This growing online collection contains reminiscences of a variety of recently deceased American Jewish women who made a difference in their community and beyond.
A daughter of immigrants and a working mother starved for time to write, Tillie Olsen drew from her personal experiences to create a small but influential body of work.
Her passion for learning and for education at all levels propelled her to make them a central part of her life, both as a student, a mother, and a supporter of women's education over her lifetime.
It was her conviction that others shared her desire to be a knowledgeable Jew, and her dream was to create the way to provide that knowledge.
Ruth deeply believed that economic empowerment was the basis for increasing human rights and gender equity for women. If women have economic power, they gain confidence and courage, and become greater participants with increased voice in their communities. Everyone benefits when women benefit.
For those around her Emily served as a compass, both figuratively and literally. She knew how to help her community steer a clear course, guiding us with her own impeccable honesty and tenacious personality. You could also ask her for more practical directions and arrive with more clarity than mapquest can provide….
She cared passionately about the arts, Boston, literature, politics, and her family and friends… She was one of those Jewish women who helped pry the door open continually so that others less assertive than she could follow.
Even though she wanted to turn swords into ploughshares, she wielded her own kind of sharp weapon: an inveterate (and sometimes intimidating) intelligence. She had an eye for detail as well as a sweeping perspective that always saw the bigger, more critical picture….
…Her ability to see the potential in every person and to help translate that potential towards reality – through teaching and shared organizing; through coaxing and prodding towards action; but mostly, through the most respectful and honest listening one could ever encounter – had enormous political ramifications.
Buz Hahn lived life the way she wanted, standing up for what was right, kneeling down to lend a hand and always, always getting the most out of every experience. When Buz died earlier this year at age 74, there were tears, of course. But there were no regrets for opportunities squandered. Nobody could say she lived anything less than a full and fantastic life.
Lisa Goldberg simply set the standard for creative and efficacious use of philanthropic dollars…. She never thought small – absolutely never.
On various occasions Carolyn met with young people, urged them to take on world challenges, ran essay contests for them and celebrated the winners enthusiastically, spoke in different settings about the importance of supporting the next generation and encouraging them to be involved in healing the world.
As a scholar, Dr. Frymer-Kensky challenged her students to study deeply and obtain mastery of their subjects; any less was insufficient. In her writing, she modeled both rigor and relevance…. She wrote in order to bring us the ancient and to create a more just present.
If there was any one woman who could be called the mother of feminism, it was Betty Friedan. Though "second-wave" feminism was a collective endeavor that had many founders, Friedan was the spark plug whose furious indictment of "the problem that had no name" – the false consciousness of "happy housewifery" – set off a revolution more potent than many of the other social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s. The impact of this social movement is still being felt around the world.
Judy was one of the first (and still, regrettably, one of the few) singers of Sephardic songs who, from the beginning, learned songs directly from the people whose tradition it was.
As one of the first professionals to initiate a joint venture between a nonprofit and the private sector, Clara was way ahead of her time.
She gave her editors indigestion, but she won them a Pulitzer, too, guiding the Globe's coverage of the pain and the chaos that greeted court-ordered busing to achieve desegregation of Boston's public schools.
Despite the difficulty of translating the evanescent nature of dance into words, Selma Jeanne Cohen believed that dance, as much as painting, music and literature, deserved a history of its own. She spent a lifetime creating the structures necessary to making the recording of that history possible….
Her life not only chronicles a history of the Broadway musicals I grew up with, but also an era that allowed many of us to believe in the beauty and power of New York, as well as that melancholy feeling many of us hold as we look back on a period when life was indeed simpler… Though not a particularly observant Jew, Comden seemed informed by a Jewish frame of mind – a wise-cracking, down-to-earth, cultural "at homeness" with which I very much identified.
Her major talent was opening hearts. Her compassion, understanding and generosity made her the most popular person at school, a magnet for teenagers who called her their second mother and were ready to share things they would never have told their parents.
Sally Fox's passion was to gather and share the history of women through visual images. Sometimes this meant finding images of women doing conventional work, but often it meant seeking images of women doing the unexpected…. Her goal was to challenge conventional notions of how women lived their lives in the past.
When I pick up this pen to use it, I will remember so much of what you taught me, not the least of which is to dare to try. To go for it. And I will remember the lessons you taught me of believing in myself, of responsibility and honor and consideration for others and how we must give back, and, of the endless possibilities of creativity. And, oh yes, to have fun….
Once she became a famous performer, Hart was always aware of which musical theater greats shared her lineage. "Everybody in the theater was Jewish," she declared matter-of-factly. "Except Cole Porter." She only gradually became aware of antisemitism around her. "I went to a dinner party – and in those days, everybody dressed up for dinner parties," she recalled. "And they were talking about the Jews in a way that was just awful. It was unbearable. And I got up in the middle of dinner, and I said, 'I am Jewish, and I won't sit here and listen to this kind of talk for another five minutes.' And I left. The bravest thing I ever did."
Whatever the particular project – this woman pushed on. Whether it was the Guide Dogs for the Blind, the children of Jerusalem who would benefit from this park or that zoo, and most recently, the passion for exposing Israeli excellence in the decorative arts to international audiences. Her zeal for young people – Birthright groups, Reboot young adults, children in enrichment programs in Israeli schools whether in Beit Shemesh or Sakhnin, was overwhelming.
A clipping in her memoirs sums up her philosophy: 'Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body … but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a ride!"'
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "We Remember." (Viewed on January 21, 2017) <https://jwa.org/weremember>.