Encyclopedia of Jewish women expands and diversifies – the forward
No more women of color. More LGBTQ women. No more Sephardic and Mizrahi women. More women with disabilities.
The Jewish Women’s Archives on Thursday released a new edition of its encyclopedia that will add more than 180 new entries to the 2,020 existing, an effort its editors hope to present readers with a greater diversity of Jewish women who have made history.
(The forward, given a preview, picked five favorites from the new entries. See below.)
“One of our big goals was to incorporate material on groups and topics that had been under-represented in previous releases because there had been fewer scholarships,” said Judith Rosenbaum, CEO of Archives . “So many people use the encyclopedia around the world, and this edition has worked to better understand this global audience.”
Used by more than one million readers each year in more than 230 countries around the world, JWA is widely regarded as the premier source of information on historical Jewish women and current leaders. It is also, says Rosenbaum, a source of inspiration.
“You need role models, you need to have a story that you see yourself reflected in,” she said. “There is a very, very long history of Jewish women’s activism, leadership, resilience and creativity, and we are publishing these stories and making them accessible in a new way.
Another goal of this edition, which is only available online, is to incorporate more media elements into its entries. Following the original publication of its two big red book volumes in 1997, the encyclopedia updated past essays with new photographs and videos where possible.
Editor-in-chief Jennifer Sartori explained that another key goal for the 60 researchers on the editorial board was to take a more nuanced approach to the genre, facilitated by the archive’s flexibility to make continuous changes to its online editing.
“In 1997, when the first edition came out, the word ‘woman’ was taken for granted, but now conceptions of gender are brought in much more fluidly,” Sartori said. “We also understand that gender identity can change and that’s part of what’s difficult about it. There might be some people that we include now who, years later, will say “actually, this is not where I feel comfortable anymore”, and luckily, it is about an online encyclopedia, so we can make those changes.
The edition will also take on a new name as the Shalvi / Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women in honor of Israeli feminist Alice Shalvi; her husband Moshe Shalvi, the last editor of the encyclopedia; and one of its original editors, the late Paula E. Hyman.
JWA started work on the new edition in 2017, after its last update in 2006, which went live in 2009. Part of the process included modifying 350 existing entries that required updates. In addition to Thursday’s post, the team has a list of over 1,000 entries they’re working on, at least 75 of which are expected to be posted on an ongoing basis this year. The process has taken longer over the past year and a half due to the pandemic.
“There are some things we probably intended to add, but a lot of authors ended up pushing their deadlines because they couldn’t access the archives or libraries they needed to do their research,” or they couldn’t even get into their offices, their universities, or they attended to the home school activities of three children. There have certainly been things that have been delayed, ”Sartori said.
For Rosenbaum, the edition has a special personal connection – the “Hyman” in the Shalvi / Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women is a tribute to her mother.
“I also felt like it was part of my mother’s legacy and so at this level it was also very important to me that it remains a relevant resource,” she said.
Here are five of The Forward’s favorite entries, brand new in the encyclopedia and abridged by Rosenbaum and Sartori.
Judy Heumann (b. 1947): defender of the rights of people with disabilities
Judith (Judy) E. Heumann, founder of the disability rights movement, is known around the world as a leader of the disability rights community. She has been instrumental in the development of disability rights legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Education Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. . In 1977, she led a 26-day takeover of a federal building in San Francisco. The protest led to the implementation of federal legislation (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), the precursor to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Heumann is the author with Kristen Joiner of Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist. She is featured in the award-winning Netflix documentary Crip Camp.
Sarah Rodrigues Brandon Moses (1798-1828): multiracial Jewish woman born in Barbados to a slave mother and an Ashkenazi Jewish father
The ivory miniatures of Sarah Rodrigues Brandon and her brother Isaac Lopez Brandon (1792-1855) are among the rarest portraits of Jews in the American Jewish Historical Society, as they are the earliest known representations of multiracial American Jews. Today, multiracial Jews make up about 12% of the American population. Sarah’s story provides a unique opportunity to better understand the early lives of racially ambiguous Jewish women. Jewish women of African descent were often confronted with the prejudices of society in general and of European Jews. Ultimately, Sarah overcame these prejudices and gained privileges for herself and her children. Other women, however, were not so lucky and faced more difficult lives as second-class citizens.
Kate Bornstein (born 1948): transgender lesbian activist, theorist and performance artist
Katherine (Kate) Vandam Bornstein is a revolutionary transgender lesbian activist, theorist and performance artist. Known for tackling social ills and personal pain with cheerful optimism, she says “true gender freedom begins with fun! (Bornstein 2016, 87). This playful style permeates her website and even the title of her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Join the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today (2012 ).
Bernice Sandler (1928-2019): “godmother of Title IX”
Bernice (Bunny) Sandler was an education expert whose feminist activism led to the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the federal policy that mandates gender equality in educational institutions. that receive federal funding. Sandler had initially studied the legality of sex discrimination in education after being denied an academic job in the late 1960s, and she worked with U.S. lawmakers to create the Title IX framework. After the adoption and implementation of Title IX, she continued her groundbreaking work on issues of gender, gender, race and ethnicity. Sandler theorized the concepts of “cold climate” and “gang rape” to present these problems as structural discrimination against women.
Esther Brandeau | Jacques La Fargue (circa 1718 -?): A story at the crossroads of gender and religion
Esther Brandeau was born in southwestern France around 1718, a descendant of the exiles of the Inquisition in Iberia. An interrogation record explains Brandeau’s death as a Christian and man across France for five years before embarking as Jacques La Fargue from La Rochelle, France. Doubly unmasked in Quebec or on the way to Quebec, Brandeau / La Fargue was finally deported from New France, allegedly for having refused to convert to Christianity. Stories of the transition from female to male and from Jewish to Christian among the Sephardic Jewish people of the Iberian Peninsula and its Diaspora were not uncommon in early modern Europe. The story has spread, almost exclusively in Canada. Its power lies at the intersection of what and how we (don’t know) and why and when we say it.