Sisterhood Blog

Q&A: Joyce Antler on 'Women's Liberation and Jewish Identity'

By Chanel Dubofsky

  • Print
  • Share Share
Schocken Books
Antler’s 1998 book, ‘The Journey Home’

I first read the Joyce Antler’s book “The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America” as an undergraduate, deep in the thrall of Jewish feminist academia. It was an enormously important part of my uncovering and understanding what Antler calls “the cultural chain” of my identity as a Jewish woman activist.

Joyce Antler is the Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture at Brandeis University, where she teaches in the American Studies Department and Women’s and Gender Studies Program. She authored or edited 10 books, including “You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother.” She is the co-author (with Elinor Fuchs) of the prize-winning documentary drama “Year One of the Empire: A Play of American Politics, War and Protest,” which was performed off-Broadway in 2008.

Beginning today and running through tomorrow, Antler is convening a conference called “Women’s Liberation and Jewish Identity: Uncovering a Legacy of Innovation, Activism and Social Change,” sponsored by NYU’s Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History, the Jewish Women’s Archive, the Spencer Foundation’s Special Initiative on Civic Learning and Civic Action and Brandeis University. The conference will bring together 40 Jewish women who participated in the women’s liberation and Jewish feminist movements beginning in the late 1960s; the participants include Susannah Heschel, Evelyn Torton Beck, Gloria Feldt, Jaclyn Friedman, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz and Susan Weidman Schneider. I spoke recently with Antler about her hopes, intentions and motivations behind this unique conference.

Chanel Dubofsky: What was your inspiration for convening this conference?

Joyce Antler: I was a fellow at the Center for American Jewish History at NYU in 2008–2009, researching a book radical feminism, Jewish women and identity, and this is the culmination of that research. I was interviewing people, and wanted those stories to have a public component.

Who is the conference’s target audience?

The general public, scholars, students, activists — a multigenerational audience, so that contemporary women can make connections and think about how to carry over the legacy. We’ll be honoring our foremothers, such as Grace Paley, and looking at how the lessons from the early women’s movement have made an important, broad sweep through time and carried over to another generation.

What are you hoping that young feminists and young Jewish women will take away from the conference?

I hope we can create an understanding of past complexities, of pioneering and major contributions to feminism and Jewish feminism. The panelists will illuminate the historical record; they’ll provide a personal analysis regarding motivations, context, what provided the activist impulse to them, as well as [to] the generation before them.

What do you consider to be the most important issues facing Jewish feminism?

There are so many. Diversity is one. Jewish women understanding themselves, how they fit into frameworks, how they can impact Jewish communities, how they can make public and political life choices, how those can be brought into alliances and [how they can] build a life based on principles.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Women's Movement, Women's Liberation, Joyce Antler, Jewish Feminism, In Other Jewish Newspapers, Activism, Feminism

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.