As I prepare to leave my position as JWA’s Director of Public History after more than 12 years here, my mind keeps returning me back to the summer day in 2000 when I first stepped into the offices of the Jewish Women’s Archive. At the time, I was a disgruntled graduate student, disillusioned with life in the Ivory Tower and the academic study of women’s history. (Was a library really the best place to learn about women’s activism, I wondered?).
That first summer as a research fellow at JWA reignited my passion for history, as I investigated women’s activism by interviewing 12 extraordinary Jewish women who had been honored at JWA’s first “Women Who Dared” event. I reveled in their stories about taking risks and making change on issues as diverse as civil rights, nuclear disarmament, Israel-Palestine, prisoners’ rights, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS; I probed them about their identities as women and as Jews; I embraced the challenge of telling their stories in an exhibit on the JWA website. By the end of the summer, I knew I had found an intellectual home, where serious conversation and lunchtime laughter enlivened the otherwise cave-like basement offices.
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