10 Inspirational Jewish Women Every Person Should Know

In the Jewish Talmud tells us: “We were redeemed from Egypt because of the righteousness of the women of that generation.” These were brave women who defied Pharaoh’s orders to kill the Hebrew baby boys. They committed the first recorded act of civil disobedience in human history, risking their own lives to save innocent children.

The spirit of those women in the generation from Egypt has been the spirit of Jewish women throughout the generations, women who never gave up hope that they could make the world better for their children and their children’s children and for all the children of the world. We celebrate that legacy during Women’s History Month as Jewish people around the wotld begin to prepare for Passover.

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, here is my list of 10 of the most inspirational Jewish women who changed history.

 

1. Glückel of Hameln (1645-1724)

Glückel of Hameln (Photo credit: Wikipedoa.org)

Glückel of Hameln (Photo credit: Wikipedoa.org)

Wrote a memoir of Jewish life in Central Europe covering the second half of the 17th and early 18th Centuries. Her book is an important description of what Jewish life was like at that time. Her account of life provided scholars with an intimate picture of German Jewish communal life in the late-17th-early eighteenth century Jewish ghetto. It was a time of transition from the authority and autonomy of the Medieval kehilla, toward a more modern ethos in which membership in the community was voluntary and Jewish identity far more personal and existential. (For more information)

 

2. Bruriah (ca. 2nd century Palestine)

Bruriah (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

Bruriah (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

The only woman in the Talmud ( a central text of Rabbinic Judaism, considered second to the Torah) who is both a teacher and a source of Jewish law. She was the wife of the Tanna Rabbi Meir and the daughter of Rabbi Hananiah Ben Teradion, who is listed as one of the “Ten Martyrs.” She is greatly admired for her breadth of knowledge in matters pertaining to both halachah and aggadah, and is said to have learned from the rabbis 300 halachot on a single cloudy day (Tractate Pesachim 62b). Her parents were put to death by the Romans for teaching Torah, but she carried on their legacy. (For more information)

 

3. Henrietta Szold (1860-1945)

Henrietta Szold (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

Henrietta Szold (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

Founded Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America and was a founder of Youth Aliyah which located 30,000 children and brought them safely to Palestine. She was a major intellect whose work with Louis Ginsburg on his Legends of the Jews was never acknowledged in her lifetime. She was the first female student at the Jewish Theological Institute, admitted only after she agreed not to seek accreditation for her academic work. (For more information)

 

4. Lillian Wald (1867-1940)

Lillian Wald (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

Lillian Wald (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

Known as the “Angel of Henry Street” she created the Henry Street Settlement House in New York’s Lower East Side which was an early advocate for nursing in schools. She was a giant in public health and social work. She campaigned for suffrage and was a supporter of racial integration. She was involved in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). (For more information)

 

5. Golda Meir (1898-1978)

Golda Meir (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

Golda Meir (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

An Israeli teacher,kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of Israel. Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel on March 17, 1969, after serving as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister. Israel’s first and the world’s third woman to hold such an office, , she was described as the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics years before the epithet became associated with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. ; She was often portrayed as the “strong-willed, straight-talking, grey-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people” (For more information)

 

6. Rabbi Regina Jonas (1902-1944)

Rabbi Jonas Regina (Photo credit: jwa.org)

Rabbi Jonas Regina (Photo credit: jwa.org)

The first woman rabbi. Ordained at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin in 1935, she was murdered in Auschwitz in October 1944. Her story was essentially unknown until after the fall of the Berlin Wall when East German Archives became available. (For more information)

 

 

7. Betty Friedan (1921-2006)

Betty Friedan (Photo credit Wikipedia.org)

Betty Friedan (Photo credit Wikipedia.org)

Author of the game changing book “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963 which changed the way or culture looks at women and the way women look at themselves. She was a founder of NOW (National Organization of Women) and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Her other important books include The Second Stage and Fountain of Age. (For more information)

 

 

8. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933- Present)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia.org)

The first Jewish woman and only the second woman to serve on the US Supreme Court. She is generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the Court. Before becoming a judge, Ginsburg spent a considerable portion of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of women’s rights as a constitutional principle. She advocated as a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and was a member of its board of directors and one of its general counsel in the 1970s. She was a professor at Rutgers School of Law–Newark and Columbia Law School. (For more Information)

 

9. Gracia Mendes Nasi (1510–1569)

Gracia Mendes Nasi (Photo credit: israeljewishnews.blogspot.com)

Gracia Mendes Nasi (Photo credit: israeljewishnews.blogspot.com)

She was one of the wealthiest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe. She married into the eminent international banking and finance company known as the House of Mendes. She was the aunt and business partner of Joseph Miques, who became a prominent figure in the politics of the Ottoman Empire. She also developed an escape network that saved hundreds of Conversos from the Inquisition. (For more information)

 

10. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (1959 – Present)

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Photo credit: www.visibleu.com)

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Photo credit: www.visibleu.com)

Sharon Kleinbaum (born 1959) is a leading social justice activist and an openly lesbian rabbi who has been Senior Rabbi of New York City’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST, the largest LGBTQ synagogue in the world) since 1992. She is a prominent advocate for human rights. She graduated from Barnard College and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where she was ordained. While at Barnard College, she led protests against Barnard’s investments in South Africa and against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. She has two daughters. Sharon Kleinbaum was named one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek for six years (2007-2012), as well as one of Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Shake the World. She was also named one of the Top 10 Women Religious Leaders and one of the 15 Inspiring LGBT Religious Leaders by the Huffington Post. (For more information)

 

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  2 comments for “10 Inspirational Jewish Women Every Person Should Know

  1. August 9, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Your information is amazingly appealing.

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    August 26, 2014 at 10:47 pm

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