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December 22, 2015 by

7 Jewish Feminist Highlights of 2015

2015 is leaving us with too much violence and a world that needs much repair.   For me, the hateful murder of Shira Banki at the Jerusalem Pride Parade in August and the National Women’s Studies Association’s noxious BDS resolution were two Jewish feminist low points of this secular year.  But other, joyous moments have helped me keep the faith that Jewish feminism can and does make a difference by doing the work of tikkun olam in Jewish worlds, in feminist movements, and in the world entire.  So in keeping with that spirit, I offer my top 7 Jewish feminist moments of 2015 (and, of course, 7 is the number associated with creation and blessing in Jewish tradition!). 

1)   Rebecca Goldstein, who has embodied and given literary life to “mind-proud” women throughout her career, was awarded the National Humanities Medal.  If you haven’t yet read The Mind-Body Problem, Mazel (winner of the National Jewish Book Award), or 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, treat yourself to the words and the worlds of a brilliant writer. 

2)   Another one of my sheroes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice and graduate of Brooklyn’s James Madison High School (my alma mater), was recognized with the Radcliffe Medal, given “to an individual who has had a transformative impact on society.”  This “tiger justice,” of course, was a key vote in the landmark decision legalizing gay marriage.  And the publication of Notorious RGB (and the upcoming film version of this legal titan’s life starring Natalie Portman) is a sign that intelligent life and popular culture can and do coexist. 

3)   Mishkan HaNefesh, the new Reform High Holiday Jewish prayer book inclusive of Jewish feminist and queer theologies, was released this year.  And the cover is made from recycled materials, so it honors the earth as well as Jews who are as varied as the rainbow. 

4)   Lesléa Newman’s classic children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a new edition that was widely and wonderfully feted by the press.   Advocate even featured Newman’s own love letter to the book. 

5)   Brandeis University acquired Lilith’s archives, thus ensuring that the wisdom of the publication that has celebrated mouthy Jewish women since 1976 will be transmitted from generation to generation. Lilith also garnered three Rockower Awards from the American Jewish Press Association: Susan Talve’s “Find Your Fergusons” was awarded first place in the category of Excellence in Social Justice Reporting, Leah Lax’s “One Woman’s Resume” earned an award for Excellence in Personal Essay, and the Lilith Blog earned an award for Excellence in Blogging. 

6)   Letty Cottin Pogrebin, former editor of Ms. and author of the Jewish feminist classic Deborah, Golda, and Me published Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate.  A tagline for this novel of ideas might be “Black and Jewish Lives Matter.”

7)   Deborah Kass’s “OY/YO” sculpture graced the Brooklyn Bridge Park (from Brooklyn, you see “OY”; from Manhattan, “YO”).  Kass is also known for her “My Jewish Jackie Series” and “My Elvis,” her Warholish tributes to Barbra Streisand.  

Helene Meyers is Professor of English and McManis University Chair at Southwestern University.  Most recently, she is the author of Identity Papers: Contemporary Narratives of American Jewishness and is currently writing a book on Jewish American cinema.