The JWA has a great idea. It’s a revolutionary idea. It’s bad-ass. It is an idea with the potential to change the way we are educated, to change Hebrew School classrooms, to change services, to change our past. So what is this idea? It is to literally create a map of all the monuments, exhibits, and features of our country that delve into the histories of Jewish women. Ya know, those histories that rabbis tend to leave out of Devar Torahs and that I have to go through numerous searches to look for when it takes me 2 seconds to find that of Jewish men.
On this blog, Dina and I try to “write women into history [and living history]” but what does that even mean?
‘Writing women into history’ implies that history is something written–something that exists on paper, in books, or on the internet. This is partially true, but history does not reside only on the page, in the intellectual abstract or literal memory. History also has a physical presence. It is connected to material places and tangible spaces. The spot on which a historical event occurred becomes meaningful, and the physical act of standing on that spot (a Civil War battlefield, the entrance to Auschwitz) can often evoke a deep, emotional experience of history. This is why we make pilgrimages, take guided walking tours, and consider field trips a valuable part of learning.
I know I felt this when I went to Yad Vashem, to the Children’s Memorial. I thought not only of the children, but of the mothers, the mothers who were told to stop breastfeeding, who had their children taken away from them, who hid their pregnancies. The memorial seeks to evoke this sympathy, this sense of identifying with Jewish history. What are these places right here in the U.S.? Even more important, where are these places in areas where there are smaller Jewish communities? Writing women into history means to make this sense of empowerment and understanding accessible to all who seek it. It is only with accessibility that women can claim their Judaism.