Spirituality and Religious Life

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Sally Gottesman

As a teenager, Sally Gottesman lobbied for the first Saturday morning bat mitzvah at her synagogue; as an adult, she created groups for teens of both genders to discover a deeper connection to Judaism.

Amy Eilberg

The first woman rabbi ordained by the Conservative Movement, Amy Eilberg forged her own path as a chaplain and pastoral counselor.

Rachel Cowan

As one of the founders of the Jewish healing movement, Rachel Cowan blended modern holistic medicine and counseling with traditional Jewish rituals and prayers to help change how people responded to illness.

Nina Beth Cardin

Part of the first class of women ordained as Conservative rabbis, Nina Beth Cardin embraced the unconventional path of a “community pulpit” by founding healing centers and creating new ways to approach miscarriage and loss.

Helène Aylon

Through her art, Helène Aylon explored the intersectionality among her feminism, the Orthodox Judaism of her upbringing, and her place in a war-torn world.

Rachel Adler

As a theologian, a committed Jew, and a pioneer of the Jewish feminist movement, Rachel Adler challenged her religion from within.

Hadassah Blocker

The first woman in her synagogue to chant Haftorah, Hadassah Blocker taught hundreds of women to take part in the Torah service.

Rachel Calof

Rachel first landed in New York. From there, she and Abraham journeyed to join his family already living on homesteads in North Dakota. They arrived in Devil's Lake in 1894. Rachel's memoir highlights her growing regard for her husband and her own struggle in adapting to the difficult conditions in which found herself. The early years were especially difficult—no privacy, extreme financial hardship, minimum fuel and food to get through the harsh winters.

Progressive Seder Plate

A Joyful Struggle

Avigayil Halpern

I have always struggled at my family’s Passover Seders. My difficulties have not been emotional or spiritual, religious or psychological. My troubles have been purely physical; every year, I wrestle with the giant stack of haggadot next to my plate, which seems intent on toppling over. I spread the books around me, trying to follow my family’s traditional Seder in five or more disparate texts, a linguistic comment here, a poem there.

Ventura Franco Israel

A native of Seattle, Ventura Israel was
born in 1915, two years after her parents immigrated from Turkey. Forged as a strong woman by the deaths of men in her family-her father’s in 1928, her first husband’s in 1970, and her second husband’s in 1989-she helped support her family during the Depression, and as a twenty-five year employee of Union Federal Savings and Loan. Both her first husband, Maurice Franco, and her second husband, Morris Israel, were born in Rhodes, Greece, and Ventura spent her religious life in Seattle’s Sephardic community. The mother of two, and a vibrant community member, Ventura currently volunteers at the Caroline Kline Galland home and at her synagogue, Congregation Ezra Bessaroth.

Tillie Israel De Leon

An independent, intelligent, and industrious woman, Tillie De Leon is the matriarch of the original Peha family in Seattle, Sephardic immigrants from the Greek Island of Rhodes. One of the first Sephardic children born in Seattle, Tillie’s ground-breaking life continued when she left her close-knit community and moved to Los Angeles to take an accounting job. Married and widowed in Los Angeles, Tillie married Albert De Leon and returned with him to Seattle. Ever hardworking and optimistic, Tillie continued her paid work until age 80, and remains active in volunteer activities.

Meta R. Buttnick

Born in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1913 to Irish émigré parents, Meta grew up among “living libraries,” men who told stories of their lives on Alaska’s frontier. Educated in Dublin and Paris, she moved to Seattle in 1939 with her husband, Harry, where they raised three children. Meta became active in Seattle’s Orthodox community, and soon, she began compiling the oral and written histories of Seattle’s Jewish people and institutions. The Jewish Archives at the University of Washington-thanks in large measure to Meta-now houses many of these histories, including Meta’s own wonderful story among them.

Savina Teubal

‘Question Authority.’ Those two words did for me what the burning bush did for Moses: they changed my perception of reality.

Judith Plaskow

B'not Esh has provided a model for how separatist feminist spaces can generate ideas and energy that spill over in to a larger community.

Deena Metzger

Our intention in turning it into a poster was to invite the world to look at a one-breasted woman and exult in her health and vitality.

Belda Lindenbaum

It was Blu Greenberg and my own smart and provocative mother who brought feminist ideas into my Jewish life.

Lori Lefkovitz

This stone symbolizes for me the loving feminist reclamation of our great grandmothers' folkways.

Gloria Greenfield

I was making a conscious decision to change my primary identity from ‘Jewish radical feminism’ to ‘feminist Jew.’

Sally Gottesman

Like my mother and her father, my grandfather, I was both a committed Jew and a feminist.

Marcia Falk

I recited these blessings as though they had been written a couple of millennia ago by the rabbis, rather than the day before, by me.

Barbara Dobkin

[T]he needs of Jewish women and girls in both the U.S. and Israel are still not high priorities for our community.

Rachel Cowan

I believe that it took a group of women—including rabbis—to break through the Jewish cultural barrier that saw medical treatment as the only response to illness.

Kim Chernin

[T]he idea of re–writing the Haggadah seemed startling and even blasphemous. Now, 30 years later, this re–writing has itself become part of an emerging Passover tradition.

Nina Beth Cardin

In the early years of women entering the rabbinate, many women felt were welcomed to rabbinical school on the expectation that we would act like men.

Aviva Cantor

What captivated me was developing what amounted to a “unified field theory” by applying feminist methodology to explain all of Jewish history, culture, and psychology.

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