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Community Organizing

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Pearl Bernstein Max

Pearl Bernstein Max, as the first administrative director of New York City’s Board of Higher Education, directed the staggering work of fusing four different colleges—City, Hunter, Brooklyn, and Queens—into the unified system of City University of New York (CUNY). Later, she became the founding coordinator of CUNY’s Office of Institutional Research.

Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Bessie Abramowitz devoted her life to unions, organizing her first strike at fifteen, announcing her engagement on a picket line, and continuing her efforts for workers’ rights until her death. She remained active in union activities until her death in New York City, on December 23, 1970, at age eighty-one.

Haganah

Women played many different roles in the operations of the Haganah. Though their stories are frequently excluded from the story of the Jewish paramilitary organization in British Mandate Palestine, women served as caretakers and nurses, as well as fighters and commanders.

Aliza Greenblatt

Deep love for the Jewish people informed the life of Aliza Greenblatt, an American Yiddish poet and Zionist leader in women’s organizations. Greenblatt was among the first to organize the American Jewish community and raise funds toward the establishment of a Jewish national home. Many of her poems, widely published in the Yiddish press, were also set to music.

Hadassah in the United States

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, has been the largest Zionist organization in the world, one of the largest American women’s volunteer organizations, American Jews’ largest mass-membership organization, and probably the most active Jewish women’s organization ever.

Faige Teitelbaum

When Faige Teitelbaum married Satmar rebbe Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum in 1936, she became the Satmar rebbetzin, in which capacity she was very active in charitable activities. After her husband’s death, she became the only woman in the Hasidic world to function as a de facto rebbe and leader.

Bela Szapiro

Before World War II, Lublin was one of the largest Jewish communities in Poland. Bela Szapiro’s activities contributed to making it the vibrant cultural and political center of Polish Jewry that it was.

Suburbanization in the United States

Jews migrated in large numbers to newly constructed suburbs after World War II and the end of restrictive covenants that had excluded them. During the day, suburbs were largely female spaces where married Jewish women cared for their children and private homes, while volunteering for Jewish and civic activities. Jewish daughters raised in suburbs enjoyed middle-class comforts but also experienced pressures to conform to American gentile ideals of beauty.

Rahel Straus

Rahel Goitein Straus, a pioneering woman medical doctor trained in Germany, was a model “New Jewish Woman” of the early-20th century. Successfully combining a career as a physician with marriage and motherhood, she committed herself to Jewish and feminist causes and organizations throughout her life, while also embracing Zionist ideals.

Dorothy Straus

Over the course of her life, Dorothy Straus was active as a lawyer, college lecturer, Democrat, and member of the League of Women Voters and several municipal and state government committees. Straus demonstrated a commitment to efficient, socially active government policies, especially regarding the protection and advancement of women.

Mollie Steimer

Mollie Steimer earned nationwide attention for her refusal to compromise her anarchist beliefs during the widely publicized 1918 trial in which she was sentenced to prison under the Sedition Act. Later deported to Russia and then to Germany, Steimer continued her anarchist activities throughout her life.

Hannah Marks Solomons

Hannah Marks Solomons was an influential San Francisco educator and civic worker, as well as the wife of a leading member of the Jewish community.

Roza Robota

A member of the Jewish underground in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, Roza Robota was one of the organizers of an operation to smuggle explosives for use by members of the Sonderkommando (Jewish forced-labor unit of concentration camp prisoners) in the October 7, 1944 revolt at the camp.

Lillian Rock

Lillian Rock was a pioneering twentieth-century lawyer, advocate, and organizer who fought for the advancement of women around the world.

Hortense Powdermaker

Hortense Powdermaker explored the balance of involvement and detachment necessary for participant-observer fieldwork in cultural anthropology, stressing the ability to “step in and out of society.” Her secular Jewish identity was apparently a factor in learning this skill, exemplified in an academic career that included thirty years of college teaching and the writing of five major books based on widely diverse fieldwork studies.

Madeleine May Kunin

Madeline Kunin broke ground as the first woman governor of Vermont and the only woman to serve three terms as governor, before making history again as ambassador to Switzerland and facilitating compensation from Swiss banks to Holocaust survivors.

Anna Kuliscioff

Born in Russia but educated in Switzerland, Anna Kuliscioff became one of the key figures in Italy’s early socialist movement and was a feminist advocate who concentrated on poor women’s issues. In her later life, she helped publish a socialist periodical and hosted a prominent salon, often with her partner Filippo Turati.

Rebekah Bettelheim Kohut

Rebekah Bettelheim Kohut made her mark on the American Jewish community in the areas of education, social welfare, and the organization of Jewish women. Grounded in her Jewish identity as the daughter and wife of rabbis, Kohut had a public career that paralleled the beginnings of Jewish women’s activism in the United States.

Irene Caroline Diner Koenigsberger

A distinguished chemist credited with discovering the molecular structure of rubber, Irene Caroline Koenigsberger refused to patent her work, making her discovery available to all. She was also an important figure in the Washington, D.C. Jewish community, cofounding Temple Sinai and the B’nai B’rith Hillel at George Washington University.

Chajka Klinger

Chajka Klinger, a member of Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir, was active in the resistance against the Nazis in Bedzin and Warsaw. Her mission was to live, so that she could keep the flame and memory of resistance alive. Her diaries were the first written evidence about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising to escape Nazi Europe.

Reizia Cohen Klingberg

Reizia Cohen Klingberg began her career as a teacher, but when she began hearing reports of deportations and disappearances, she returned to occupied Krakow in 1942 and joined the ghetto’s underground movement. The group stole and smuggled weapons and attacked German officers. Despite being betrayed, arrested, and deported, Klingberg survived to be liberated by American soldiers at Auschwitz and subsequently moved to Palestine.

Vitka Kempner-Kovner

Vita Kempner-Kovner was a heroic fighter on the front lines of the underground resistance to the Nazis.

Kashariyot (Couriers) in the Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

Kashariyot were young women who traveled on illegal missions for the Jewish resistance in German-occupied Eastern Europe during the Holocaust. They smuggled goods, news, and other Jews in and out of the ghettos of Poland, Lithuania, and parts of Russia. While those who fought the Germans within the ghettos are often most celebrated for their heroism, kashariyot were essential in the survival of Jews within ghettos.

Rahel Katznelson

A thinker and teacher, Rahel Katznelson was one of the early activists in the Labor Movement and Mo’ezet ha-Po’alot in the Yishuv and Israel. She contributed greatly to the country’s emerging cultural life, laying stress on women’s participation within it.

Hannah Karminski

During the mid-1920s and the 1930s in Germany, Hannah Karminski served as secretary of the League of Jewish Women and, from 1924 to 1938, as editor of its newsletter. After the forced liquidation of the League in 1938, Karminski remained in Germany and continued her work in the Reich Association of Jews in Germany, assisting with the kindertransports and welfare. She was deported to Auschwitz and murdered in 1942.

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