusive Jewish life can flourish, and where women are the instruments of peaceful change.

Puah: Bible

The first chapter of Exodus relates that, as the Israelites in Egypt begin to proliferate following the death of Joseph, the Egyptian king seeks to curb the Israelite population lest its numbers threaten the security of Egypt in time of war. When enslavement of the Israelites fails to achieve Pharaoh’s goal, he commands the Hebrew midwives, of whom only two are known by name—Shiphrah and Puah—to kill at birth all the male Hebrews, but to permit the females to live. Since, however, the midwives stand in awe of God, they violate Pharaoh’s command and permit the boys to live.

Peace Movement in the United States

Throughout the twentieth century, Jewish women have played a major role in American peace organizations and movements.

Belle Moskowitz

Belle Moskowitz’s career is unique in American politics. After two decades as a settlement worker, social and civic reformer, and labor mediator, in the early 1920s she became one of New York governor Alfred E. Smith’s closest advisers.

Alice Davis Menken

Alice Davis Menken stood at the forefront of what her New York Times obituary calls “the evolution of penology from an attitude of sentimentality and punishment to the broader conception of mercy and rehabilitation.” Her many published works argued that therapy, not punishment, was the most effective treatment for young offenders.

Lenore Guinzburg Marshall

Lenore Guinzburg Marshall, novelist, poet, and activist, was born in New York City on September 7, 1897. She was the daughter of Harry and Leonie (Kleinert) Guinzburg. A student at Barnard College, class of 1919, where she was an editor of the monthly literary magazine The Bear, and a member of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, Lenore was described in her class yearbook with the following verse: “Our manner toward her’s friendly / and even rather gracious, / For no one slings / Such odes and things / As does our lauriger Horatius.”

Lillian Hellman

Lillian Hellman was born on June 20, 1905, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her parents, Max and Julia (Newhouse) Hellman, were both German-American Jews. Her mother’s family was wealthy and later became the models (though stripped of Jewish identity) for Hellman’s most famous creations, the Hubbards, in her two plays The Little Foxes and Another Part of the Forest. Max Hellman’s sisters Hannah and Jenny were similarly the basis for the central characters in one of Hellman’s last plays, Toys in the Attic.

Dame Miriam Rothschild

Born on August 5, 1908 in Ashton, Northamptonshire, Miriam Louisa Rothschild was the first child of the Honorable (Nathaniel) Charles Rothschild (1877–1923) and Roszika von Werthemstein (1870–1940). Dame Miriam was a world authority on fleas, a pioneer of the organic movement and an ardent campaigner for the protection of animals and wildlife conservation.

Esther Leah Medalie Ritz

A civic leader par excellence, Esther Leah Ritz directed and supported numerous local, national and international organizations and causes, ranging from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation to the Democratic Party to Middle East peace efforts, and including hundreds of programs to protect the rights of the disenfranchised.

Luise Rainer

Luise Rainer— whose ninety-five years have spanned everything from Jewish refugee to glamorous Hollywood star—is an inspiring reminder that it’s never too late to return for the “second act.”

Peace Movements in Israel

After twenty years of activity, the women’s peace movement in Israeli has expanded and become a major actor in the Israeli public sphere.

Dorothy Rothschild Parker

Dorothy Rothschild Parker became a staff writer at Vanity Fair magazine, and quickly distinguished herself there with her cutting and well-turned humor.Parker’s stories, like her poetry, resonate with heartache and disenchantment, and reflect her obsessions: incessant alcohol consumption, spoiled romance, social injustice, and the follies of the rich.

Yocheved [Judith] Herschlag Muffs

During much of her tenure (1964–1990) at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Judith Herschlag Muffs worked with major book publishers to correct inaccuracies in their accounts of Jews and Judaism. Stressing accuracy and objectivity, she succeeded in modifying dozens of textbooks and reference books.

Irma May

Irma May was a pioneer in American Jewish philanthropy. Her reports from Eastern Europe motivated social action, while her political and speaking skills moved both the New York and larger Jewish community.

Lucy Fox Robins Lang

A committed anarchist by age fifteen, Lucy Fox Robins Lang participated actively in the labor and free speech movements of early twentieth-century America. She directed regional and national committees in support of persecuted anarchists, antiwar activists, and labor organizers, while earning her livelihood as a printer, waitress, vegetarian restaurant owner, and real estate broker. Eventually, she moved into the mainstream of the labor movement, becoming an adviser to and confidante of Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Although her focus shifted, the impulse behind Lang’s work remained constant.

Rose Kushner

Born on June 22, 1929, in East Baltimore, MD, Rose Kushner was the fourth and last child of Israel and Fannie Rehert. Her parents, both Eastern European immigrants, died by the time she was ten, and Rose went to live in the house of her aunt Golde. She was raised speaking Yiddish at home, and attended Hebrew School as well as classes at the Workmen’s Circle. Rose was an eager, bright student and hoped to attend college and ultimately become a physician, but since her older brothers were not willing to pay for her tuition, she went to work after graduating from high school. After briefly holding several office jobs, she became the assistant to animal behaviorist Dr. Horsley Gantt (1892–1980) at the Pavlovian Laboratory of Johns Hopkins Medical School, where she worked from 1947 until 1951.

Italy, Modern

The history of Italian Jews in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is essentially a story of social integration and embourgeoisement, with the exception of the years of Fascism, the racial laws (1938) and World War II. In Italy, each pre-unification state had a particular relation to its Jewish population, reflecting the strong regional differences that in many ways were maintained even after political unification in 1860.Even if the different realities of Italian Jewry were shaped by the history and the socio-cultural context in which they lived, some elements—such as the high degree of literacy among Jewish women and men—distinguished the Italian Jewish population in general. This literacy, which characterised nearly all Italian communities, with the exception of Rome, remained an advantage over the gentile population long after the barriers of the ghetto were pulled down.

Emma Goldman

Never knowing whether a locked door or an arrest by the police would greet her at a lecture hall, Goldman dauntlessly continued to speak on the variants of freedom encompassed in her anarchist vision.

Mire Gola

At the age of seventeen Mire Gola was elected to the main Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir leadership in Galicia and moved to Lvov, where the leadership was located.In 1932 she was expelled from Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir because of her radical stand on relations with the Soviet Union.At this time she began to be active in the Communist Party.

Elizabeth Glaser

Elizabeth Glaser made a significant contribution to the littlest AIDS victims. Mobilized to save her own HIV-infected children, Glaser founded the Pediatric AIDS Foundation (PAF) in 1988, which to date has raised more than $50 million.

Therese Giehse

Therese Giehse, who was far from possessing contemporary ideals of beauty, pursued her desire to be an actress with diligence and dedication.

Recha Freier

By founding the Youth Lit. "ascent." A "calling up" to the Torah during its reading in the synagogue.Aliyah (Jugend-Alijah) in Berlin, Germany in 1932, Recha Freier saved thousands of Jewish lives. She was a multi-talented woman, a poet and musician, a teacher and social activist. However, in most accounts of the Holocaust she has either been underestimated or totally unacknowledged.

Ruth First

Ruth First was a prolific writer and her penetrating investigative journalism exposed many of the harsh conditions under which the majority of South Africans lived. As various restrictions prevented her from continuing her work as a journalist Ruth First became more and more involved with the underground movement that was changing its tactics from protest to sabotage.

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