Content type

Jewish Women in Screendance

Jewish women made overwhelming contributions to the creation of the field of Screendance.  Maya Deren, Amy Greenfield, Anna Halprin, Yvonne Rainer, Meredith Monk, and others have created a legacy of socially conscious dance for the screen that collectively exhibits and performs principles of Jewish ritual and practice. Many of these artists share a focus on social justice and a collective approach to what might be called a feminist Jewish art form.

Jewish Women and Israeli Dance in Brazil

In various parts of Brazil, women have taken on important roles for the Israeli dance establishment as a sociocultural practice within their Jewish communities. The text presents the names of some pioneer women in this process and other ones that have been preserving this traditional Jewish expression of dance for years.

Liz Lerman

A dancer, choreographer, educator, writer, and collaborator, Liz Lerman is among the dance field’s prominent public intellectuals, bringing deeply researched ideas about dance and community across fields as diverse as genetics, history, ethics of justice and reconciliation, and the science and religion of the origins of the universe. She draws consciously on the Jewish value of tikkun olam—healing the world—in her work.

Noami Leaf Halpern performing with a basket on her head

From the Archive: Photograph of Dancer Noami Leaf Halpern

Carole Renard

The Yiddish Book Center shares a photo of dancer Noami Leaf Halpern from their archive.

Topics: Dance

Dance in Mexico

Jewish women in Mexico have undertaken numerous activities in dance. They have made inroads in amateur and professional spaces within and outside their community and made contributions to the performance, creation, education, promotion, and research of several forms of dance and body techniques, all of which often involved breaking through barriers imposed by their communities.

Wendy Perron

Wendy Perron is a dance writer, educator, teacher, performer, and choreographer. Across her thirteen-year tenure at Dance Magazine, Perron contributed nearly 1,000 individual pieces of dance journalism.

Jewish Women Dance Educators and Writers

As in modern dance performance, a disproportionate number of American Jewish women have specialized in dance education and writers, with a longstanding interest in analyzing dance and establishing its place within academic artistic disciplines.

Jewish Women and Ballet in the United States

While fewer Jewish women went into ballet than into modern dance, those interested in ballet studied with gentile classical teacher-choreographers, such as Mikhai Fokine, Michael Mordkin, and Adolf Bolm. They performed in the main ballet companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, and even Radio City Music Hall’s ballet company.

Ze'eva Cohen

Ze’eva Cohen is a Yemenite-Israeli-American dancer and choreographer who redefined what it means to be a Jewish performer. She was a leader in the world of postmodern dance in New York between the 1960s and 1990s, a founding member of Dance Theater Workshop, and founding director of the dance program at Princeton University. She choreographed for companies all over the world, performed in the work of countless contemporary choreographers, published articles in English and Hebrew, and influenced generations of dance students.

Hester Martinez

Hester Rose Martínez Nardea is a Mexican dancer, teacher, choreographer, director, promoter, and administrator. She is currently the director of the International Festival of Extremadura Dance-Contemporary Language and is the founding director of WIROMA Circle Dances.

Cecilia Baram

Cecilia Baram is one of the few Jewish women who became a professional dancer in Mexico between the 1950s and the 1980s. She lives in Mexico City, where she had a brilliant career in nationalist modern dance performing with government-sponsored companies, as well in contemporary dance performing with independent companies.

Ballerina stretching

Seamstresses, Shop Girls... and Ballet Dancers?

Melissa R. Klapper

Ballet is not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of early-twentieth century Jewish American life. And yet...

Topics: Dance
Lila Zinner at Consecration

Growing Up Jewish

Lila Zinner

I made the decision to continue Hebrew school after seventh grade when my friends informed me that they signed up because it “sounded fun.” That decision, although not well thought out, was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

Tanya Segal

As the first full-time female rabbi in Poland, Tanya Segal has creatively transformed Jewish life in the historic city of Krakow, the site of previous revolutions in Jewish thought and practice.

Gurit Kadman

Gurit Kadman earned fame as a pioneer of Israeli folk dancing. Born Gertrude Lowenstein, Kadman joined the Wandervogel, a youth movement that focused on German folk culture.

Irina Jacobson

Hailed as one of the great Soviet ballerinas, Irina Pevzner Jacobson followed her dance career by becoming the authority on staging nineteenth- and twentieth-century Romantic and Classical ballets.

Hilde Holger

Hilde Sofer Holger’s choreography incorporated her interest in religion, politics, and the natural world, and provoked important discussions about the role of dance in the public sphere.

Hanna Stiebel

Hanna Nosovsky Stiebel used her background in dance to create graceful, dynamic outdoor sculpture installations.
Performance of Elizabeth Swados' "Sosua" at the United Nations General Assembly

Dare to Dance Together: 1940, 2011, and Today

Eliana Gayle-Schneider

Tony nominated playwright Elizabeth Swados raised our consciousness; she opened our eyes and dared us all to dance. Swados gave much to the world: theater, the gift of herself, one who constantly seeks truth and justice, and a strong female leader. Liz Swados also impacted my life in a very personal way- she taught me the meaning of community. 

Topics: Holocaust, Dance, Theater

Rosa Eskenazi

Noted singer Roza Eskenazi enjoyed a second flowering of her career when Greek youth began a revival of traditional music in the 1970s.

Liz Lerman

Hailed by the New York Times as “One of the most articulate and compassionate of social commentators in the arts today,” choreographer Liz Lerman has drawn inspiration from such unlikely sources as the US defense budget and a Department of Energy report on nuclear waste.

Oshra Elkayam-Ronen

One of the most important choreographers of Israeli movement theater, Oshra Elkayam-Ronen distinguished herself by approaching stories from unusual angles, such as a feminist retelling of the story of Adam and Eve.

Yardena Cohen

Incorporating biblical themes and Sephardic music into her dances, Yardena Cohen helped create a uniquely Israeli artistic culture.

Lonnie Zarum Schaffer

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Lonnie Zarum Schaffer stepped up to lead her struggling Modern Orthodox synagogue, Anshe Sfard, rebuild themselves even better than before.

Deborah Bertonoff

From her debut at age nine through her performances in her late seventies and teaching into her late eighties, Deborah Bertonoff made dance her life’s work.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox