“by hook or by crook”: Radical Jewish Women and their Activism

At the beginning of this semester, we read chapters in the book Grassroots by Jennifer Baumgardener and Amy Richards and one specific chapter stoodout to meFullSizeRender was called Creating Activism. I wrote my first response paper about this chapter, discussing how the authors use the book as a platform to talk about various forms of activism, and that this particular section focused on art. The authors describe countless ways of using art to practice feminist activism, describing it as an act of “authentic commitment.” To me, it seemed that they were saying that a person can be an activist in whatever capacity they are able, as much as they are willing, and as passionately as possible. When we were given the assignment to work on an activist project for class, I, influenced by that chapter, decided to play to my strengths, my Judaism and my art.

IMG_3430This project was slow-moving because I was not entirely sure what I wanted it to look like. I knew I wanted to make something zine-like that discussed Jewish feminists and activists and the work that they did in their lives. In the end I decided to make mini-profiles about 18 (because in Judaism the number 18 represents חַי‎ which means life) radical Jewish women and doodle around them. The problems I faced, however, was that I wanted to put the whole thing together by hand which made it difficult to do intricate depictions of these inspirational women. It also was extremely time-consuming. I think if I decide to continue to do work like this, I will try to get more support from other people, either by working with them or asking for contributions.

IMG_3431The reason I chose to do this project was because I know many people are not aware of Jewish activists, especially women. Through religious texts, traditions, history, and more, Jews learn about their people, mostly men, who were brave and survived and kept on going after years of oppression, diaspora, and assimilation. We rarely learn about the women. I decided that I wanted to make something that shone a light on Jewish women’s accomplishments throughout history in a way that was fun and interesting.

IMG_3453I am still struggling to identify this project as an activist one. I think it falls under certain parameters, but when I think of activism, I picture protests, envelope stuffing, and rallies. I know that activism comes in all different forms, but sometimes it is hard to believe that is true. That is not to say that I think this project does not have the potential to be important or influential, but it does not feel like it is enough. I want to see if I can take this kind of project to another level, similar to the Jewish Women’s Archive which was where I go a lot of my information, because it is something that reaches a large audience and has the ability to influence and educate others. This project is not everything I wanted it to be, but I think it is a step in the right direct for me in terms of my activism and is something I want to continue to explore.

If you want a to see an online version of the zine: Part 1 and Part 2 (these are posts on my newly formed personal art blog. feel free to poke around if you want)

In terms of sources that I used: the Jewish Women’s Archive was the most important, but I got some help from Wikipedia. The images I used were ones that I found through a Google image search, for the most part, so I won’t post a list of urls. Shira Devorah (another student in this class) drew me six beautiful portraits for this project and you can see them in the zine by clicking on the two links above.



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