World War II

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Episode 82: When Jewish Women Talked to the Dead

In this season of ghosts and haunted houses, we’re taking you back to a time when communicating with the dead was a popular way to spend an evening. Séances were the main practice of the spiritualist movement, which is based on the belief that when people die, they survive as spirits, and that we can talk to these spirits with the help of a medium. The movement had its heyday in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Jews all over the world, from London to Brooklyn to Cairo, were at the forefront. Scholar Sam Glauber-Zimra explains why spiritualism had such appeal among Jews, what rabbis had to say about it, and why Jewish women were prominent as mediums. 

Marthe Cohn, Holocaust survivor who spied on the Nazis, publishes her memoir

March 28, 2006

After keeping her story secret for years, thinking nobody would believe her, French Holocaust survivor Marthe (Hoffnung) Cohn published her memoir Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany, on March 28, 2006.

Berlin "Stumbling Stone" to commemorate Holocaust victim with rose and sign reading "never again" placed on top

I Visited Six European Jewish Communities to Explore My Own Identity

Zia Saylor

My travels in Europe helped me reconcile some of the tensions in my Jewish identity.

Liz Kleinrock Instagram Still (with Brené Brown quote "if you're not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your opinion"

Learning Asian Jewish History Helped Me Make Space for Both My Identities

Liz Kleinrock

In learning the rich history of Jews in Asia, I finally found a sense of belonging.

Episode 77: Word of the Week: Yenta

How did a popular Yiddish woman's name come to mean gossip and busybody? In the first of our new Word of the Week mini-series, we trace the evolution of the word yenta. Producer Jen Richler talks with Fiddler on the Roof scholar Jan Lisa Huttner, comedian Judy Gold, author Lizzie Skurnick, and Tik Tok star and Torah commentator Miriam Anzovin. And in a special cameo...Yente the Matchmaker herself!

Collage with Image of Molly Picon from "Yidn Mitn Fidl," Background of Wallpaper of Shooting Stars

Activism Through Art: Molly Picon's Legacy

Abigail Gilman

I think about Molly Picon, and how she utilized her love of storytelling to bring laughter to those who needed it, to foster pride and compassion in the Jewish community, and to fight to keep Yiddish theater alive.

Photo of writer's grandmother as a child on left; grandmother and writer on right

My Jewish Grandma’s Christmas Pierogis

Marissa Wojcik

With each handcrafted pierogi, my grandma honors her husband's traditions while holding on to her strong Jewish identity. 

Jewish Women Partisans

The testimonies of Jewish women partisans present a more complex gendered picture of partisan activism than the conventional portrayal of an exclusively male arena of armed guerillas. Women smuggled guns and ammunitions, fought in armed combat, engaged in reconnaissance activities, mobilized resistance, documented partisan activities, tended the wounded, and rescued and sheltered fellow Jews.

Hélène Cazes Benatar

Hélène Cazes Benatar was a Moroccan-born human rights lawyer who rescued thousands of refugees in North Africa during World War II. She was a life-long advocate for individual rights and political equality, especially for disenfranchised Maghrebi Jews. During World War II, she fought to protect victims of pro-Fascist Vichy rule; post-war, she promoted the migration of Moroccan Jews to Palestine and elsewhere.

Episode 56: The Light of Days: Judy Batalion (Transcript)

Episode 56: The Light of Days: Judy Batalion (Transcript)

Episode 56: The Light of Days: Judy Batalion

"They were women who carried cash in their garter belts and dynamite in their underwear," says Judy Batalion, the author of The Light of Days, a new book about Jewish women resistance fighters in World War II who "blew up Nazi supply trains and shot and killed Gestapo men." She's also co-writing the screenplay for a Steven Spielberg movie based on the book. In this episode of Can We Talk?, we talk with Judy about what made some women well suited to certain roles in the resistance and why their stories aren't better known today.

Bessie Margolin

Bessie Margolin was raised in New Orleans’s Jewish orphanage, where she learned powerful lessons in social justice that propelled her trailblazing legal career through the New Deal and Nazi War Crimes Trials to the United State Supreme Court, where she championed the rights of millions of American workers. A reluctant feminist who became the nation’s top fighter for equal pay for women and a co-founder of NOW, Margolin used intellect and charm to open courtroom doors for countless women who have followed.

Flory Jagoda

Flory Jagoda is a singer, musician, and composer who has promulgated and enriched the Sephardic and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) musical and folkloric tradition in the United States. Born in 1923, in Sarajevo, Bosnia (formerly Yugoslavia), she managed to leave Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia and avoid the sad fate of the extended family that nurtured her musical talent and Sephardic heritage. The popular Hanukah song, Ocho Kandelikas, is one of her many original compositions in Judeo-Spanish.

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force Recruitment Poster, 1943

From the Archive: WWII Women’s Auxiliary Air Force Recruitment Poster

Deborah Dash Moore
Dory Fox

The Posen Library shares a WAAF poster from 1943 from their archive.

Topics: World War II
Victory Garden Poster, 1941-45 (crop)

Seeds of Sustenance: Pandemic Victory Gardens

Julie Zuckerman

Like during World War I and II, many of us have turned to gardening for comfort and control during the pandemic.

Topics: Food, World War II
Jewish Partisans in Poland

Zog Nit Keynmol: The Songs of Jewish Partisans

Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler

Jewish partisans are far more compelling than any revenge fantasy cooked up by Quentin Tarantino because they were real.

Dahlia "Pobie" Johnston

The Unsung Jewish Women of WWII

Toshe Cecev

It is the accomplishments of everyday women that shape our world and change our collective future. Let’s tell their stories, too.

Emmy Noether, Edited Doodle

Shining a Light on Mathematical Brilliance

Dahlia Japhet

Over the past 106 years, 48 women have been honored with the Nobel Prize. Amalie Emmy Noether, a German Jewish mathematician who is now known as the “mother of abstract algebra,” is not one of them.

The Fortunate Ones and Ellen Umansky

An Interview with Author Ellen Umansky

Larisa Klebe
Emily Cataneo

JWA’s June Book Club pick isThe Fortunate Ones, a debut novel by author Ellen Umansky that tells the story of two women, one an older Holocaust survivor, the other a young woman living in Los Angeles, and the stolen painting that binds them together. We talked to Umansky about intergenerational friendship, becoming a writer, and the meaning of the word “fortunate.”

Ruth Franklin Einstein

From the Archives: Saturday Luncheon Club

Robbie Terman

With the wonders of social media, I have a place to ponder the fate of Jimmy Hoffa and share anecdotes that I find in the archives. In 1921, a group of women with curious minds found a different method to uncover and share stories: The Saturday Luncheon Club (SLC).

Kubzansky Family Portrait

President Trump's Proposed Budget and The Loss of American Potential

Caroline Kubzansky

In my journal is a piece of paper that’s older than I am. I’ve been carrying it around for some time and reading it at almost every available opportunity, though at this point, I know it almost by heart.

Statue of Jewish Refugees in Shanghai

China's Jewish Sanctuary City

Emily Cataneo

I should be able to tour the neighborhoods that sheltered hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees in New York, Chicago, Boston, Montreal and Toronto, London and Manchester. But thanks to xenophobia, inaction, and fear, these neighborhoods never existed.

Audrey Abade

Audrey Abade is the Jewish History Department Chair at Magen David Yeshivah High School. Her research has focused on Sephardic Jewry, particularly the role of women within Syrian and Egyptian Jewish communities. Her study of Egyptian Jewish women and their immigration to the United States was published in, “A Jewish Feminine Mystique?: Jewish Women in Postwar America.” Her lesson focuses on Syrian Jewish Americans during World War II and looks at the process of identity formation through the lens of young first and second generation women.

Henrietta Szold on Saying Kaddish

In a 1916 letter, Henrietta Szold (the founder of Hadassah) defied Jewish tradition and challenged rituals that exclude women by asserting her right to say Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for mourners).

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