Purim Queen Vashti

Purim Queen Vashti– In the story of Purim, Vashti wasthe daughter of King Belshazzar of Babylonand the great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar, the man who destroyed the first Temple in Jerusalem.  After her father was murdered, Vashti was given to Ahasueras as his wife. When Ahasueras became king over Persia, he and Vashtiruled over 127 provinces, the entire civilized world.  At a banquet in the city of Shushan, celebrating the Jewish people's demise, Ahasueras ordered Vashtito appear at the feast unclothed so that he could show off her beauty to his entire kingdom. When she refused his command, Ahasueras had her beheaded at the advice of his minister. (Her strategy of holding a ladies' banquet parallel to Ahasuerus' banquet is considered by many an astute political maneuver. Since the noble women of the kingdom would be present at her banquet, she would have control of a valuable group of hostages, in case a coup occurred during the king's feast.) Vashti'srefusal to obey the summons of her drunken husband has been admired as heroic in many interpretations of the Book of Esther. Early feminists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harriet Beecher Stowe, admired Vashti's principle and courage. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that Vashti "added new glory to [her] day and generation...by her disobedience.” Harriet Beecher Stowe called Vashti'sdisobedience the "first stand for woman's rights." Vashti'sexecution set the stage for Esther's appointment as queen, ultimately leading to the Jewish people's salvation from Haman's threat of annihilation in the Purim story.

How do you think Vashtiwould react today, as a feminist, to some of the 21st century actions against women’s rights in Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states?     

Rachel Louise Carson (1907 -1964)

Rachel Louise Carson (1907 -1964) a zoologist and biologist whose landmark book, Silent Spring is often credited with having launched the global  environmental movement, and undoubtedly had an immense effect in the U.S., where it brought about a reversal in national pesticide policy. Carson taught zoology at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland. She took a part-time position at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as a science writer, in the process having to overcome resistance to the then-radical idea of having a woman sit for the Civil Service exam. She became the second woman ever to be hired by the Bureau of Fisheries for a full-time, professional position (as a junior aquatic biologist). Carson rose within the Bureau (by then transformed into the Fish and Wildlife Service), becoming chief editor of publications in 1949. Starting in the mid-1940s, Carson had become more and more concerned about the misuse of newly invented pesticides, especially DDT and her groundbreaking research began. As a scientist of international standing, she was able to ask (and receive) the aid of prominent biologists, chemists, pathologists, and entomologists. Silent Spring became a detailed chronicle of the association between over-use of pesticides and mass wildlife kills, but it was no mere dry recital of the facts and figures: her writing was lyrical and evocative as well as precise.  Chemical companies and other critics attacked both book and author: contesting the data, its interpretation, and even Carson's scientific credentials. Houghton Mifflin was pressured - unsuccessfully - into suppressing the book. Ultimately, Silent Spring became a runaway best seller, both in the USA and overseas. Pesticide use became a major public issue. The U.S. government ordered a complete review of pesticide policy. The eventual banning of DDT in 1972 was a direct result of Carson's work, and Silent Spring remains both one of the foundation texts for the contemporary environmental movement and an important living classic to this day. In 1980 she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the USA.

Stephen S. Wise (1874-1949)

Stephen S. Wise (1874-1949) – Stephen s. Wise was a Reform rabbi who dedicated his life to issues of social justice within and outside the Jewish community. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He also served as President of the American Jewish Congress. The following is a quote from Wise during a Senate hearing relating to discrimination in employment in 1947.

Our movement recognizes fully that equality of opportunity for Jews can be truly secured only in a genuinely democratic society. Accordingly, we seek to fight every manifestation of racism, to promote the civil and political equality of all groups and persons in America, and to support measures designed to safeguard civil liberties and to build a better America. We regard ethnic discrimination, whether directed against Jews, Negroes, Chinese, Mexicans or any other group, as a single and indivisible problem and as one of the most urgent problems of democratic society.

Judith Bernstein Baker

Judith Bernstein Baker - A 1967 graduate of the State University of New York, Baker got a master's degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, worked as a tenant-union liaison for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and was almost 40, with a husband and two young children, when she graduated from Temple Law School in 1986. From 1990 to 1997 she directed Penn Law School's program on public service, then joined HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society).  She is now the Executive Director.  HIAS and its predecessor organizations have assisted over 300,000 newcomers immigrate and integrate into the Philadelphia region since its founding in 1882. Baker's team has helped thousands of immigrants with a variety of issues, including refugees and others seeking asylum, who have fled ethnic, religious, or other forms of persecution. The group has developed initiatives to help Haitians in America obtain temporary protective status following the 2010 earthquake, and has sought special visas for victims of domestic abuse and other violent crimes. A decade ago, HIAS's clients were mostly Jewish refugees from Russia. Today, they hail from 60 countries, as far-reaching  as Iraq, Eritrea, and Bhutan. Judy is a Folkshul Alumni parent and will be speaking at our MLK Day program.

Zero (Samuel Joel) Mostel, 1915 – 1977

Zero (Samuel Joel) Mostel, 1915 – 1977, was an American actor of stage and screen, best known for his portrayal of comic characters such as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus  in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in the original film version of The Producers. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, one of eight children of an Orthodox Jewish family.He was blacklisted during the 1950s, and his testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities was well-publicized.He told the Committee that he would gladly discuss his own conduct but was prohibited by religious convictions from naming others. Consequently, he was shut-out from the movies, and also lost many lucrative nightclub gigs. He had to make due by playing gigs for meager salaries and by selling his paintings. “Fiddler on the Roof” ran for a total of 3,242 performances, making it one of the greatest Broadway smashes ever. After winning nine Tony awards in 1965, including Best Musical, Best Director, and Best Actor in A Musical (Zero's third Tony), the show was awarded a 10th Tony, a Special Award in 1972 when "Fiddler" became the longest-running musical in Broadway history.

Graenum Berger, 1908-1999

Graenum Berger was an American Communal administrator, institutional and communal planner, educator, world traveler, and the founding President of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews. He had known there was a Jewish tribe in Ethiopia, but knew little about them. He began reading, and writing letters, and in ten years accumulated a vast file of information. In Ethiopia in 1965, he found penniless Jews (known as Falasha) trying to eke out a primitive living in a country that discriminated against them in every aspect of their lives. As a Jewish communal executive who knew all the professional and volunteer leaders in the American Jewish community, he assumed all he had to do was bring the problems of the Ethiopian Jews to their attention and they would be solved. He also presumed Israel would rise to the occasion and undertake the resettlement effort. He was wrong on both counts. So began his 35-year effort to bring the 50,000 member Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel, which eventually led to Operation Moses in 1984-85, and Operation Solomon in 1991.

Lillian Wald, 1867-1940

Lillian D. Wald was a practical idealist who worked to create a more just society. Her goal was to ensure that women and children, immigrants and the poor, and members of all ethnic and religious groups would realize America's promise of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  As a young nurse, Wald hoped to provide decent health care to residents of New York's Lower East Side tenements. Her work as the founder of the Henry Street Settlement and the Visiting Nurse Service demonstrated her masterful administrative talents, deep regard for humanity and skill at fundraising and publicizing. Championing the causes of public health nursing, housing reform, suffrage, world peace, and the rights of women, children, and immigrants and working people, Wald became an influential leader in city, state, and national politics. Her tireless efforts to link the health of children with the health of nations made her a model of achievement, caring, and integrity throughout her lifetime. Although Wald achieved international recognition, her efforts were always grounded in the belief that the world was simply an expanded version of the culturally diverse neighborhood.

How do you think Lillian Wald would feel about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators?

Famous Presidential-Jewish Firsts

Famous Presidential-Jewish Firsts, by Marnie Winston-Macauley, with help from Professor Sherman L. Cohn, Georgetown University Law Center. In honor of President’s Day, we can honor American presidents and their famous Jewish firsts. From colonial times, many Jews have played a vital, if sometimes unsung role in the lives and administrations of our Chiefs. Many actively supported the Revolutionary War and settled new territories during America's westward expansion. In the more recent past, Jews such as Henry Kissinger, Elliott Abrams, and Ari Fleischer have become household names. Just recently Jacob Lew, an Orthodox Jew, was appointed White House chief of staff. Various Presidents helped move us forward in their administrations which benefited both our country, and countless others. Here is a sampling...See attachment to read more!