At the turn of the twentieth century, Jewish women in the United States participated vigorously in virtually all the era’s mass social movements, including the suffrage movement. Although individual American Jewish women had supported suffrage since the movement’s beginning in the mid-1800s, its revitalization during the 1890s—just when the American Jewish population was growing tremendously due to mass migration from eastern Europe—brought ever-increasing numbers of Jewish women (and many men) of all class, ethnic, national, and religious backgrounds to the cause.
Rich once said, “In a time of frontal assaults both on language and on human solidarity, poetry can remind us of all we are in danger of losing–disturb us, embolden us out of resignation.” In other words, poetry has the power to express the things that unite us all as humans and can inspire us to work together toward a common goal.
I feel as if I won the lottery by being born Jewish, as so many of my most cherished memories and values are inherently tied to this part of my identity. As proud as I am of my Jewish identity, I’ve always been troubled by one of the fundamental ideas in Judaism: that Jews are “the chosen people.”
Abzug is an exemplar of what it means to be an intersectional feminist. She used her power and privilege to advocate for those she described as “on the outside of power.” Being a Jew herself, she was familiar with identity-based oppression, and because of that she knew she had to use her power to help fight for others.
An unexpected champion for women’s rights in post-war Japan, Austrian born Beate Sirota Gordon was an inspiring intersectional feminist. At age of 22, and fresh out of college with a degree in modern languages, Gordon, along with a small team of Americans, was responsible for writing Japan’s constitution in the aftermath of World War II.
“Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana!” That’s just one of the many unique jingles enthusiastically sung by none other than the ultimate feminist, Jewess, and queen: Ilana Wexler. Wexler, the fictional character from Comedy Central’s hit series Broad City, embodies every aspect of what it means to be a badass, world-changing, intersectional feminist.
Shirley Adelson Siegel is proof that Judaism isn’t something that has to hold me back from being a good feminist or activist. On the contrary, Judaism can be the force that propels me forward and pushes me to be a better person. Judaism has taught me to love my neighbor as I love myself, to not speak ill of others, and to take care of people who need help, all of which are things that make me a better person and a better feminist.
Beck’s acknowledgment that Jewish lesbians had a unique struggle for acceptance and belonging in the feminist, lesbian, and Jewish communities was a radical move. She fought for more recognition and validation by feminist activists and lesbian activists, who she felt did not take her work seriously.