Spirituality and Religious Life

Content type

Julie Johanna Engel

Julie Johanna Isner Engel dreamed of becoming a professional opera singer in Germany in the 1930s, but the rise of the Nazis interrupted that dream. Escaping to the United States, she trained her voice in synagogue choirs and local opera performances. In the 1970s, she took a cantorial position at a synagogue in Queens, one of a pioneering generation of women cantors.

Collage of Golems

Finding Meaning for a Golem in Unlikely Places

Sydney Burgess

The one thing all traditional golem depictions have in common is their sanctity. However, this most important facet has practically disappeared from the media.  

Collage of "The Believer"

Wrestling with God and Neo-Nazis

Ava Cohen

What’s frightening about 2001 film, "The Believer,"  is that struggling with the idea of God as all-powerful is far from a unique experience.

Portrait of Lauren Tuchman smiling in front of a stained glass window wearing a maroon top and gold necklace

7 Questions For Rabbi Lauren Tuchman

Sarah Groustra

JWA chats with rabbi and disability justice advocate Lauren Tuchman.

Priscilla Golding

Ga’avah: LGBTQ+ Jews

Nicole Zador interviewed Priscilla Golding on November 9, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts as a part of the Ga'avah: LGBTQ+ Jews project. Priscilla recounts her family history, upbringing in Boston, higher education experiences, her brother's AIDS battle, her coming out journey and its reception, involvement with Am Tikva and outreach to synagogues, memories of the International Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jews, and reflections on the changes within the queer community, including her relationship and marriage to Barbara Berg.

Drawing of male and female holding basket and looking at each other

Maraviglia's Fifteenth-Century Prayer Book

Evelyn Cohen

The British Library shares a fifteenth-century prayer book commissioned by a father to his daughter, Maraviglia, a testament to women’s participation in fifteenth-century Italian Jewish ritual life.

Collage of black and white butterflies and snapshot of prayer shawl

Praying for Permanence: Finding My Connection to Faith

Halleli Abrams Gerber

Slowly, I have come to understand that my connection to Judaism doesn’t need to be a linear path. I experience days of doubt, times of radiant joy, and moments of deep guilt.

Ann Abrams

Ga’avah: LGBTQ+ Jews

Nicole Zador interviewed Ann Abrams on November 15, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts as part of the Ga'avah LGBTQ+ Jews project. Ann details her upbringing in the Conservative movement during the late 50s and 60s, her journey of coming out, her influential role as the Temple Israel librarian supporting the LGBTQ+ community, her passion for musical parodies, co-authoring a book of Jewish folk songs for peace, and meeting her wife while working at the temple, reflecting on her life, family, and professional endeavors.

Gilda Bruckman

Ga’avah: LGBTQ+ Jews

Nicole Zador interviewed Gilda Bruckman on November 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts as part of the Ga'avah LGBTQ+ Jews project. In this interview, Gilda discusses her upbringing, connection to the Jewish community, coming out experience, co-founding of the book store New Words and its evolution into a non-profit, as well as her extensive involvement in various volunteer programs and organizations, highlighting how her research into her family history as well as her relationship with her partner, Judy Wachs, strengthened her bond with Judaism.

Young woman with brown curly hair and glasses wearing dark gray shirt and posing in front of trees

Where Are They Now? RVF Alum Hannah Elbaum

Sarah Biskowitz

The first in our series of interviews with RVF alums to mark the 10th anniversary of the fellowship. 

Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

Boston Women Rabbis

Ronda Spinak interviewed Sharon Anisfeld on March 24, 2014, in Newton, Massachusetts, as part of the Boston Women Rabbis Project. Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld shares her experiences and perspectives as a religious leader, discussing topics such as ethics policies, the Book of Esther, the evolving role of rabbis in contemporary society, and the importance of adaptability, empathy, and understanding of religious traditions in her leadership role.

Elyse Winick

Boston Women Rabbis

Lynne Himelstein interviewed Rabbi Elyse Winick on March 23, 2014, Newton, Massachusetts, as part of the Boston Women Rabbis Oral History Project. Elyse's journey from her early Jewish upbringing, college experiences, and mentorship led her to become a rabbi, where she now serves as the Jewish chaplain at Brandeis University and reflects on the role of women rabbis in the present and past, while also discussing her personal connection to Judaism.

Diane Rippa

DAVAR: Vermont Jewish Women's History Project

Ann Buffum and Sandra Stillman Gartner interviewed Dr. Diane Rippa on November 9, 2008, in Essex Junction, Vermont, as part of DAVAR: The Vermont Jewish History Project. Dr. Rippa discusses her family background, her grandfather's influence on her interest in medicine, involvement in Jewish youth groups, and her career as a family doctor in Vermont, highlighting the challenging period when her father fell seriously ill, which ultimately shaped her approach to patient care.

Miriam Yasgur

Barnard: Jewish Women Changing America

Judith Rosenbaum interviewed Miriam Yasgur on October 29, 2005, in New York, New York as part of the Barnard: Jewish Women Changing America Oral History Project. Yasgur discusses her progressive Orthodox Jewish upbringing, her struggle with feminism in that context, and her journey to integrate feminism and religious practices into her life, including her art.

Carol Anshien

Barnard: Jewish Women Changing America

Jayne Guberman interviewed Carol Anshien on October 30, 2005, in New York, New York, as part of the Barnard: Jewish Women Changing America Oral History Project. Carol Anshien, a Bronx native, reflects on her family's World War II service, her fond memories of the Jacob H. Schiff Center Synagogue, her pioneering experience as the first female bat mitzvahed in the 1950s, and her later involvement in feminist activism with the New Jewish Agenda Feminist Task Force while navigating her religious practice with secular life.

Michele Lenke

Boston Women Rabbis

Ronda Spinak interviewed Rabbi Michele Lenke on April 1, 2014 in Massachusetts, as part of the Boston Women Rabbis Oral History Project. Rabbi Lenke reflects on her journey from her Jewish upbringing and transformative experiences to overcoming obstacles as a female rabbi and finding fulfillment in her work, particularly in helping young Jews with B'nai Mitzvot and officiating same-sex weddings.

Rachel Cowan

From New York to Israel, Rabbi Rachel Cowan had a hand in developing many aspects of Jewish life during the second half of the twentieth century. She was a pioneer in pushing for inclusivity in Jewish spaces and went to great efforts to make Judaism more accessible to those unfamiliar to it.

Sol Hachuel

Sol Hachuel, or as she is also known Lalla Soulika or Sol ha-tsaddeqet, was a Moroccan Jewish martyr from the first half of the nineteenth century. Hachuel was born in Tangier and beheaded in Fez at the age of sixteen or seventeen. Her story has inspired countless versions among North African Jews and Muslims as well as Europeans, and her tomb remains a prominent pilgrimage site in Morocco.

Two women standing outside a synagogue

Learning from My Mother to Just Say Yes

Dorrit Corwin

Channeling my grandfather’s generous spirit, my non-Jewish mother agreed to become her synagogue’s co-president.

Collage of kippah and other clothing on patterned green background

The Gendered Dimensions of Choosing to Wear a Kippah

Miriam Stodolsky

For some reason, wearing kippot gave me that same itchy, wrong feeling I had experienced from feminine clothing in elementary school or masculine clothing in middle school

Collage of three women with their arms around each other on blue and white background

A Conversation on the Future of Jewish Feminism

Miriam Niestat

I realized that in our seventeen years of knowing each other, I could count on one hand the number of times the three of us had talked about our places as women in Judaism.

Gila Axelrod

7 Questions For Gila Axelrod

Sarah Groustra

JWA talks to Gila Axelrod, writer, educator, and editor-in-chief of New Voices.

Pamela Goldman

Barnard: Jewish Women Changing America

Jayne Guberman interviewed Pamela Goldman on October 30, 2005, in New York, New York, as part of the Barnard: Jewish Women Changing America Oral History Project. Goldman, a Jewish artist and sculptor, discusses her upbringing in Maplewood, New Jersey, her exploration of Jewish identity, her passion for promoting equality, and her involvement in the Rosa Parks Wall of Tolerance project.

Jenni Rudolph and Maryam Chishti - cropped

7 Questions For Jenni Rudolph and Maryam Chishti

Sarah Groustra

JWA talks to Jenni Rudolph and Maryam Chishti, Co-Executive Directors of the LUNAR Collective, the only organization by and for Asian American Jews.

Hadassah Blocker

Women Who Dared

Elise Brenner interviewed Hadassah Blocker on December 16, 2004, in Newtonville, Massachusetts, as part of the Women Who Dared Oral History Project. Blocker shares her upbringing in Massachusetts, her Orthodox background, challenges to gender roles in Judaism, and her dedication to teaching and promoting women's equal participation.


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