Seven Powerful Jewish Feminist Moments of 2023 

Let’s face it: 2023 was not a good year for the Jews. We are still reeling from the attacks of October 7th, the deadliest day for the tribe since the Shoah, and many of us remain in shock by the callousness and dehumanization we’ve seen since. Antisemitism is now on the rise all around the world.

But Jewish feminists never give up, and this year is no exception. So with a heavy heart lightened by the eternal flame of hope, I offer my annual seven Jewish feminist highlights of the year (seven being the number associated with creation and blessing in the Jewish tradition). 

  1. Even as we mourn the death of Canadian-Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver, who was murdered at her home in Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7 by Hamas terrorists, we celebrate her visionary life. Silver, 74, was a founder of Women Wage Peace, a group of Israeli and Palestinian women who work for a political rather than a military solution to the conflict. She also was an active member of Road to Recovery, a group that transported sick Gazans to Israeli hospitals. 

    The mourners who attended her funeral were a diverse lot: “There were kibbutznik men in sandals, women in hijabs, tattooed and pierced youngsters, ultra-Orthodox men in white button-downs and religious Zionist women in colorful headwraps. A man in a keffiyeh and a t-shirt reading ‘looking the occupation in the eye’ stood a few meters from a woman in a lieutenant colonel’s uniform.” May that powerful tableau keep the possibility of peaceful coexistence alive against all odds. 
  2. Jewish women talked back, insisting that the world recognize the gendered nature of the October 7 atrocities. They also called out feminist silence as complicity and an antisemitic double standard seen when world feminism, including UN Women (the UN’s women’s rights agency), was largely silent about the crimes committed against Israeli women’s bodies. 

    Israeli law professor Cochav Elkaham Levy founded a commission that documented crimes against women and children on Oct. 7th; Sheryl Sandberg joined National Council of Jewish Women among the key organizers of the “Hear Our Voices” December 4th session at the UN where evidence of these sexual atrocities was presented. At a rally that preceded this session, Sheila Katz, CEO of NCJW, delivered a Feminism 101 lesson: “You’re not a feminist if you have to be convinced that raping Israeli women is wrong.” Kudos to those who ensured that the experience of these victims and survivors is now part of the historical record of Oct. 7th.  
  1. The lives of two iconic Jewish women politicians, Bella Abzug and Golda Meir, were given serious screen treatment this year. Bella!: This Woman’s Place is In the House, directed by Jeff Lieberman, premiered at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and includes commentary by such luminaries as Hillary Clinton, Lily Tomlin, Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and Barbra Streisand. Lieberman clashed with Bella’s daughter, Liz, and the controversy certainly cast a shadow over the film’s reception. But this documentary restores Bella’s rightful place in progressive political history while giving her Jewish commitments their full due. Bella! will be making the rounds at Jewish film festivals in 2024 and is a must-see for Jewish feminists. 

    Like Bella, Golda, directed by Guy Nattiv and starring Helen Mirren, was plagued by controversy. Some objected to the non-Jewish Mirren playing the first woman prime minister of Israel; the nose prosthetic she donned for the part was questionable as well. However, watching Golda tango with Henry Kissinger and Moshe Dayan is well worth the price of admission or streaming. Focusing on the Yom Kippur war, Nattiv challenged the  scapegoating of Meir for this traumatic period of Israeli history. Lilith readers might also want to check out the 2019 documentary Golda for a more expansive view of her life. 
  1. Jewish women have always been at the forefront of reproductive justice movements and that has been especially true since the Dobbs decision that ended the Roe era. Paula Eiselt’s short documentary Under G-D brilliantly charts how such groups as Jewish Hoosiers for Choice and clergy such as Rabbi Barry Silver in Florida have been using religious freedom arguments to successfully challenge heinous abortion bans. As I wrote very early in the year, Under G-D is activist cinema at its best. 
  1. Barbra Streisand—aka Babs—is having quite the cultural moment. My Name is Barbra, her long (almost 1000 pages!) and long-awaited memoir, arrived on shelves and virtual reading devices in November. And the diva herself narrates the audiobook! On publication day, some quipped “Happy Barbra Streisand memoir release day to all who celebrate.” While readers—including this one—are still making their way through this romp of film, feminism, family, and activism, the delights of this tome are already well-chronicled. The end of 2023 brought with it the announcement that Babs will be receiving the 2024 Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Given the horrors of this year, it’s a relief to kvell (Yiddish for “burst with pride”) for this “force of nature.” 
  1. Keren McGinity’s #UsToo: How Jewish, Muslim and Christian Women Changed Our Communities is a much-needed work of religious alliance politics. McGinity, with the help of journalist Hannah Dreyfus, courageously exposed sociologist Steven Cohen as a serial sexual harasser. #UsToo chronicles her journey to becoming a scholar-activist: “I needed to redefine for myself that a good Jewish girl is someone who blows the whistle when someone does something wrong to her.”  

    But this is also the story of women across religious traditions demanding accountability from institutions that too often blame the victim and fall into “himpathy,” philosopher Kate Manne’s term for “excessive sympathy shown toward male perpetrators of sexual violence.” In these pages, we learn about Mona Eltahawy, who was responsible for the hashtag #MosqueMeToo and a Twitter thread that revealed the enormity of the problem of Muslim women being violated in sacred spaces, as well as the organization In Shayk’s Clothing that released a Code of Conduct for Islamic Leadership. And we are introduced to Sophia Nelson, who coined the “#UsToo” hashtag of McGinity’s title to ensure that Black women’s experiences were represented in the #MeToo movement. As part of her activism, McGinity secured a grant so that #UsToo could be an open access book. Kudos to this “persister” who forges interfaith feminist connections. 
  1. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be gone from this earth, but she is not forgotten. In October, the US Post Office released a commemorative Forever stamp of the feisty and brilliant Jewish feminist jurist popularly known as the Notorious RBG. And Elinor Carruci’s photography exhibit of RBG’s collars is on display at New York’s Jewish Museum through May 2024. 

Helene Meyers is the author of Movie-Made Jews: An American Tradition. She can be found on X @helene_meyers, on Bluesky and at