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Joan Feynman


Jayne Guberman interviewed Joan Feynman on January 16, 2013, in Pasadena, California, as part of the Jewish Women’s Archive General Oral History Project. Astrophysicist Feynman talks about researching solar phenomena, fighting for gender equality in science, and conducting groundbreaking research on solar radiation and climate change, earning prestigious accolades for her exceptional achievements.

Illustration of Family Tree With Empty Boxes

Understanding Epigenetics as a Descendant of Holocaust Survivors

Elle Rosenfeld

As a kid growing up in a tight-knit Jewish community, “l’dor v’dor” (from generation to generation) was a phrase I heard on a weekly basis. Now, I see this sentiment in a new light.

Two black-and-white photos of girls

Czarna, Reimagined

Julie Zuckerman

A previous essay for JWA leads Julie Zuckerman to a long-lost relative and opens a door to her family’s past.

Rivka Carmi

Rivka Carmi is a medical geneticist, neonatologist, pediatrician, the first woman to be appointed president of an Israeli university (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), and a feminist trailblazer who broke the glass ceiling for women in academia.

Rosalind Franklin with Microscope in 1955

Beyond the Double Helix: Rosalind Franklin Turns 100

Elana Spivack

Rosalind Franklin should be remembered for more than just the infamous snubbing of her discover of DNA's structure.

Topics: Science
Chemistry beakers with colorful liquid

The Power of My Voice: Combatting Insensitivity in My High School

Ellie Klibaner-Schiff

I think I hesitated to counter my classmate’s offensive comment because I didn’t want to be perceived as overdramatic. 

Topics: Schools, Science
Laila Goodman

Sexism, Spirituality, and Science: The Story of Laila Goodman

Eden Olsberg

Laila Goodman isn’t your average high school biology teacher. Her class is regularly filled with personal anecdotes from her life, and her office is regularly filled with students seeking advice. One of my most memorable interactions with her was talking about her experiences as a doula, and then later looking at an album of birthing photos.

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Maya Jodidio Pipetting DNA into a Gel

Whoever Said Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend Never Saw a Girl Doing Science

Maya Jodidio

High school boys often try to explain physics or calculus problems to me in a way that clearly implies they think I have no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes a classmate asks me a science question and almost immediately a male peer nearby says, “Don’t worry! I can explain this if she can’t!” In addition to mansplaining, jokes about feminism and subtle sexist comments occur on a daily basis at my high school, so I’ve become used to it. 

Vera Rubin / Sheyna Gifford


Expanding Our Universe

Women in Science: Reflecting with Dr. Joan Feynman

Jordyn Rozensky

Dr. Feynman fought an uphill battle—she had the smarts and the ability, but she was living in a world that wasn’t able to support or encourage a woman in science. Realizing the realities of the academic culture, she relegated her ambitions to being an assistant to a male physicist. Luckily for all of us—and for the field of theoretical physics—the support of her brother helped her set her goals at being a “high-medium physicist.”

Excerpt from Gertrude Elion's College Chemistry Notebook, circa 1930s

Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?

Jordyn Rozensky

Being a woman in science isn’t an easy accomplishment. It’s a hard field to break into, and it’s a hard field to shine in. I reached out to a few of my friends who make their living through science, and they all agreed—this subject is tricky on so many levels. It’s hard to navigate, and the politics that get in the way end up being both external and internal. The article in the New York Times wasn’t a groundbreaking discovery—no one is shocked to hear that girls have it tough in the world of science. But it’s good to keep the conversation going—and to remind ourselves that we have shoulders like Gertrude Elion’s to stand on.

Topics: Science
Gertrude Elion Medal, 2011

Gertrude Elion inducted into the Jewish-American Hall of Fame

Jewesses With Attitude

JWA Woman of Valor Gertrude Elion has been chosen as the 2011 honoree to be inducted into the Jewish-American Hall of Fame. Dr. Gertrude Elion joins nine women previously inducted into the Jewish-American Hall of Fame: Henrietta Szold (1976), Golda Meir (1978), Rebecca Gratz (1981), Emma Lazarus (1983), Ernestine Rose (1984), Barbra Streisand (1997), Ida Straus (1998), Bess Myerson (2001), and Lillian Wald (2007). Biographies of all the honorees can be found here.

Topics: Science, Medicine
Judith Resnik in Space, September 8, 1984

Remembering Judith Resnik, the first Jewish American woman in space

Kate Bigam

Judith Resnik never showed any particular interest in space travel – but when NASA began recruiting women and minorities, she decided to apply anyway.

Topics: Science, Technology
Debbie Friedman

The Lives They Lived: Jewish women to remember in 2011

Leah Berkenwald

“[Debbie Friedman] emphasized the value of every voice and the power of song to help us express ourselves and become our best selves. As she wrote for JWA's online exhibit Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution: 'The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions.' The woman who wrote the song that asks God to 'help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing' herself modeled for us what that looks like.”—Judith Rosenbaum.
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Remembering Dr. Rosalyn S. Yalow, Nobel Prize winning scientist and mother

Leah Berkenwald

“A Jewish woman whose father-in-law is a rabbi, who keeps a kosher home, who invites her lab assistants to Passover seders, and worries about them catching colds is not the typical image of a Nobel Prize winner,” Emily Taitz writes in Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. “But it is the image of Rosalyn Yalow, the first woman born and educated in the United States to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field.” Rosalyn S. Yalow passed away Monday, May 30, 2011, at the age of 89.

Natalie Portman at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2010

Can a girl have an Oscar and a Bunsen Burner too?

Etta King Heisler

The first thing I thought when I read this article in Monday's New York Times was "How cool! All these women are scientists?!" What immediately followed was the thought "Too bad." Too bad I never knew that Winnie from the Wonder Years loves math. Too bad I never found out that Blossom totally digs science. Too bad I had no idea that Queen Amidala was a super science nerd in high school, or I might have found the Star Wars prequels more interesting.

Topics: Education, Film, Science

Girls in science, sure. But what about engineering?

From the Rib

I got my copy of Ms. Magazine yesterday and in it, and was excited to see an article called “Girls Love Robots, Too,” about a group of girls in San Diego who started their own robotics team and have won honors in national robotics competitions. It talks about how it’s a big thing for girls to have their own team, since men outnumber women in engineering 73 to 27, and emphasizes that the girls are defying the stereotype that only boys like science and math.

Jewish women and the Nobel Prize

Leah Berkenwald

As the 2009 Nobel prizes are being handed out, many are fussing over Obama's Peace Prize -- does he deserve it, will this affect his approach with Iran, etc.  Important questions, certainly, but don't let them distract you from the real story this year: 2009 is a record year for women Nobel Prize-winners

Only 40 women have ever won the prestigious Nobel Prize, 5 of whom were awarded the prize this year, one of whom is Israeli Jewess Ada Yonath, winner of the Chemistry Prize.

Topics: Science

Challenger Space Shuttle Explodes with Astronaut Judith Resnik on Board

January 28, 1986

The Challenger space shuttle exploded on January 28, 1986, just seconds after taking off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Judith Resnik

The second female American astronaut to travel into space, Judith Resnik is remembered for her death in the tragic Challenger explosion. Her career accomplishments include biomedical engineering with the National Institutes of Health, working for NASA as a specialist in spacecraft engineering, and operated a solar sail during her first space flight with the shuttle Discovery.

Clarisse Doris Hellman

C. Doris Hellman was a pioneering science historian and expert on Renaissance-era science best known for her translation of Max Caspar’s monumental biography, Johannes Kepler (1959).

Sulamith Goldhaber

Sulamith Goldhaber’s family immigrated from Vienna to Palestine, and Goldhaber later moved to the United States to complete her education and begin her career. Her pioneering work with particle accelerators put her at the forefront of a seismic shift in the research of particle physics. She was also renowned for her work concerning nuclear emulsions.

Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber

Throughout a career limited by her gender, her religion, and her marital status, physicist Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber helped ensure other women scientists would not face the same hurdles.

Rosalind Elsie Franklin

An influential British physical chemist, Rosalind Elsie Franklin’s essential innovations in DNA research, including her X-ray DNA photography and her work in distinguishing between “A” and “B” forms of DNA, allowed Frances Crick and James Watson to solve the structure of DNA as early as 1953. Her important role in their work went largely unacknowledged until the 1990s.

Australia: 1788 to the Present

The first Jewish women, like the first Jewish men, arrived in Australia on the very first day of European settlement in 1788. Those convict pioneers were followed by free settlers who made Jewish communal and congregational life viable and helped to develop the vast continent. Jewish women have made significant contributions to Australia's national story.


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