They call themselves Shebrews, and it’s the first group of its kind at the University of Pennsylvania: an unabashedly feminist organization for Jewish women. Penn has a few activities geared specifically towards Jewish women, including a Rosh Hodesh group and a Jewish women’s book club, but She brews is aiming for a broader constituency.
“We started with the name rather than the idea,” says Shebrews founder Aviva Moster, who graduated from Penn in May. Moster was visiting a friend at Oxford when she heard about a social event called “Hebrews and Shebrews,” sponsored by the Oxford Jewish students’ group.
“I thought, ‘Shebrews. That’s the best name even’ It made me think Jewish women, and then I realized that there’s such a dearth of Jewish women’s programming at Penn. There’s nothing for Jewish women just to get together, have a good time, and talk about women’s issues in general, in a safe environment where women feel comfortable with each other.”
Shebrews launched during the 2002-2003 academic year with events ranging from ice cream-and-movie nights to self-defense classes and a sexual health seminar. The group also cosponsored a pre-Passover women’s seder, where about 30 women shared kosher Chinese food, talked about the women they admired, and read from the Ma’yan feminist hagada.
And while Shebrews is not explicitly advertised as a feminist group, Moster says it is intended to fill that niche at Perm.
“I consider myself a feminist,” she says. “I actually love that word. I wholly identify with it… . I’m really happy to say that Shebrews was founded as a feminist organization. I do realize and respect the fact that a lot of women don’t identify with that word because I think that they have a different definition of what feminism means for them, but that’s what Shebrews is about.”
Moster says she doesn’t want to alienate women who shy away from the feminist label.
“I don’t yell on my posters, ‘this is feminism, this is a feminist thing,'” she says. “But at the same time, I don’t appreciate it when people say, ‘let’s play down that this is feminist because we don’t want to scare people away.'”