Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe

JWA’s Top 10 Moments of the Year

Jewish Women’s Archive’s Jewesses With Attitude blog, which crossposts regularly with The Sisterhood, counted down the top 10 moments for Jewish women in 2011. What do you think of the list? What moments should have been on it? Let us know in the comments section below.

10. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of “Our Bodies, Ourselves”

First published in 1971, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was the first book to address women’s health issues frankly, combining women’s authentic voices with solid medical information. Of the 12 women working on the project, nine were Jewish, including Esther Rome, [Joan Ditzion,( Paula Doress-Waters, and Nancy Miriam Hawley.The ninth edition of this groundbreaking volume was published in October 2011. The book’s 40th anniversary was celebrated on a number of news outlets and publications, including the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, NPR, NBC Nightly News, the Los Angeles Times, and Ms. Magazine.

9. Collegiate athletes Naama Shafir and Camille Levin led their teams to victory

On April 2, 2011, Orthodox basketball star Naama Shafir secured a win for the University of Toledo while simultaneously observing the Sabbath. Named the tournament’s MVP, Naama Shafir is the first Orthodox Jewish woman to earn an NCAA scholarship and to play basketball at a Division I college. On December 4, 2011, Stanford won the NCAA College Cup with help from Jewish soccer champ Camille Levin. A graduate of the Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School in Irvine, Calif., Levin is known as a competitive player, a strong finisher, and perhaps Stanford’s best tackler.

8. We celebrated the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty and Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”

Commemorations of the Statue of Liberty’s dedication in 1886 fueled the celebration of Jewish American poet and JWA Woman of Valor Emma Lazarus. Written in 1883, her celebrated poem, “The New Colossus,” is engraved on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The poem’s famous lines: “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — continue to shape the way we think about immigration and freedom today. The traveling exhibit “Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience,” curated by Esther Schor and produced by Nextbook in association with the American Library Association, was hosted at 18 locations around the country.

7. Jewish veterans of the 1960s women’s movement convened at New York University

On April 10, 2011, Jewish veterans of the 1960s women’s liberation movement gathered at New York University for a conference on “Women’s Liberation and Jewish Identity” convened by Brandeis Professor Joyce Antler. High profile Jewish feminists, including Susan Brownmiller, Gloria Feldt, Blu Greenberg, Susannah Heschel, and Alix Kates Shulman, shared their personal and political experiences as Jewish and/or radical feminists. On the second day, a group of younger Jewish feminists, including Tamara Cohen, Collier Meyerson, Nona Willis-Aronowitz, Irin Carmon, Jaclyn Friedman, and JWA’s Judith Rosenbaum, discussed feminism, Jewish identity, and activism today.

6. We marked the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

On March 25, 1911, fire broke out in the Triangle Waist Company’s factory near Washington Square in Lower Manhattan, killing 146 workers, most of whom were recent immigrant Jewish and Italian women. Just two years before, labor activists, including Rose Schneiderman and Clara Lemlich, targeted the Jewish owners of the factory in a strike known as the “Uprising of the 20,000.” On Sunday, March 13th, 2011, 230 people joined the Jewish Women’s Archive in New York City for the first Living the Legacy awards luncheon held to commemorate the centennial of the fire and celebrate the contributions of Jewish women activists then and now. The honoreeswere Ruth J. Abram, co-founder of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum; Kate Frucher, attorney, entrepreneur, and activist; and journalist Lynn Sherr.

5. Documentary “Gloria: In Her Own Words” premiered on HBO

On August 15, 2011, the documentary Gloria: In Her Own Words premiered on HBO. Using thousands of photos, rare video footage—and, of course, Gloria Steinem’s own stories—the hour-long film told the story of the women’s movement as seen through the eyes of one of its central figures. The film reminded young and old audiences alike of life before the Feminist Revolution, and how much we owe to Gloria Steinem and the women of her generation.

4. …and the Oscar goes to Natalie Portman!

In February, the Oscar for Best Actress went to Natalie Portman for her outstanding performance as an obsessive, bulimic ballerina in Black Swan. The role of Nina Sayers was both physically and emotionally demanding; Portman underwent 14 months of rigorous dance training and came to understand what she called the “self-flagellation” of a ballet dancer. A Harvard graduate named to the 2011 Forward 50 list of Jewish leaders making the biggest impact in American Jewish life, Natalie Portman is celebrated in the Jewish community for her commitment to her faith and for being a good role model for young Jews.

3. President Obama picked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to lead Democratic National Committee

In April, the Democratic Party announced that President Obama had named Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the incoming chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, making her the first woman DNC chief in 15 years and the third in history. This has been an important year for Wasserman Schultz; she has been recognized for her outspoken and articulate support of women’s access to healthcare and the target of a very public sexist attack from Rep. Allen West. Throughout the year, Wasserman Schultz has proved herself to be a powerful women’s advocate and ally in Congress.

2. Jill Abramson began work as first female executive editor of the New York Times

In September, Jill Abramson rode the subway to her new job as the first woman in the top editorial post at the country’s most prestigious newspaper, the New York Times. Though four of the last six editors to lead the paper, including Abramson, have been Jewish, her appointment as Executive Editor represents a breakthrough for women in a male-dominated industry. Back in 1962, assistant managing editor Clifton Daniel told a female reporter, “…I can assure you no woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times.” Oh, how wrong he was.

1. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to Congress to cast debt ceiling vote

In August, just seven months after a gunman’s bullet nearly killed her, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the floor of the House of Representatives to cast her vote in favor of a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. As soon as her congressional colleagues saw her, they leapt to their feet, giving her a sustained standing ovation. It was a rare moment of unity amid a tumultuous, polarizing showdown between Democrats and Republicans over the handling of the nation’s debt crisis. Giffords’ strength and perseverance throughout her recovery have been a source of inspiration and hope for Americans across the political divide in this difficult year.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.