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Upper West Side: On Women, Water, and Walls

by Susan Reimer-Torn I am flooded with a painful memory. The trigger is a story told by Ruth Calderon, a newly elected delegate to the Israeli Knesset and a maverick teacher of Talmud as literature and as legacy to the non-religious. Speaking at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Calderon is letting us know, with a certain […]

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People of the Book 101: Grace Aguilar and Amy Levy

by Cecil Bloom Women’s role in the 19th century was seen by most people, women as well as men, as mainly a domestic one, but it is an interesting phenomenon that while there were few females in public life – certainly in political life – a number achieved fame in the literary field, including a […]

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June 18: Sylvia Porter

Sylvia Porter (Feldman), who began studying economics after the 1929 stock market crash and ended up with tens of millions of readers of her books and newspaper columns, was born on Long Island on this date in 1913. Porter wrote for the New York Post in its liberal heyday for more than 43 years (although […]

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April 17: Louise Nevelson

Sculptor Louise Nevelson (Leah Berliawsky) died at 88 on this date in 1988. Born to a Yiddish-speaking immigrant family, trained at the Arts Student League, and a WPA artist for four years until 1939, she gained an international reputation for her monumental wood and found-object sculptures, which she began creating when collecting scrap wood with […]

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April 16: Madam Polly Adler

Polly (Pearl) Adler, who ran New York’s best-known brothels during Prohibition and the 1930s under the “protection” of Dutch Schultz, was born in Yanow, Belorussia on this date in 1900. Sent to live in New York at the age of 12, she was cut off from her family by World War I and forced into […]

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April 13: Gracia Mendes Nasi

Twenty-five crypto-Jews were burned at the stake in Ancona, Italy on this date in 1556. In response, Gracia (Hannah) Mendes Nasi, one of the wealthiest women in Europe and herself a Portuguese Marrano who had bribed the Pope to delay the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal, organized a merchant boycott of the Port of […]

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Unveiling the Secret of the Scroll of Esther

by Aviva Cantor [This opinion piece is dedicated to my maternal grandmother, Esther Eisengardt Friedman of Dubno (d. 1917).] I originally viewed Megillat Esther as a kind of instructional manual for Jews about the dangers of the Diaspora, and the strategies for surviving them, and  what the men — who took responsibility for implementing these […]

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November 23: The Uprising of the 20,000

More than twenty thousand Yiddish-speaking immigrants, mostly young women, launched an eleven-week strike in New York’s shirtwaist industry on this date in 1909 — the largest strike by women in American history. Assaulted by goons, arrested by cops, lacking a substantial strike fund, the young women endured winter picketing, hunger, and harsh treatment in the […]

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August 16: The Harpsichordist

Wanda Landowska, who almost singlehandedly revived the harpsichord in the early 20th century, died on this date in 1959. Warsaw-born, she was a child prodigy on piano and began winning prizes in Poland and Germany during her teen years. Landowska married the Polish folklorist Henry Lew in Paris in 1900 but was very active in […]

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