Many of you may not know this, but there is a kind of rite that happens here at the Jewish Women’s Archive for newbies such as myself: to be given an assignment with almost impossible challenges.

It all began, innocently enough: we decided we would honor July 4th, our country’s independence day, by inviting you, the JWA community, to tip your hats to the Fiercely Independent Jewish Women in your lives—women who you call bubbe or mom; your teacher, lawyer, or hairstylist; your cancer-surviving cousin; your best friend who left a dead-end relationship; your great-grandmother who migrated from Russia, with two suitcases and two children. You get the idea.

In 150-200 words, we ask that you honor the FIJW (Fiercely Independent Jewish Woman) in your life by submitting a short tribute to us by Friday, June 29. Many will be posted on this blog, and one submission will “win.” The author of the winning tribute will receive a set of JWA’s collectible “Women of Valor” posters, serious JWA glory.

We will try and post as many tributes as possible. I only hope that on July 3 when we announce our winner, an angry mob will not have gathered with pitch-forks and torches at my new, barely-broken-in, desk. I joke, but what I’d like to underscore is this: There are so many fiercely independent Jewish women who orbit my own life and those of my colleagues; I can only imagine the constellation of stories out there. How can we begin to select the “best” one?

That was the first impossible challenge. The second was to comb through the JWA website and generate my own short list of Fiercely Independent Jewish Women. I browsed through “We Remember,” “This Week In History,” Making Trouble, and explored online exhibits like Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution and Women of Valor.

What I discovered: Every one of the 5,000-plus Jewish women on whom I encountered is a Fiercely Independent Jewish Woman! Gah! May that be the worst of my problems.

Regardless, here is my short list of JWA’s FIJW:

Adrienne Rich, who is “not just a woman poet,” because she challenged the white, male, literary establishment. Gloria Steinem because she was/is the emblematic spokes-woman for Second-Wave Feminism. Joan Rivers because she is simply outrageous; her debauchery and escapades free my inner id. Molly Picon: I am enamored with this woman who deftly integrated her Jewish identity with her stage persona. (Both Joan and Molly, along with comedians Fanny BriceSophie TuckerGilda Radner, and Wendy Wasserstein are featured in JWA’s independent and award-winning film, Making Trouble. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Joan and her bestselling book). Lastly, I choose Rosa Sonneschein, editor of The American Jewess, the first English-language magazine published between 1895 and 1899. (You can follow Rosa and the monthly magazine on Twitter!). Rosa’s philosophy is one that JWA and I hold dear: “Not what has happened, but what is recorded makes history.” 

So, in that spirit, please do send us your tributes by this Friday, June 29. There are firecrackers among us. Let’s celebrate how they’ve set the personal and public sky ablaze.

–– Gabrielle Orcha, JWA Online Communications Intern

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