Jewish History

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Collection
Sheryl Sandberg with Option B

Finding Strength From Our Foremothers

by Sheryl Sandberg

Like many Americans, I owe an enormous debt to my ancestors who traveled here in search of a better life. Their courage created my family’s future. And in particular, I feel a special bond to the long line of women, stretching back generations, whose boldness and sacrifices made my life possible. 

Medical Care at the Fresh Air Camp

From the Archives: Who Will Tell Your Story?

by Robbie Terman

The lyrics caught my attention. It was a quiet day in the archive and a volunteer asked if she could play the Hamilton soundtrack. As a history buff, I’ve been fascinated by the musical since it hit Broadway. But on this day, it was one song in particular that spoke to me: “Who lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”

Topics: Jewish History
Cropped Rokhl Holzer

Feminists For Halloween

by Emily Cataneo

These days, “witch” is no longer just the epithet you hurl at, say, an older female candidate for president; the fed-up feminist sector of our popular culture is proudly claiming it for its own.

Susan Goodman Headshot

Acting Our Age with Susan Goodman

by Abby Richmond

While her life’s work is a testament to her commitment to helping people grow older with dignity, respect, and independence, Susan Goodman’s latest project is remarkable in both its scope and specificity. Currently, in order to be interviewed on Susan’s blog Acting Our Age, you must be a woman 85 or older.

Henrietta Szold and Julia Aronson Travel to Palestine aboard the Guiseppe Verdi, 1920

Make America Great Again

by Emily Cataneo

I love the past. I have not one but three typewriters. I had a penchant for corsets in high school and now will dress as a flapper any chance I get. I can’t stop reading about the Romanovs, or about 1920s Berlin when life was a cabaret, or about those secretly tawdry Victorians.

MRA-Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony's Secret Pro-Life Agenda

by Emily Cataneo

Did you know that Susan B. Anthony was a bomb-throwing pro-life crusader who believed that aborting babies was tantamount to murder?

Topics: Jewish History
Emma Goldman Mug Shot, 1901

Every Emma Needs Her Sidekick

by Emily Cataneo

Despite how it may seem, activists like Emma Goldman do not manifest from thin air in times of turmoil to fight the good fight. Their activities and missions take coordination, planning, behind-the-scenes work, the kind of thankless logistical tasks that don't make for good stories.

Topics: Jewish History
Mrs. Sidney Allen

From the Archives: The Challenge of Identification

by Robbie Terman

I recently received a research request for a photograph of a woman named Gertrude Glogower. At the time, the only thing I knew about her was that she was a past president of the Greater Detroit section of the National Council for Jewish Woman, whose records we hold.

Hanukkah Bush

The Hidden History of Hanukkah

by Tess Kelly

We all know the story. The courageous Maccabees, the oil that lasted for a miraculous eight nights. We all know the branded fable, the great tale of Hanukkah that has been recited again and again in synagogues and religious schools forever. But it isn’t the whole story. 

Writing Home: A Letter from an Early American Jew

Learn about Jewish immigration and the development of the Jewish community in America through a 1790s letter, originally written in Yiddish by Rebecca Samuel to her parents in Hamburg, Germany, describing her life in Petersburg, Virginia.

The Little Bride by Anna Solomon

Book Review: The Little Bride

by Rachel King

Through evocative rendering of a little-known chapter in Jewish-American history, Anna Solomon’s novel The Little Bride takes us from Eastern Europe to the American West in the story of Minna, a 19th-century “mail order bride.”

Ruth Behar

Ruth Behar On Cuban Travel, Diplomatic Relations, and Exile

by Dina Weinstein

For Cuban-born author and University of Michigan anthropology professor Ruth Behar, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba have translated into uniquely exciting opportunities to create cultural bridges.

Topics: Jewish History
Bella Abzug on the cover of "Life Magazine," June 9, 1972

Why Don’t I Know More About Bella Abzug?

by Tara Metal

Among the many treats in Gloria Steinem’s new memoir My Life on the Road are the bevy of stories starring women who appear on jwa.org: Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Gerda Lerner, Betty Friedan, and even Emma Goldman earned mentions. But as I read Steinem’s book, one name made more appearances than the rest: Bella Abzug.

Gloria Steinem, 2010, with "My Life On The Road" Cover, 2015

Book Review: My Life on the Road

by Tara Metal

It feels so unimaginative to write that Gloria Steinem is my hero. But, Gloria Steinem is my hero. She’s the woman I most admire, and the only consistent guest at my fantasy dinner party. Reading her new memoir, My Life on the Road, is probably the closest I’ll ever get to actually having dinner with Gloria. 

Lucy Kramer Cohen and Navajo Women circa 1937-38

This Columbus Day, Celebrate Lucy Kramer Cohen

by Larisa Klebe

Lucy Kramer Cohen (1907-2007) was an advocate for Native Americans, and spent much of her career, along with her husband Felix, fighting for their rights. Felix was hired by President Franklin Roosevelt to draft what became the Indian Reorganization Act. Lucy was knowledgeable about Native American cultures and about economics, and she and Felix discussed how to reform the legal and economic opportunities for Native Americans. 

Julie Wise Oreck, cropped

New Orleans “Normal”: An Interview With Julie Wise Oreck

by Rachel King

In Katrina’s Jewish Voices, JWA’s collection of video interviews with New Orleans women in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Julie Wise Oreck discussed the extraordinary collaboration of the Jewish community to rebuild the city.

French Quarter, New Orleans

The More Things Change

by Lisa Batya Feld

Susan Hess first came to New Orleans as a young bride in 1965, three days before Hurricane Betsy, and she remembered the one good thing about that storm was that it cemented her identity as a New Orleans insider in a way that would have taken decades otherwise.

Topics: Jewish History
Giving Hands

The Arrogance of Giving: Lessons from Katrina’s Jewish Voices

by Lisa Batya Feld

For the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, JWA created an exhibit to highlight the stories of evacuees and survivors of the storm, based on interviews we had recorded shortly after Katrina. I listened to stories of heartbreaking losses, narrow escapes, and rare moments of unexpected humor. 

Topics: Jewish History
Alice and Marv Olick in Dillingen, Germany 1953-1954

Big Plans in Small Spaces

by Julia Rubin

When my grandmother graduated High School in the late 1940s, the American dream for women was to get married and raise children. Wartime propaganda told individuals to reject the communist behavior of their Russian counterparts and contribute to society by creating nuclear families. While women were expected to fill roles once occupied by men who went to war, these were seen as temporary positions, not long-term careers. Women often worked as secretaries or store clerks, jobs that paid little and offered few opportunities for advancement. “You just kind of lived life and it happened. You didn’t make big plans,” Alice says. Alice did, despite those expectations, make big plans. In her high school yearbook, she wrote about her aspirations to become a journalist.

Topics: Jewish History
Menorah, Congregation Beth Israel, New Orleans, April 11, 2006

Katrina's Jewish Voices, Ten Years Later

by  Judith Rosenbaum

When most of us think of Hurricane Katrina, the Jewish community of New Orleans is not the first thing to come to mind. We’re more likely to think of the devastation of the Ninth Ward, of the homes marked with the number of bodies found inside, of the desperate conditions in the Superdome.

Topics: Jewish History
"Wedgwood Room, Pines Hotel, South Fallsburg, NY" by Marisa Scheinfeld

An Interview with Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld: Part II

by Tara Metal

This year, photographer and Catskills native Marisa Scheinfeld mounted her first museum exhibit, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt.” We spoke to Marisa about her haunting photographs, what drew her to the ruins of the famed Jewish play land, and why the Catskills are so important to Jewish American culture. Don’t miss Part I of JWA’s interview with Marisa!

Indoor Pool, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Liberty, NY by Marisa Scheinfeld

An Interview with Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld: Part I

by Tara Metal

This year, photographer and Catskills native Marisa Scheinfeld mounted her first museum exhibit, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt.” We spoke to Marisa about her haunting photographs, what drew her to the ruins of the famed Jewish play land, and why the Catskills are so important to Jewish American culture.

Lauren Shapiro with her Aunt Jennie, cropped

“Can We Throw the Skirt Out?” A First-Generation Story

by Lauren Shapiro

I am first generation American, as were most children and, for that matter, many of the teachers, in our public school. Not coincidentally, the word perseverance appeared often on our vocabulary lists. We used it in sentences, like “If you don’t have perseverance, you will not amount to much”—but I already knew that before I started kindergarten. Perseverance was my Aunt Jennie’s word of the day, every day. 

Pharaoh Notes the Importance of the Jewish People by James Tissot circa 1896-1902

Ancient Egypt, Nazi Germany, and High School Classrooms: Is There Such a Thing as an Innocent Bystander?

by Eliana Melmed

There is little more frustrating than being punished for something that you did not do.  The extra homework assignments because a few classmates were talking, no sandals to work because one girl stubbed her toe, no more school-wide pancake breakfasts because one group of students did not clean up their lunch, the trampoline is off-limits because one person couldn’t follow the rules. So many instances when one person, or one small group of people, ruined it for everybody.

Topics: Jewish History
West Coast Highway

I Came to Explore the Wreck

by Rachel Landau

Boxes of slide reels still cover my repurposed kitchen table. To help with storage, a nearby closet offers enough space for a whopping twelve boxes for a total of sixteen, all compiled by my paternal Grandfather. I’m no mathematician but I can easily calculate that, with sixteen boxes of eighty slides, there must be over twelve hundred squares of film.

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