Sisterhood Blog

Women of Valor, Reconsidered

By Ronit Stahl

Wikicommons
Beate Gordon helped insure rights constitutional rights for Japanese women.

A trio of extraordinary Jewish women died this week. But until their obituaries made them fleeting front-page news, few recognized the names, or knew the history they represented. These women aren’t over looked because they were unimportant, but because the narrative we repeat about Jewish women doesn’t make room for their remarkable stories.

They were not classic immigrant strivers or typical Holocaust survivors, though in some ways they all were, in fact, both. Rita Levi-Montalcini spent the war years running from Mussolini and Hitler, all the while maintaining a bedroom lab in which she continued the scientific research that led to her postwar discovery of nerve growth factor and culminated in a Nobel Prize. Beate Gordon used her position as a civilian translator attached to General MacArthur’s occupation army in Japan to find her parents and insert equal rights for women into the postwar Japanese constitution. Gerda Lerner channeled her experience resisting the Anschluss to assert that women were historical actors deserving of scholarly attention, and in so doing, pioneered the field of women’s history.

All three came from a cohort of Central European-born Jewish women who stepped outside of the confines of what was expected of them by their community to determine their personal trajectories and transform their professional fields. Doubly marginalized as women and as Jews, they nonetheless gained access to political, military, and scientific portals of power through a potent brew of enterprise, education, and perseverance.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Women of Valor, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Gerda Lerner, Beate Gordon




Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • 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.