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Community Organizing

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Florence Dolowitz

Florence Dolowitz both cofounded the Women’s American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation and Training) and helped lead the organization for decades.

Communism in the United States

From the 1920s into the 1950s, the Communist Party USA was the most dynamic sector of the American left, and Jewish women—especially Yiddish-speaking immigrants and their American-born daughters—were a major force within the party and its affiliated organizations. Their numbers included community organizers, labor activists, students, artists and intellectuals. When the communist movement faded in the 1950s, these women carried radical traditions into new movements for social justice and international cooperation.

Rosalie Cohen

A lifelong Zionist, Rosalie Cohen worked to promote Jewish culture and education both on a national level and locally in New Orleans. Cohen’s talents as a leader and organizer, as well as her gracious southern manners, were key assets in overcoming the obstacles she faced as a Zionist in a southern city and as a woman in a predominantly male Jewish national arena.

Women in the Bund

Jewish women played leading roles in the formative years of the General Jewish Workers’ Bund, which was established in the Tsarist Empire in 1897, and initially participated in the movement in large numbers. However, the Bund had somewhat less success in mobilizing women in independent Poland between the two world wars than it had during the Tsarist era.

Jeanette Goodman Brill

As the first woman magistrate in Brooklyn and the second in New York, Jeanette Goodman Brill believed women had an aptitude and responsibility to judge cases involving women and children.

Barbara Boxer

Elected to the Senate in 1993, Barbara Boxer earned a reputation as a powerful voice for liberal causes by leading the charge on issues like sexual harassment, the Iraq War, and marriage equality. Boxer served on the Senate committees for science and technology and the environment, among others, and retired in 2017.

Rose Brenner

As president of the National Council of Jewish Women, Rose Brenner focused on inclusion of people who were often marginalized—the deaf, the blind, and those isolated in rural areas.

B'nai B'rith Women

Created at the beginning of the twentieth century, B’nai B’rith Women expanded its role during both World Wars. Although gender roles after World War II reverted to a more conventional structure, in the 1960s BBW shifted its efforts to reflect the antipoverty and feminist campaigns of the period.

Rebecca Thurman Bernstein

Rebecca Thurman Bernstein was lauded by local and national organizations for her efforts to improve health care, literacy, and Jewish life in Portland, Maine. Bernstein was proud of her Jewish heritage and worked for many Jewish causes, but her interests were not limited to or by her Jewishness.

Beatrice Berler

Beatrice Berler was an award-winning translator of Spanish-language novels and history and a renowned community activist. She worked in women’s fashion for over twenty years before returning to school at the age of forty-five, eventually becoming nationally recognized as a literacy activist.

Matilde Bassani Finzi

Matilde Bassani Finzi was an active Italian anti-fascist who relentlessly fought the injustices of Mussolini and the Nazis. She continuously worked towards the ideals in which she believed: freedom, democracy, and equality for women.

Jennie Loitman Barron

In her long career as a lawyer and a judge and in her lifelong work for women’s rights, Jennie Loitman Barron set many precedents for women in Massachusetts and across the United States.

Lizzie Spiegel Barbe

Lizzie Spiegel Barbe, a member of a prominent Chicago family, devoted more than fifty years of her life to being a clubwoman and leader within the Chicago Jewish community. Like other “Jewish Clubwomen” of this era, Barbe was motivated to establish leadership roles for women that had previous not existed within the organized Jewish community.

Assimilation in the United States: Nineteenth Century

Female German Jewish immigrants were uniquely impacted by both their gender and class during the process of their assimilation to American life. They began participating in voluntary social work, which secularized over time, reflecting the women’s increased sense of personal autonomy. Through their work, German Jewish women immigrants preserved Jewish tradition and expanded their roles beyond the home.

Associazione Donne Ebree D'Italia (ADEI)

The Association of Italian Jewish Women, or ADEI, was founded in 1927 in the city of Milan, Italy, home to the second largest Jewish community in the country.

Dora Askowith

Dora Askowith, author, historian, and college educator, believed that a knowledge of Jewish women’s history would serve as a catalyst for organization, activism, and moral leadership. She taught women at Hunter College for a total of forty-five years and wrote that she was anxious to teach college students Jewish history because they were “poorly versed in the history of their own faith.”

Anarchists, American Jewish Women

The anarchist movement was based on a struggle against the tyranny of capitalism, on social equality and individual liberty, and on the promotion of positive communitarian ideals. American Jewish women were at the forefront of this movement and were active participants in labor organization.

Shulamit Aloni

Shulamit Aloni, Member of the Knesset and Minister, was an important champion of human rights, civil rights, religious freedom, and the Palestinian right to self-determination. As founder and head of the Ratz and then Meretz party, she spearheaded progressive politics in Israel both on the formal level and in civil society for over half a century.

Ray Alexander (Simons)

Ray Alexander began her involvement in communist and trade unionist organizations as a child in Latvia. After moving to South Africa as a teen, Alexander became a prominent organizer for several trade unions and faced banning and harassment from the government for her activism. She continued advocating for women’s rights, worker’s rights, and racial equality throughout her life.

Anna Marks Allen

Anna Marks Allen was part of a group of Philadelphia Jewish women who established and ran the first independent Jewish charitable societies in the United States. At a time when congregational Jewish life was restricted to men, Jewish women of Allen’s social status increasingly turned towards philanthropy as a way to participate in the public life of the Jewish community.

Helen Goldmark Adler

Helen Goldmark Adler is remembered for her philanthropic achievements and her marriage to Felix Adler, philosopher and founder of the Ethical Culture Movement. In turn-of-the-century New York, Adler penned articles, established a free kindergarten for children with working-class parents, and founded an organization focused on the science of child-rearing.

Election Activism with RI’s Margie Klein

Jordan Namerow

We're really coming down the home stretch of the 2008 election campaign ... I can't believe that election day is less than one week away!  As many of us gear up to get to the polls (or send in our absentee ballots), Margie Klein -- activist, community organizer, and co-leader of the Righteous Indignation project -- is mobilizing young Jews across the U.S. to ensure that voter turnout is a record high.

"At Home in Utopia": An Interview with Filmmaker Michal Goldman


Filmmaker Michal Goldman's At Home in Utopia is a new documentary that traces the history of these "Bronx utopias," focusing on the United Workers Cooperative Colony, or simply "The Coops."

An urban activist

Judith Rosenbaum

When Jane Jacobs died earlier this year, we heard a lot about her urban activism to save neighborhoods from the destruction of a proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway. (We at JWA, by the way, learned as we researched a memorial piece on Jacobs that, contrary to popular belief, she was not Jewish). Friday’s Forward has a great article about a woman named Lillian Edelstein, whose own urban activism preceded Jacobs’.


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