News Highlights Landmark Jewish Women’s Archive Oral History Collection Features Several Hebrew College Women

By Hebrew College
collage of Jewish women

Campus Partners Hebrew College & JWA To Celebrate Launch at Nov. 1 Public Event

Jewish women have often been left out of traditional archival collections, including oral history collections. The new Nicki Newman Tanner Oral History Collection from campus partner Jewish Women’s Archive seeks to set this right.

The new collection helps to restore Jewish women to their rightful place in our communal narratives. It includes a wide range of voices—those of leaders and activists, but also of “ordinary” community members often doing extraordinary things. To celebrate the launch of this new collection, Hebrew College and JWA are co-sponsoring “Woman, Rabbi, History Maker: Tracing Religious Leadership Through Life Stories,” a panel discussion about women rabbis, leadership, and what it means to make history, on November 1.

“We’re so excited to give the public access to this rich and varied collection, which expands, challenges, renews, and enriches our collective story with women’s voices and life experiences. These oral histories demonstrate one of JWA’s foundational principles: that we are all history makers,” said JWA CEO Dr. Judith Rosenbaum.

The event features several women with Hebrew College links: panelists President Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Rabbi Margie Klein Ronkin `11, and Rabbi Shayna Rhodes `08 (all of whose oral histories are included in JWA’s Boston Women Rabbis Oral History Collection; Rhodes also conducted the interviews for the Adult Bat Mitzvah Oral History Project), and moderator Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum `11. Rabbi Claudia Kreiman, of Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, MA, is also a panelist.

Nicki Newman Tanner, for whom the new collection is named, is a pioneering and accomplished oral historian. After earning a master’s degree in oral history from Columbia University in 1980, she became founding director of the UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies Oral History Project. Over more than 20 years, she interviewed and preserved the stories of hundreds of leading figures in the American Jewish community. She also conducted interviews for Columbia’s Oral History Archive and as an independent oral historian. Tanner was also a member of JWA’s founding board and served as JWA’s board chair from 2004 to 2007. The new collection was made possible thanks to support from Nicki Newman Tanner, Mass Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

women embracing

“Because women’s work and women’s experiences were typically not considered central to communal histories and narratives, they were often left out of traditional archival collections,” said Dr. Jenny Sartori, JWA’s Chief Communications Officer. “Since our early years in the late 1990s, we have conducted hundreds of oral histories, through many different projects and in partnership with many institutions and individuals, to ensure that we record the stories of Jewish women before they are lost—stories of leaders, activists, and community members.”

harpistThe material for the collection has been used as the basis for a number of exhibits, but until now, only snippets have been available on the JWA website. With this new collection, JWA has ensured that the full oral histories would be broadly accessible, easily searchable, and available for the many ways multigenerational and global audiences use JWA materials—including educators preparing lesson plans, lifelong learners searching for new sources, rabbis writing sermons, artists working on creative projects, and more.

“The event is an example of the richness of the material,” said Dr. Betsy More, Director of Programs. “It models how the collection provides students, scholars, educators, and lifelong learners of all kinds access to rich materials that shed new light on the course of twentieth- and twenty first-century American Jewish history.”

Register for the free event here.

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