Most Influential Jewish Women of the Past 500 Years
The Canadian Jewish News is asking readers to nominate four "of your personal picks of Jewish women who made a mark on our people's historical narrative." They are asking that the women be picked from the following categories: Arts, Politics, Community Activism, and Academia. The time period is limited (sic!) to the last 500 years. (I guess to eliminate Biblical or Talmudic characters.) They will be publishing their own list of 16, in their Rosh Hashana Issue.
It got me thinking, and here is my list.
Academia: Hanna Arendt. She made the Holocaust fathomable as a historical event: an outgrowth of Totalitarianism, the victory of ideology over humanity. This, and her idea of The Banality of Evil, have given universal meaning to the slogan "Never Again."
Community Activism: Gloria Steinem. She, more than anyone else, symbolized and promoted modern Western Feminism, which has changed forever the lives of women - Jews and non Jews alike - as well as men who live among them.
Arts: Barbara Streisand. She made it respectable to be a publicly Jewish star, and her status broke the stereotype that said successful women had to have cute little noses.
Politics: Golda Meir. The most famous female Jewish politician ever, and possibly the worst Prime Minister Israel ever had. Under her watch, Israel ignored various Arab peace overtures, began the settlements in the occupied territories, and grew fat and arrogant, so much so that Israel almost lost the Yom Kippur War. By the end, she had been so ineffective that she effectively drove the last nail into the Labour Party's hegemony over Israeli politics. Her negative influence is still with us and will likely be so for many many years to come.
Not surprisingly all are 20th century figures. Women simply didn't have an opportunity to be influential on a large scale before then.
I wonder of any of my first three picks will make it onto the CJN's list. Somehow I doubt it. I imagine their idea of "leaving a mark" is more parochial than mine. But maybe I will be surprised. I won't be surprised if Golda makes it - but I would be surprised if their evaluation of her matches mine.
If you want to enter your own nominees you can do so at the CJN blog.