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Activism

National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods

In 1913, the women of Reform Judaism, who were organized in independent, local synagogue sisterhoods founded in the 1890s and 1900s, united to create a national organization of women dedicated to religion. Reform Jewish women joined the American women of the era who established a host of voluntary associations to further various social and communal agendas.

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.

Annie Nathan Meyer

Annie Nathan Meyer promoted women’s higher education; chronicled women’s work; dramatized women’s status in plays, novels, and short stories; raised funds for Jewish and black students; wrote hundreds of letters to the editor; published art, drama, and music criticism; and championed physical activity and the outdoors.

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.

Adah Isaacs Menken

Internationally famous for her starring role in the equestrian melodrama Mazeppa, in which she was stripped on stage to a flesh-colored body stocking, lashed to the back of the “wild horse of Tartary,” and sent flying on a narrow ramp above the theater, Adah Isaacs Menken consistently defied social mores.

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.”

Pearl Bernstein Max

An administrator and civic activist, Pearl Bernstein Max was born in New York City on September 2, 1904, the daughter of a silk manufacturer, and grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood at 116th Street and Seventh Avenue.

Lilith

Until the late twentieth century the demon Lilith, Adam’s first wife, had a fearsome reputation as a kidnapper and murderer of children and seducer of men. Only with the advent of the feminist movement in the 1960s did she acquire her present high status as the model for independent women. The feminist theologian judith plaskow’s [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:357]midrash[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] on the story of Lilith played a key role in transforming Lilith from a demon to a role model. As an individual Lilith is first known from the Alphabet of Ben Sira, a provocative and often misogynist satirical Hebrew work of the eighth century c.e., but the liliths as a category of demons, along with the male lilis, have existed for several thousand years.

Minnie Low

Known as the “Jane Addams of the Jews,” Minnie Low was a leader in the Jewish social service community. Born in New York City, on November 9, 1867, Low was the second of six children. When she was ten, Low’s family moved to Chicago, where she completed grammar school. Unfortunately, she was forced to leave South Division High School during her first year due to poor health.

Nita M. Lowey

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.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Activism." (Viewed on January 16, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/activism>.

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