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Politics and Government: Social Policy

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Feminist Seder, 1991

Bella Abzug

Born in the Bronx on July 24, 1920, Bella (Savitzky) Abzug predated women’s right to vote by one month. A tireless and indomitable fighter for justice and peace, equal rights, human dignity, environmental integrity and sustainable development, Bella Abzug advanced human goals and political alliances worldwide.

Shulamit Aloni, 2001

Shulamit Aloni

Passionate, principled, provocative, and above all path breaking, Shulamit Aloni has left a greater imprint on Israeli political life and public discourse than any woman to come of age after Israel’s independence.

Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino

Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino

Like the biographies of other figures prominent at the time of the establishment of the state of Israel, that of Shoshana Arbeli-Almozlino parallels the history of Zionism and the founding of the state, from her childhood in a traditional Iraqi family and membership in the Zionist underground in Iraq, through her immigration to Palestine and the founding of Kibbutz Neve Or, to her term as a member of the Knesset and her services as Israel’s Minister of Health.

Argentina: Jewish White Slavery

Fear of Jewish white slavery, the sexual traffic in immigrant Jewish refugee women, often conducted by Jewish men, was a topic that preoccupied Jewish communities in Europe and immigrant communities in North and South America from the 1880s until the outbreak of World War II.

Clarice Baright

Clarice Baright

Known to her contemporaries as the “Lady Angel of the Tenement District,” Clarice Baright was a social worker and a trailblazing attorney who combined these skills as an advocate for the rights of New York City’s children and its poor. In a career spanning the first half of the twentieth century, Baright fought for reforms in the style and spirit of the Progressive Era, while earning the distinctions of serving as the second female magistrate in New York City history and of being among the first few women admitted to the American Bar Association.

Dorit Beinisch

Dorit Beinisch

Israel Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch has based many of her decisions, including those regarding parental corporal punishment, sexual harassment, and military reform, on her commitment to upholding Israel's basic laws on human dignity and liberty.

Ruth Ben Israel, 2014

Ruth Ben Israel

Ruth Ben Israel, an expert in labor law, social equality, social security and the status of women, received the Israel Prize for legal research in 2001, becoming the third member of her family to win this distinguished award, alongside her brother, Professor Yuval Ne’eman (b. 1925, Israel Prize 1969) and her cousin, Professor Hayyim Harari (b. 1940, Israel Prize 1989).

Hadassa Ben-Itto

Born in Brzezin, Poland, on May 16, 1926, Hadassa Ben-Itto was the daughter of David Lipmanowicz (1904–1994), a building contractor, and Dvora (née Broder, 1906–1988), a homemaker, both of whom had also been born in Brzezin. Her father received a Jewish education at heder and yeshiva, while her mother had attended elementary school. They married in 1924 and immigrated to Palestine in 1935, where a second daughter, Nira (Kfir), was born in 1937.

Emma Goldman Mug Shot, 1901

Birth Control Movement in the United States

The dedicated commitment of great numbers of American Jewish women to their country’s long and controversial crusade to legalize birth control had its origins in 1912, when the movement’s formidable pioneer Margaret Sanger—baptized a Catholic, and married to a Jew, but by then calling herself a socialist—was working part-time as a visiting nurse in the immigrant districts of New York City’s Lower East Side.

Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer is currently one of the most influential liberal political figures in the country, having served in the United States Senate since 1992. Her visibility especially flows out of her vocal commitment to feminist causes.

Britain: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

From 1656, when Jews were allowed to resettle in Great Britain, forming a small community in London until the present, the Anglo-Jewish community has benefited from the relative tolerance toward minorities that the British have displayed, as well as from general economic and political developments. To be sure, Parliament did not fully emancipate Jews until 1858 and social discrimination persisted into the twentieth century. Great Britain did, however, offer haven to successive waves of immigrants, and Jews have prospered on its shores, becoming British and participating in the larger culture of the urban middle classes. The status of Jewish women was affected both by larger social mores and by the nature of the Anglo-Jewish community.

Helen Lehman Buttenwieser and her Sons

Helen Lehman Buttenwieser

A distinguished attorney who specialized in adoption and foster care issues and represented child welfare agencies and the children under their care, Helen Lehman Buttenwieser was born on October 8, 1905, and grew up in a Jewish family prominent in New York banking and philanthropic circles.

Lorraine Weinrib, February 10-11, 2003

Canada: From Outlaw to Supreme Court Justice, 1738-2005

The positive aspect of the Canadian mosaic has been a strong Jewish community (and other communities) which nurtured traditional ethnic and religious values and benefited from the talent and energy of women and men restrained from participation in the broader society. The negative aspect has included considerable antisemitism and, especially for women, the sometimes stifling narrowness and conservatism of the community which inhibited creative and exceptional people from charting their own individual paths.

Felice Cohn

Felice Cohn was one of Nevada’s first women lawyers, an author of suffragist legislation in Nevada, and one of the first women admitted to the United States Supreme Court.

A "Model Seder" at the University of Maryland, 1948

College Students in the United States

While Jews have traditionally placed a great deal of emphasis on education and learning, in the past they reserved the privilege of education primarily for their sons. Religious and cultural ideals assigning women’s place to the home and family combined with societal sexism and antisemitism to make the course charted by Jewish women in pursuit of a college education rocky and in many cases inaccessible. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, Jewish women in America achieved parity with their male counterparts on college campuses, but only after many decades of struggle. Indeed, the obstacles facing all American women who sought to enroll in college institutions in the decades surrounding the turn of the last century proved numerous, imposing, and at times, defeating. For Jewish women, antisemitism posed an added challenge that they had to conquer in order to receive the college education they sought.

Rita Davidson

Rita Charmatz Davidson

Rita Charmatz Davidson led the vanguard for women in the state of Maryland, rising through the ranks of appointed local public service posts to the governor’s cabinet and seats on both of Maryland’s appellate courts.

Dalia Dorner, 2010

Dalia Dorner

An avowed feminist and ardent defender of civil and human rights, Dalia Dorner (née Dolly Greenberg) was born in Turkey on March 3, 1934, and brought to Palestine in 1944. Her father, Levy Greenberg (1900–1944), a merchant who was born in Odessa, left Russia and at some time after the 1917 revolution immigrated to Istanbul. In 1928 he married Mina Markus (b. 1908), who was born in Turkey. A son, Edy, was born in 1937. When Levy Greenberg developed cancer, he hastened to bring the entire family to Palestine, where he died shortly afterwards.

Ruth Dreifuss

Ruth Dreifuss

An outspoken and strong feminist, Switzerland’s first Jewish member of the Federal Government and first woman president Ruth Dreifuss was born in St. Gall in Eastern Switzerland on January 9, 1940. Her father Sigi Dreifuss (1899–1956) was from Endingen (Canton of Aargau), one of the two villages of old Switzerland in which Jews could live before the emancipation in 1866. The Dreifuss family was among the oldest in Switzerland. Her mother’s family left Alsace (near Colmar) after the German annexation in 1871 and Ruth’s mother Jeanne Dreifuss-Bicard (1905–1962) was born in St. Gall. Ruth’s brother, Jean Jacques, born in 1936, was a professor of physiology in the faculty of medicine at the University of Geneva.

Andrea Dworkin, 1988

Andrea Dworkin

A lightning rod for controversy, American feminist Andrea Dworkin denounced violence against women, advocated women’s self-defense, and drafted groundbreaking legislation claiming that pornography violated women’s civil rights. In 1974, Dworkin and Ricki Abrams co-wrote Woman Hating in which they charged that pornography incited violence towards women and that consensual sex subjugated women.

Hannah Bachman Einstein

Hannah Bachman Einstein’s activism and volunteer activities bridged very different worlds, from temple sisterhood leadership to lobbying and helping draft legislation for children’s welfare. She helped draft what became the Child Welfare Law of 1915, was the first female board member of the United Hebrew Charities, and served as president of the New York State Association of Child Welfare Boards.
Katharine A. Engel and Irving M. Engel

Katharine Engel

When Katharine Engel’s alma mater, Smith College, conferred upon her its first honorary degree for Jewish achievement in 1950, the citation praised Engel’s “sensitive understanding of the many complex problems which confront the immigrant to this country.” A renowned emigré expert and Jewish communal leader who devoted much of her career to resettling displaced European Jewry, Engel was also an outspoken critic of McCarthyism and a tireless advocate of immigration reform.

Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein

Political pioneer, tough leader, crime fighter, reformer: These are some of the words that describe Dianne Feinstein, former mayor of San Francisco and United States senator from California since 1992.

Ariel Sharon and Michal Modai, December 10, 2001

Feminism in Contemporary Israel

The first wave of feminism in Israel washed over the country as early as the pre-statehood Jewish community in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. "Old Yishuv" refers to the Jewish community prior to 1882; "New Yishuv" to that following 1882.Yishuv period.

Lillian Wald

Feminism in the United States

Jewish women have played a significant role in all aspects of the American feminist movement.

Sheila Finestone

Sheila Finestone

Senator Sheila Finestone, one of Canadian Jewry’s foremost parliamentarians, championed the protection of human rights for all Canadians throughout her career as a liberal politician.

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