Alice Shalvi: Pioneering Israeli Feminist

Alice Shalvi, a founding mother of modern Jewish feminism in Israel, died on October 2 in Jerusalem. She was 96.

She led Jerusalem’s Pelech, a pioneering school for girls which combined progressive secular education with religious studies, and became the founding director of the Israel Women’s Network, the organization identified with pushing for gender equality under Israeli law.

In a New York Times obituary, Jane Eisner wrote: “As a religiously observant mother of six children, she was not expected to challenge the authority of the Israeli rabbinate, but she forged ahead anyway, even burning restrictive religious marriage contracts in a dramatic demonstration to support women who were prevented from divorcing their husbands. A devoted educator in secondary schools and universities, Dr. Shalvi jeopardized her career by speaking publicly to Palestinians and in support of the peace process.

“Dr. Shalvi helped found the Israel Women’s Network in 1984 after serving on a special government commission on the status of women. Under her leadership, the network, among other things, sought to give women greater political representation by creating programs to increase the number of women running for office and to encourage those already in office to cross party lines. ‘They created a tradition of left-wing and some right-wing feminists who collaborated on work they could agree on,’ said Hamutal Gouri, a senior fellow at the Kiverstein Institute, an initiative promoting equality for women in Jerusalem.”

JANE EISNER, “Alice Shalvi, Feminist in Israel Who Refused To Be
Silent, Dies at 96,” N.Y. Times, October 4, 2023.