This online collection contains reminiscences of a variety of recently deceased American Jewish women who made a difference in their community and beyond.
Vera Saeedpour became an expert on the Kurds because she was a Jew, and she died leaving the world a bit more sensitive to their plight than it was before she was here.
June took the opportunity to study Torah with the rabbi and five other women and, at age 89, became the oldest woman in Rutland to celebrate her bat mitzvah.
Bunny’s passion for changing the field of education’s treatment of women was spurred by her own experience in academia. In 1969, after earning a doctorate at the University of Maryland, she hoped to secure one of seven open teaching positions in her department at that university. When she learned that she had not been considered for any of them, she asked a male colleague why. His reply was, “Let’s face it. You come on too strong for a woman.” For Bunny, those were fighting words, and battling discrimination in educational institutions became her lifelong passion.
We are finally in Paris and you can see that the Americans took over the situation. Can you imagine—ME—with the “handle” that I’ve got using Hitler’s stationery?
She faced discrimination overtly as a Jew and less overtly as a working woman... Those experiences sensitize people to what fair treatment is. We knew that to be fair was important, to work for improving the world an essential task.
Her courage was more than physical: she had the courage of her convictions. Passionate about social justice, she did not stand on the sidelines. If a cause mattered to her, she dove in wholeheartedly, attending rallies, volunteering for Board service, arranging meetings, and organizing fundraisers.
Many of the stories of her young life in France give a glimpse into the shaping forces of her strong character, enormous empathy and compassion for others. This shaped her life as a giver.
Thinking about Barbara, I realize that she was a one-woman social networking site. She remembered everyone she had ever met and tried to connect them with everybody else she had ever met. She recalled where you were from, whom you dated, your health problems, and your writings or accomplishments and then she introduced to people who you should know.
…'She, in some ways, was way ahead of her time,' said her daughter Margaret Shapiro, of Philadelphia. 'Although she had a nice life, once it became nice, she really wasn't satisfied until she had a career of her own. And she wasn't from a family or a community that encouraged women to have careers of their own. But she stuck to wanting to have her own skills and her own career.'
Enid Shapiro lived tikkun olam. She was an early feminist, a devoted Jew, an unceasing learner, and she made a difference in countless people’s lives through her devotion to repair the world and her commitment to kindness and care that came from a place of profound integrity.
Rochie lived with a spirit that was equal parts intensity and carefree exuberance. In the last few years of her life, when her cancer returned, she talked about “the strength that comes with living with a sharpened sense of time.”
…A colorful character in the dull world of utility regulation, Siegel's talent and passion pushed her to the forefront of any battle she engaged in Siegel's quick thinking and dry humor made her a favorite with policymakers, the media and even her opponents. She charmed, disarmed and then went for the jugular. Even her adversaries, whom she routinely called all sorts of unprintable names, spoke fondly of her.
I didn’t pay much attention to this tiny little old lady. Then came a student show, and she brought in her Bust of Henry Lofton, a twice life-size study of an 11-year-old African American boy. That’s all I had to see to know that I was sharing a studio with an exceptional talent.
She liked to tell me that she started out in life as conservative but that she did a full political turn when she traveled to South Africa at l9 and observed first hand the awful effect of apartheid. When she returned to San Francisco, she became active in the Jewish community and with liberal and social justice causes and campaigns.
Whether Hilda was sharing her moral outrage, her prodigious memory of historical events, handing out leaflets, or vigiling with Women in Black, she was for me a courageous and passionate teacher and activist.
Her generosity was boundless; she provided resources or advice, but the recipient had to be willing to listen and follow through. Nothing disappointed her more than someone settling for less than they could do.
Dr. Spector always seemed happy and was full of laughter. Despite her tragic past, she knew how to enjoy life and made sure that you enjoyed it along with her. At the same time, she was principled. Deeply religious, her tenets in life were molded by her profound belief in the teachings of the Bible. She was also unbending: a determined lady who would brook no action that violated her principles.
A pioneering woman in the medical world, Herta published more than 250 scientific papers, including numerous articles on the effects on humans of strontium-90, a major radioactive component of fallout from the atomic bomb tests of the '40s and '50s. She was instrumental in describing mechanisms to rid the body of this deadly isotope, information that was to prove invaluable years later when she helped save lives following the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.… Mostly, Herta taught us that if you have focus, work hard and dream big you can make major achievements that make the world a better place.
She had a strong sense of what was ethical and right; she didn’t just talk about it, she took action.
She taught in such a simple, loving way and made everyone feel safe. “You're allowed to mess up here,” she would say. “It's OK to fall.”
…an innovative and revered entrepreneur in the leather-armchair world of gentlemen antiquarian book dealers; unmarried in a world where women were wives, Stern lived in a universe in which it was not possible to live the way she wanted to. She simply ignored that impossibility, created her own universe and, in a small but exquisite way, changed the world.
She knew who to talk to and how to motivate people… She bridged the gap between being a 'rich lay leader' and a member of the professional staff with complete ease. It was not only her style, but the fact that everybody recognized her complete commitment to the Jewish community as well as to the community at large.
Caryn tenaciously challenged complacency, resignation, and lack of creativity wherever she found it. With her characteristic absence of judgment, she continually modeled for everyone the holding of hope for all those struggling with physical and mental disabilities.
This beautiful, wise and not-so-organized woman [was] not only a superb organizer but also an inspiring teacher and a colleague who exemplified what it means to meet one’s obligations to the human family.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "We Remember." (Viewed on February 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/weremember/toc/S>.