Doris Gold was a very dear and consummately loyal friend, a sage adviser, and an overflowing font of information from her encyclopedic mind on a wide range and diversity of areas. And she didn’t stop with just expressing her ideas; she implemented them. And she happily and enthusiastically shared her ideas and information, her advice and criticism with anyone who needed it.
Doris was a farbrenteh feminist, even before the second wave of the women’s movement was underway. She was a knowledgeable and deeply committed Jew. Synthesizing these two values and principles, Doris Gold was among the very first Jewish feminists and was a farbrenteh Jewish feminist.
She was very active in the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, NOW. She was one of the Founding Mothers of LILITH, the Jewish feminist magazine, now in its 35th year. She organized the 30th Reunion of many of the 500 participants in the First National Jewish Women’s Conference of 1973. She initiated a program to honor Emma Lazarus at the rededication of the Statue of Liberty.
Doris was a truly courageous woman, never afraid to speak and write on controversial and unpopular subjects, to debate and to foster debate in the Jewish community and in the feminist movement. She was never afraid to speak her mind no matter what the subject was and no matter what the consequences were.
She was never conflicted about whether or not to stand up on some issue or for someone who needed her support. She never slogged through some inner debate, yes or no, what shall I do? It was natural for her to just go ahead forcefully and say and do what was right in her eyes.
At a time when women were confined to the home and afflicted with “the problem that has no name,” to use Betty Friedan’s words, she created jobs for herself by simply going to the organization she was interested in and making some innovative suggestions. Naturally, they hired her forthwith. For example, she organized programs at the Hall of Science in Queens and worked on Jacques Cousteau’s books. But Doris went beyond creating jobs she could amply fill.
She was a supreme organizer. She inspired and motivated; she had a fine sense of priorities and planning. Those of us for whom she was a mentor often said she could easily run a small government.
Doris was a pioneer. She filled needs that had been unrecognized before she took notice. One of her major projects was to establish Biblio Press, a small publishing company. Its first publication was another of her pathbreaking ideas: a bibliography of writings on Jewish women from 1900 to the 1980s, which, with its updated editions, continues to be used in many college courses and women’s groups. She went on to publish scores of paperback books including a biography of Ernestine Rose and the memoirs of Manya Schochat.
She was the original networker. Ask her a question about Japan, for example, and she’d tell you how to get in touch with a Japanese publisher she had become acquainted with via email. Ask her where to find a women rabbis’ group, Talmud classes for women, or an alternative hagadot for Passover, and it was like clicking on a web listing, only much easier and far more helpful.
Doris had a wonderful sense of humor. She could see the ironic and the contradictory and the ridiculous in things that happened and things that people said. And her laugh – what a life-affirming laugh she had! It was contagious; it cheered you up when you were losing faith in the goodness of humanity.
She was the literary agent for my book, “Jewish Women, Jewish Men: The Legacy of Patriarchy in Jewish Life,” a feminist analysis of Jewish history, culture and psychology. It was Doris who told me over several years that I had to do such a book, I just had to. Doris had never been a book agent before but of course that didn’t stop her. When visiting San Francisco in 1987 to spend time with one of the two beloved sons she raised with her husband, Bernie, she approached a publisher to kick around ideas for books on Jewish feminist subjects. She proposed my book idea – actually, her book idea – to an editor and got a contract for me.
But that was just the beginning of her work as my literary agent. She read my chapters. She made comments. She listened to me kvetch about my troubles with my editor. She lent me her ears and let me cry on her shoulder. Her advice was always solid. She always made time for me; she always stood by me. With Doris in my corner, I felt secure that I could triumph over the adversity in the publishing industry.
Doris was a rock. She never faltered, never wavered in her commitments, principles, and loyalties. Everyone knew she would always “be there” for you. She will be remembered for her courage, her outspokenness, her enthusiasm, her dedication to feminism and Jewish feminism, to the Jewish community and to Israel, and for her imagination and innovation. She truly went where no woman had gone before.
If there is an afterlife and a Heaven, you can be sure Doris Gold will be organizing up there.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Doris B. Gold, 1919 - 2011." (Viewed on October 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/weremember/gold-doris>.