Civil Rights

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Synagogue Sanctuary

Is the shul a place for political activism?

Kate Bigam

I spent last Friday night celebrating Shabbat at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Mass., a Reform synagogue I’d never before visited. I was in awe of the chapel’s breathtaking, brightly colored stained glass windows, and I was fascinated by Rabbi John Franken’s take on Parshat M’tzora, which drew unexpected parallels between, of all things, skin diseases and marketing (all with a Jewish bent, of course). But it was a bright green insert in the Friday night program that struck me most.

Adele Landau Starr, 1916 - 2007

She had a strong sense of what was ethical and right; she didn’t just talk about it, she took action.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Gertrude Weil

Leah Berkenwald

Gertrude Weil was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina in 1879. Her father, an immigrant from Germany, was among the business and civic leaders of the community. At the age of 15, she was sent to Horace Mann High School in New York City. She went on to Smith College, where, in 1901, she became the first graduate from North Carolina.

Top 10 Jewish Women in Labor History

10 Things You Should Know About Lillian Wald

Leah Berkenwald

Lillian Wald was born in Cincinnati, OH in 1867. Like many German Jews, her parents had emigrated from Europe soon after the revolutions of 1848. Her father, an optical goods dealer, moved his family to Rochester, NY in 1878. The Walds valued culture as well as formal education. Lillian remembered her parents’ home as a place overflowing with books. She went to a school in Rochester that taught in French as well as English.

Sophie Gerson, 1910 - 2006

In her later years, Sophie was a tireless activist with the National Council of Senior Citizens, fighting for universal health care and defense of Social Security. A woman of charm and passion, she developed ties with a range of local activists, including nuns and other local Catholics.

Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963

MLK and the Civil Rights Movement: Doing it Justice

Judith Rosenbaum

When I say "Martin Luther King, Jr." what comes to mind? I would bet you see him standing at the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking a sea of people on the Washington Mall, and hear the evocative words of his "I have a dream" speech. I understand why King's speech at the March on Washington in August 1963 has come to represent his life's work and his legacy, and why the moment is celebrated as the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Evelyn Dubrow, 1911 - 2006

Ninety-five years was not long enough for us to enjoy [her] passion, wit, commitment to justice, and love of life.

Reality check: Wage gap for Jewish professionals worse than national average

Kate Bigam

Much to the dismay of a number of Jewish organizations, the Senate neglected to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act last month, effectively shelving it for the foreseeable future. The bill, which would have augmented current civil rights law to protect against sex-based pay discrimination, had received broad support from civil rights and women’s rights groups but faced opposition from business organizations, whose members said it would be both difficult and expensive to enforce.

March on Washington Button, 1963

MLK through a new lens

Judith Rosenbaum

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides the Jewish community with a unique and multifaceted opportunity each year: it's a chance to turn our communal attention from its inward focus to a more outward-directed perspective. A chance to connect with our African-American neighbors. A chance to celebrate the man who still looms large as a model of religiously-inspired leadership. A chance to recall with pride a time when many Jews stood up for the rights of all people, black or white.

Heather Booth and Fannie Lou Hamer, 1964

"Living the Legacy" sets the record straight

Elana Sztokman

I was sitting in a meeting about a pilot project on gender in Jewish education a few years ago when a male colleague interrupted to proudly announce the release of his new book, a compilation of essays that he edited about Jewish education in North America. Naturally, I flipped through the hot-off-the-presses volume and searched for women writers. To my surprise, there was not even one. I asked the man why there were no women among the fifteen or so authors.

Living the Legacy: a student perspective

Leah Berkenwald

As the word spreads about Living the Legacy, JWA's new social justice curriculum about Jews and the Civil Rights Movement, it's exciting and gratifying to read testimonials from educators and other interested parties. It's a rare honor, however, to receive a review from a student. Dina Lamdany is a senior at a Jewish day school in Washington D.C. She blogs about Jewish feminism at fromtherib? and is a regular contributor to Jewesses with Attitude.

Rhonda Copelon, 1944 - 2010

Rhonda Copelon often worked behind the scenes, but her finger prints, or perhaps I should say brain waves, are all over many of the most important breakthroughs in progressive feminist advances both in the United States and globally.

Lani Silver, 1948 - 2009

She liked to tell me that she started out in life as conservative but that she did a full political turn when she traveled to South Africa at l9 and observed first hand the awful effect of apartheid. When she returned to San Francisco, she became active in the Jewish community and with liberal and social justice causes and campaigns.

Miriam Friedlander, 1914 - 2009

She was an inspiration to many of us as an activist and someone who challenged the powers that be ... And I think many of us saw her as a role model: There weren't a lot of women in office – she was there and she had a great fighting spirit.

Maxine Feldman, 1945 - 2007

Never content to play only gay spaces, she would perform 'any place that would have her.' She loved being a bridge, helping others to gain confidence and find the resources they needed.

Selma Waldman, 1931 - 2008

Waldman's activism manifested itself in her Jewish identity... She believed that the experience Jews had had in the world gave a very powerful link to work for tikkun olam, for social justice and peace, and fighting oppression. Though she considered herself a secular humanist and never belonged to a synagogue, she had a very strong network in the grassroots of the Jewish community and really believed in the power and beauty of Jewish culture and experience.

Beatrice Holtzman Schneiderman, 1904 - 1996

Her courage was more than physical: she had the courage of her convictions. Passionate about social justice, she did not stand on the sidelines. If a cause mattered to her, she dove in wholeheartedly, attending rallies, volunteering for Board service, arranging meetings, and organizing fundraisers.

Polly Spiegel Cowan, 1913 - 1976

The legacy that my mother left went beyond the immediate family. She was part of a great movement that profoundly changed American society. On a personal level, the legacy of her commitment inspired the succeeding generations of our own family. We, her children and grandchildren, remain committed to the beliefs of prophetic Judaism: to help the poor and the needy and to seek justice.

Dorothy Ray Healey, 1914 - 2006

…Her ability to see the potential in every person and to help translate that potential towards reality – through teaching and shared organizing; through coaxing and prodding towards action; but mostly, through the most respectful and honest listening one could ever encounter – had enormous political ramifications.

Carolyn Goodman, 1915 - 2007

On various occasions Carolyn met with young people, urged them to take on world challenges, ran essay contests for them and celebrated the winners enthusiastically, spoke in different settings about the importance of supporting the next generation and encouraging them to be involved in healing the world.

The Sisterhood reviews "Living the Legacy"

Renee Ghert-Zand

Renee Ghert-Zand, a regular contributor to The Sisterhood, raves about Living the Legacy.

When we think of Jews who played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, names like Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel immediately come to mind. Few of us would name Judith Frieze Wright, Heather Tobis Booth or Beatrice “Buddy” Mayer. A free, new online curriculum called “Living the Legacy,” written by Judith Rosenbaum and published by Jewish Women’s Archive is attempting to change that — by shedding light on Jews and the Civil Rights Movement through a distinctly feminist lens.

Living the Legacy: a new take on Jews and the Civil Rights Movement

Judith Rosenbaum

As soon as I begin talking about the history of Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, a few names immediately come up in conversation: Abraham Joshua Heschel. Micky Schwerner.

Topics: Civil Rights

Blogging the Institute: The Freedom Riders

Gwen

Monday night as part of the JWA Summer Institute for Educators, we saw a sneak preview of a newly made documentary, The Freedom Riders, which tells the story of the group of black and white young people, who rode south on two buses to deliberately break the segregation laws.

Blogging the Institute: Tuesday Lunchtime Reflections

Leah Berkenwald

This morning, JWA Institute for Educators participants discussed one of the lesson plans from JWA's forthcoming online curriculum, Living the Legacy, in depth. They also got to explore the online platform for the curriculum and contribute their input on the design and functionality of the website.

At lunch, I caught up with the "outdoor" crowd to capture some reflections.

Blogging the Institute: Monday Lunchtime Reflections

Leah Berkenwald

I am beyond excited to be able to observe JWA's 2010 Institute for Educators. This morning we listened to two fascinating presentations. The day began with an interactive talk with Debra Schultz, author of Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement, followed by an introduction to using primary sources by Deborah Cunningham and Susan Zeiger of Primary Source.

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