“A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value.” – Proverbs 31:10
On March 8, we will celebrate International Women’s Day, a highlight of Women’s History Month. In the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, March has been designated as a month to highlight and celebrate the contributions of women both historical and contemporary. For those of the Jewish faith, this month is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the women of the tribe who exemplify the eshet chayil – the “Woman of Valor” praised in Proverbs 31.
“The eshet chayil is one powerful woman, and she has long been at the forefront of our people’s spiritual and communal growth,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Although we celebrate her before every kiddush, Women’s History Month is the perfect time to honor the eshet chayilwho have helped shape history.”
The roots of Women’s History Month begin with the first International Women’s Day held in 1911. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation founding National Women’s History Week, and in 1987, Congress designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month.
Here are just a few of the trailblazing Jewish women who have had the conviction and courage to overcome barriers and difficulties in order to make a difference in the world.
An Advocate for Justice – Bella Abzug
A daughter of Russian immigrants, Bella Abzug became a significant leader of the women’s movement. By the age of 13, she was giving speeches in her local synagogue, which was just the beginning of her activist aspirations. Bella went on to study at Columbia University and became one of only a handful of women law students in the nation. She worked as a lawyer for the next twenty-five years, specializing in civil rights and liberties cases as well as labor and tenants’ rights. Throughout her career, she served three terms in Congress, fought to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and other vital legislation, and presided over the first National Women’s Conference in Houston.
An Entrepreneurial Dreamer – ‘Madame’ Beatrice Alexander
Beatrice Alexander had a dream – and knew how to make it happen. Although she was born into poverty, she built her own company practically singlehandedly and emerged as one of the most prominent female entrepreneurs of the 20th century. Although her company, the Alexander Doll Company, still exists today, she is celebrated as a woman of valor in no small part to her philanthropic works with both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations throughout the world.
A Groundbreaking Scientist – Gertrude Elion
Gertrude Elion’s tremendous accomplishments spanned the course of her long career. She was responsible for helping develop the first chemotherapy drug for childhood leukemia, the first effective anti-viral medication and treatments for hepatitis, lupus, gout, arthritis and other diseases. Together with George Hitchings, her research partner, she was able to revolutionize drug development, saving and improving the lives of countless individuals. Her efforts earned her the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988.
A Philanthropic Example – Rebecca Gratz
Rebecca Gratz was the founder and secretary of one of Philadelphia’s earliest women’s philanthropic organizations and devoted her life to providing aid to underprivileged women and children. As a devout Jew, she combined her American experience with her cultural identity and went on to establish the first women-run American Jewish institutions, including the first Hebrew Sunday School and Jewish Orphanage. Her mission was to provide a space for women who wished to embrace all sides of their identity in order to preserve and evolve what it meant to be Jewish in America.
A “Fighting Judge” – Justine Wise Polier
As the first woman Justice in New York, Justine Wise Polier believed firmly that championing the cause of justice would truly change the world for the better. For 38 years, she fought for the rights of the poor and disempowered from the Family Court bench. She believed that treatment, not punishment, was the answer to juvenile justice law, and made her court a community network of economic aid, placement agencies, psychiatric services and other forms of assistance to families.
The “World’s Best Girl Athlete” – Bobbie Rosenfeld
Canadian Olympic medalist Fanny ‘Bobbie’ Rosenfeld led a double life: by day, she was a stenographer in a chocolate factory. On evenings and weekends, she became the “world’s best girl athlete,” winning softball games in crowded stadiums, shattering track records (both national and international) or leading a basketball or ice hockey team to victory in a league championship. She was voted Canada’s Female Athlete of the Half-Century in 1950, and was among the first women to be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
The Ordained Rabbi – Rabbi Regina Jonas
Regina Jonas long knew she was destined to be the first woman rabbi. Her fellow pupils remember her talking about her dream of becoming a rabbi even in high school. Prior to WW II, she focused on caring for the sick and elderly at the Jewish hospital. During WW II, she was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where she performed rabbinical functions until her transportation to and death at Auschwitz.
The Passionate Organizer – Hannah Greenebaum Solomon
Hannah Greenbaum Solomon was the founder of the first national association of Jewish Women – the National Council of Jewish Women. She was also a dedicated organizer and driving force for reform at the beginning of the 20th century. She believed that a “woman’s sphere is the whole wide world,” emphasized unity, and orchestrated agreements among Jewish, gentile, and government groups on local, national and international levels.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the lives of these amazing women and so many more this month,” says Andrea. “We celebrate our Jewish heritage every day at The Reutlinger Community and we’re proud to be a senior living community that embraces the tradition and values of our Jewish faith yet also welcomes and honors all faiths.”
For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.
Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.
Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.
At The Reutlinger, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.
For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today