Paula Hyman: A Reflection

By Ilana Weltman
Director, EntryPointDC

Paula Hyman was certainly my go-to when I needed to reference Jewish women’s history in graduate school.

I was very saddened to hear that she had died this week. One of her most significant impacts on me came in my second year at NYU.

My fellow graduate students and I curated the NYU Grey Art Gallery exhibition, “Art, Memory, Place: Commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist  Factory Fire.” Alongside the curatorial process, my classmates and I analyzed the history of the fire heavily. Our exhibition documented a century of commemorations, tracing the many social and political advances inspired by the tragedy, and the myriad ways in which its memory has been claimed, contested, and re-invigorated.

Paula Hyman raised an interesting question on the fire’s history:
Who owned the memory of the fire?

She argued that rather than the Jewish community claiming it (most of the women who died were young Jewish immigrant women), labor activists and social reformers had declared the lessons of the fire. She pushed me to think about the way that histories get told and shaped, and to dig beyond a single version of an event.

In her honor, I hope you’ll take a moment to consider an historical event that has been “owned” by a specific group, and imagine who the other lesser-heard voices may have been.

(Read more about Hyman’s argument.)

8 Ways to Make Your Chanukah More Meaningful

It’s easy for Chanukah to fly by in a blur of wintry celebrations. We wanted to create ways that got at the spirit of the holiday and made celebrating Chanukah mean more than our usual routines.

  1. Remember what Chanukah is about: visibility! Not only put your menorah in the front window, but also talk to friends and family about issues that are important to you.
  2. Volunteer! Help at the DCJCC on December 25 or pick another organization that could use your help.
  3. Remember what Chanukah is about: shedding light into the darkness! Reach out to a friend who could use your shoulder now.
  4. Make a donation to a nonprofit or charity in place of a regular gift, especially now when the tough economy has meant fewer donations.
  5. Remember what Chanukah is about: fighting back! Talk to your schools to see what they are doing about bullying and suicide, especially among LGBT youth.
  6. Tzedakah means justice! Think about ways you—yes, YOU!—can make the world a more equitable place… and then do them.
  7. Learn a new Chanukah tradition from a group that celebrates differently than you!
  8. Create your own prayer! What does the holiday mean to you? What would you like to see  change? What do you hope for?
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