Politics and Government

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Simone Veil

Simone Veil is arguably the one person most responsible for advancing women’s legal rights in France during the twentieth century. As her country's first female Minister of Health, Veil fought against great opposition to have a woman's right to an abortion enshrined in French law. She went on to become the first woman—and the first Holocaust survivor—to be appointed president of the European Parliament.

Turkey: Ottoman and Post Ottoman

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, far-reaching changes took place in the Ottoman Empire in the political, social and geopolitical spheres.

Shelamziyyon Alexandra

Shelamziyyon Alexandra, Hasmonean Queen (76–67 B.C.E.), wife and successor of King Alexander Yannai (Jannaeus) (c. 126–76 B.C.E.). Our knowledge of her is principally derived from the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, but she is also mentioned in rabbinic literature and in the Dead Sea scrolls.

Romania, Women and Jewish Education

The delay in opening schools for girls (both general and Jewish) illustrates one of the obvious ways in which the gender balance of power was slanted in favor of the male: women were restricted to the private sphere, excluded from the centers of power and achievement in Romanian society—the fields of finance, politics and the army—which required higher education. Such an approach was especially apparent in traditional, conservative societies such as Romania’s in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and until 1950.

Dalia Raz

Dalia Raz enlisted in the IDF in 1955, first serving in the Nahal (Fighting Pioneer Youth), where she was promoted to NCO before proceeding to officer training. In 1957, she was appointed head of personnel in the navy, becoming the only woman ever to serve in this position.

Deborah T. Poritz

With the exception of Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Deborah T. Poritz is the most visible woman in New Jersey politics. She was the first woman to serve as the state’s attorney general, and on July 10, 1996, she was sworn in as the first woman chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. She was nominated by Governor Whitman on June 13, 1996, and is the first Republican chief justice to serve in twenty-five years.

Anita Pollitzer

Anita Pollitzer devoted her public life to feminist politics and artistic patronage.

Politics in the Yishuv and Israel

Women’s status in Israeli political arena has been shaped by two major contradictory forces that operate simultaneously. On the one hand, women are defined as part of the collective and are recognized, treated, and organized as a social category, mainly on the basis of traditional roles as wives and mothers. On the other hand, the politics of identity has been restricted by marginalizing and denouncing social identity as a basis for political action, and thus excludes women.

Political Parties in the Yishuv and Israel

Women’s parties have played a major, though so far unacknowledged, role in the social and political history of Israel: they had a significant impact on women’s participation in power centers, political and others; they played a major part in the struggle for women’s right to vote and to be elected; they brought into focus the economic discrimination against women, who constitute half of the population in the labor market; they made feminist discourse about gender equality widely known and discussed.

Nora Platiel

The Russian revolution of 1917 had made a convinced socialist of Nora Block and she soon realized that studying law would provide a better context for her ideas of the ideal society. Nora Block was interned with many other emigrants in the Vélodrome D’Hiver in Paris, under terrible conditions. Despite all the attempts to prevent both contact with the outside world and communication among the interned women in the camp, Nora Block managed to establish an office to help women who were unable to help themselves by translating letters and documents for them. She was appointed the first woman director of a German district court in 1951. In 1954 she ran for the Hessian State Parliament and was elected for three successive terms and served for six years as a deputy party whip.She was also a member of the Hessian Supreme Court, the committee for electing the judges and numerous other committees.

Shoshana Persitz

Shoshana Persitz developed a line of school books and the Zionist library, Ha-Noar (For Youth), which included monographs about Jewish cities, villages and kibbutzim in Palestine and on the Zionist history of the quest to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. Throughout her years in the legislature she chaired the Knesset Education Committee and was instrumental in the passing of the State Education Law (1953), which replaced the schools, previously operated in accordance with various political ideologies, with one state general education system and one state-religious system.

Ana Pauker

Romanian Communist leader and Romania’s Foreign Minister from 1947 to 1952, the first woman in the modern world ever to hold so senior a ministerial postion.

Elinor Morgenthau

Elinor Morgenthau was an assimilationist German Jewish success story. Morgenthau achieved prominence by promoting the men around her and by camouflaging her Judaism. She was a product of her era and was adept at its political and social strategies.

Gill Marcus

Gill Marcus, who never married, was born in Johannesburg in 1949. Her grandparents were from Lithuania but her parents, Molly and Nathan, were born in South Africa. Both her parents were members of the South African Communist Party and from an early age Gill was made aware of the iniquities of apartheid; the Marcus home, open to people across the color line, was very different from that of the average white South African household.

Ada Maimon (Fishman)

One of the “spiritual mothers” and historians of Jewish feminism in Israel, Ada Maimon was a teacher by profession and a member of Ha-Po’el ha-Za’ir from 1913 to 1920. She was also one of the founders of Mo’ezet Ha-Po’alot, the General Council of Women Workers in Israel, and its secretary-general from its founding in 1921 to 1926. When she completed her term of office she founded Ayanot, a women’s farm near Nes Ziyyonah. With the establishment of the state, she served as a Mapai party member of the first and second Knessets and was responsible for the legislation of various laws related to women’s equality. Her public activity, together with her role as historian of the feminist movement in Israel, were part of a long, determined struggle on behalf of Jewish women in Israeli society and, even more pronouncedly, in the Jewish religion. This struggle led to frequent conflicts between Maimon and the leaders of the Histadrut and the Labor Party, as well as to arguments with representatives of the religious parties and the Israeli Orthodox establishment.

Sadie Loewith

“Politics makes strange bedfellows,” the adage states. Those “bedfellows” were joined by a feisty, strong, opinionated woman in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the 1920s. She was Sadie Loewith, teacher, businesswoman, active Republican Party worker, chairperson, organizer, and politician of high repute. Her interests were many and varied, and her ability to lead and to elicit respect was unwavering.

Emma Levine-Talmi

Politician and writer, Emma Levine-Talmi, grew up in a liberal Jewish home in Warsaw before immigrating alone to Palestine in 1924 at the age of nineteen. She was active in Kibbutz life before becoming a member of Knesset for the Mapam party. During her time in the Knesset, she engaged in social issues, including, equal rights for women.

Lucy Fox Robins Lang

A committed anarchist by age fifteen, Lucy Fox Robins Lang participated actively in the labor and free speech movements of early twentieth-century America. She directed regional and national committees in support of persecuted anarchists, antiwar activists, and labor organizers, while earning her livelihood as a printer, waitress, vegetarian restaurant owner, and real estate broker. Eventually, she moved into the mainstream of the labor movement, becoming an adviser to and confidante of Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Although her focus shifted, the impulse behind Lang’s work remained constant.

Senta Josephthal

Senta Pundov was born in Fürth, a small town near Nuremberg in Germany, a city of ill-repute because it was the center of the Nazi movement and the site of its meetings. Both her parents and grandparents were born in Germany: her father, Ya’akov (d. Tel Aviv) and her mother, Hedwig (Wurburg 1884–Tel Aviv 1973), immigrated to Palestine in 1939.

Lotte Jacobi

In 1935, Lotte Jacobi rejected the Nazis’ offer to grant her honorary Aryan status and fled first to London and then to the United States, where she became one of America’s foremost portrait photographers.

Herodian Women

The Herodian dynasty produced a large number of seemingly impressive women. However, it is not always clear whether these women were really impressive or whether their literary portrayal made them so. We know that Nicolaus of Damascus, who was Herod’s court historian, was deeply interested in domestic affairs and assigned to women a diabolical role in the turn of events. Even after his writings ceased, other court historians adopted some of his rhetorical techniques. We today know almost everything about these women from Josephus, who used Nicolaus and other sources in his writings.

Elinor Guggenheimer

Elinor Guggenheimer first toured New York City day nurseries as a member of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies during the 1930s. Horrified by what she saw, Guggenheimer began a lifelong crusade for improved and standardized child care facilities across the country. A veteran of New York City politics, Guggenheimer has also worked to promote women in public office and was one of the founding members of the Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.

Haika Grosman

Haika Grosman was born in Bialystok on November 20, 1919. She was the third and youngest child of Nahum (1890–1942) and Leah (née Apelbaum) Grosman (1891–Treblinka, August 1943), a member of a wealthy family imbued with Jewish tradition and culture, living in a city half of whose residents (about sixty thousand) were Jewish. Her father was a factory owner, from whom, she alleged, she inherited her looks: “short, blue-eyed, blond.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first Jewish woman (and only the second woman) appointed to the United States Supreme Court.

Myra Ava Freeman

The first Jew to be appointed lieutenant governor of a Canadian province and the first woman to hold the office in Nova Scotia, Myra Freeman was born in St. John, New Brunswick, as were her parents, Anne Golda (Freedman) Holtzman (1916–1986) and Harry Holtzman (1912–2004).

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