by Simona Shur
This is the second installment of Hillel’s dive into famous Jewish American women throughout Women’s History Month.
Aly Raisman, a two time Olympic gold medalist for Team USA, is a fierce advocate for sexual assault surviviors and victims. She spoke out against some US Olympic coaches, including Larry Nassar, for their inappropriate behavior towards athletes. Raisman has used her position to uplift women and challenge the current athletic system to be better.
Raisman credits much of her career and drive to her Jewish upbringing. “I take a lot of pride in being able to not only represent the USA, but also the Jewish community everywhere,” she said. She also frequently uses Jewish music in her floor routines, famously performing to “Hava Nagila” in the 2012 Olympics.
Dianne Feinstein, a California Senator, has fought for women’s rights throughout her career. Some of her key positions include supporting reproductive rights, supporting the Violence Against Women Act, and advocating against wage discrimination based on gender.
She typically attributes her childhood Jewish education as a big factor that molded her into the politician she is today.
Idina Menzel, the voice behind Frozen’s Elsa, tends to gravitate towards roles that embody powerful characteristics and build women up. Along with her impressive acting career, she runs a charity that offers young girls from urban areas the chance to experience arts programs. Menzel teaches them leadership skills and the importance of women supporting women.
“A BroaderWay gives the girls a safe, beautiful sanctuary to escape their lives in the city and go up into this peaceful country and explore who they are as young women,” Menzel said.
Menzel is also proud of her Jewish identity, stating that her connection to the culture has made her proud of her roots. She wants to raise her kids in a similar manner so they have the opportunity to experience Judaism as well. “I am a Jewish woman and I feel strong connections to my culture, so yes, I would like to bring them up with knowledge of the stories and awareness of the history.”
Sally Priesand studied to be a rabbi and simultaneously became a feminist icon after becoming the first female ordained rabbi in America. She worked as a rabbi for 34 years before retiring in 2006.
According to Priesand, there are now more than 700 female rabbis in the Reform movement, with nearly 1,000 worldwide. She thinks this is a very positive and important change for Judaism.
“When I decided to study for the rabbinate, I never thought much about being a pioneer, nor was it my intention to champion the rights of women. I just wanted to be a rabbi,” Priesand said. Despite this, Priesand is incredibly honored that she spearheaded the movement which encouraged women to join the rabbinate.
Keep an eye out for another article regarding famous Jewish American feminists as Women’s History Month continues!