Last of the Red Hot Mamas

When Sonya Kalish Tuck, born in Ukraine in 1886, came to New York in 1906 to seek a career in vaudeville, she was considered to be “too fat and ugly.” So she belted out Black-influenced music like ragtime, blues and jazz, in blackface. Before long she dropped the disguise, and emerged as “Sophie Tucker: the Last of the Red-Hot Mamas,” with a stage career that lasted until her death in 1966. Widely known for her bawdy humor (tame by today’s standards) and her big personality, she never lost touch with her Jewish roots. Sophie Tucker’s original Decca rendition of “My Yiddishe Momme,” recorded in 1928, featured English on one side and Yiddish on the other. She also recorded “My Mother’s Sabbath Candles” in English and Yiddish. You can listen to her recording on the website of the Judaica Sound Archives.

Can girls now make big bucks? 

Stay tuned for the longterm results
from the BBYO Michigan Business Entrepreneurship Institute, which brings Jewish teens to the University of Michigan so they can learn about competitive advantage, ownership, opportunity recognition, marketing, finance and product development. Groups of teens present original business plans to a panel of judges from the business community, and the winners get cash prizes to implement their plan. More information at Bbyo.org.

“Saffron and Rosewater”

In a kind of Persian Jewish “Vagina Monlogues,” actors perform the stories of powerful Persian writers Angela Nazarian on a child’s view of fleeing Iran, Farideh Golden on a Persian grandmother’s rendition of the Purim story as fairy tale, Esther Amini on defying a traditional father by moving into a college dormitory, Dora Lev Mossanen on a wife’s consideration of escaping her marriage, and Gina Nihai on a writer making it in America. This original show was developed at the Los Angeles-area Jewish Women’s Theatre, best known for pioneering “at-home salon theater” and theme-based collective productions, “Saffron and Rosewater” was performed in November to a full house at the 92Y in NYC, with songs by Niki Black. Jewishtheater.org


Israel’s primary nonprofit organization providing social and legal assistance to low-income citizens is directed by Sari Revkin, a Brooklyn-born Jerusalem social worker, to help meet the needs of Israelis living on Israel’s geographic and societal periphery. In 1997 she founded this volunteer-based organization which now has 16 Citizen Rights Centers, and has assisted over a quarter of a million Israelis to break through their cycle of poverty. Revkin writes about social change and Purim as a celebration of the ingenuity of the people as changemakers, symbolized by our holding noisemakers from below — in contrast to Hanukkah’s divine rescue, symbolized by our spinning dreidels which we grasp from above. www.yedid.org.il/?id=4966

Yiddish Classics into English

Here’s a switch! Instead of translating Shakespeare, etc., into Yiddish, Taytsh, the Yiddish Book Center’s site for Yiddish-to-English translators, wants to help translate the treasures of Yiddish literature into English for a new generation of readers. On their website, you can post your translations-in-progress and invite commentary and annotation from your colleagues around the world, debate the nuances of terms and idioms in interactive lexical databases, recommend your favorite Yiddish literary works to be translated, and plenty more. http://taytsh.org

Torah — a feminist perspective 

Here’s an interactive feminist commentary on the entire Torah! The Bea Zucker Online Bible Study Program of the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) has created a unique and free Jewish educational resource. Bonna Devora Haberman (above), who wrote the course explains: “Ours is the first generation of Jewish women to have access to the Torah on a mass scale. Using the Internet, we are making Torah study even more accessible than ever, and starting a new conversation among women around the world. Every time we open the text, we bring with us our history, our values, and our questions — ourselves…” Available online in English and Spanish. The project is sponsored in her memory by the Zurich family of Bea Zucker, who was European President of ICJW, which also offers three other online study programs — on Biblical women, Jewish festivals, and women’s life cycle events. Materials in Russian and Spanish.

Donate Books to Prisoners

Books Through Bars (not the kind of bars you think) is a group of volunteers who meet in Brooklyn each week to match the book requests from prisoners with donated books. The books are then mailed directly to the individuals behind bars rather than to prison libraries. The volunteers are activists, librarians, archivists, editors, students, office workers, teachers, authors and other book lovers. Want to join them, or start a similar project? Check out http://booksthroughbarsnyc.org.

4,000 Years for Choice 

This poster series (below) by graphic artist and activist Heather Ault features abortive herbs, contraceptive devices, and quotations from notable figures. It’s intended to replace the iconic wire coat hanger used by the pro-choice movement for decades. “Without knowledge of this history, “ says Ault, “we as Americans cannot fully understand women’s deeply ingrained desire to control pregnancies for the good of ourselves, our relationships, and our families.” 4000YearsForchoice.com

Where to Marry the One You Love 

A unique world map, produced by the Israeli nonprofit Hiddush — Freedom of Religion for Israel, compares “freedom of marriage” in countries around the world. It was created to investigate a paradox: that although Israel is a democratic and liberal state, it ranks with some of the most fundamentalist Islamic countries on this issue. This project hopes to change Israel’s policy so that it will recognize secular civil marriages and marriages conducted by all religious affiliations. marriage.hiddush.org

Rights of Donor-Conceived People

Individuals conceived as a result of sperm, egg or embryo donation who are seeking to make mutually desired contact with others with whom they share genetic ties can register with the Donor Sibling Registry. The registry advocates for the right to honesty and transparency for donor kids, and for social acceptance, legal rights and valuing the diversity of all families. donorsiblingregistry.com

Celebrating this Patron of the Arts 

Ayala Zachs (1912–2011) was an ardent collector of modern art, including the works of Israeli artists. A special exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, honors her memory. Zacks, with her husband, donated over 300 works of modern art: Picasso, Modigliani, de Chirico, Chagall, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Matisse and Degas.

Born in Jerusalem as Ayala Ben-Tovim, Zacks studied in London and Paris. During World War II she joined the French Resistance after her first husband enlisted to the army and was killed during a military operation. In 1947, she married Samuel Zacks, a Canadian economist and art collector, and together they also acquired art by Israeli artists like Marcel Janco, Mordechai Ardon, Reuven Rubin and Anna Ticho. Some years after Samuel Zacks died, she returned to Israel, married Zalman Abramov,
a lawyer and Knesset member, and was involved in the growth of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Israel Museum. Through May 2014. More at www.ago.net/a-tribute-to-ayala-zacks-1912-2011.


Get news of campaigns such as Sarah Silverman and Lizz Winstead raising funds in a telethon for Texas women who needs abortions. Or follow a link to make your voice heard by your senator to confirm the appointment to the US. Court of Appeals of pro-woman Judge Nina Pillard. Sign up for e-alerts from this organization dedicated to fighting sexism and expanding women’s rights — from politics and government to media and popular culture. weareultraviolet.org


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