August 15, 2022

Note to #repealthe19th: Not on Our Watch!

By Amy Powell –

Does history repeat itself? Does the struggle for suffrage, the right to vote, still matter? Look no further than the hashtag #repealthe19th trending right now to answer this question.

“There is no doubt that understanding our history helps us make sense of the struggles about voting rights and the role of women in the public sphere that arise today,” said Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, associate director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute.

On Sunday, October 30, just days before the U.S. election, Joffe will moderate a panel discussion on this topic, “Votes for Women”: The History of Equal Suffrage in Israel and America.

Though women have had the right to vote in the United States for nearly 100 years and celebrations to honor the anniversary are being planned nationally, new challenges to voting rights erupt on our social media, in economically or racially diverse parts of our country and in our courts on an almost daily basis. Though we are poised to celebrate, the struggle is not over.

In Israel, under the British Mandate for Palestine, women got the right to vote around the same time as in the U.S., but today women in ultra-Orthodox communities still face similar limits to access in the political sphere. HBI’s scholar-in-residence, Riki Shapira-Rosenberg, recently represented ultra-Orthodox women who sought to create their own political party to represent the interests of religious women, which were being overlooked by the Orthodox parties that purported to represent them.

HBI’s program, Votes for Women”: The History of Equal Suffrage in Israel and America, is a must see in a time of unprecedented attacks on voting rights. This free program will discuss the origins of suffrage in both the U.S. and Israel to understand what our history can tell us about our present and future.

Held at 7 p.m. in the Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library of Brandeis University, “Votes for Women” will feature Professor Margalit Shilo of Bar Ilan University, who will read an excerpt from her new book, “Girls of Liberty:  The Struggle for Suffrage in Mandatory Palestine,” that chronicles the work of the Union of Hebrew Women for Equal Rights and their success in securing women’s suffrage in the British Mandate.

Discussants will be HBI Research Award recipient, Professor Melissa R. Klapper, author of Babies, Ballots and Banners of Peace: Jewish Women’s Activism 1890 -1940. Klapper, of Rowan University, who will discuss the role of Jewish women in the suffrage movement in the United States and the connections between suffragists in both countries; and, Shapira-Rosenberg will discuss her work on contemporary struggles in Israel to ensure women’s equal access to the electoral process. Joffe will elaborate on current challenges to voting rights in the U.S.

“The American ideal of equal access to the ballot box, regardless of race, class or gender, is again at risk,” said Joffe.  She referenced U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County vs. Holder, and the passage of many new state laws aimed at making voting more difficult.

“The gender dynamics of the U.S. presidential campaign have also invoked many unstated myths and anxieties about women exercising political power, underscoring a disturbing current that Shilo’s careful analysis will show was used nearly 100 years ago by those who sought to withhold voting rights from women,” Joffe added.

Shilo’s book is published in the Brandeis Series on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law and the HBI Series on Jewish Women.

Amy Powell is HBI’s communications director.

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Votes for Women”: The History of Equal Suffrage
in Israel and America

Professor Margalit Shilo of Bar Ilan University, who will read an excerpt from “Girls of Liberty:  The Struggle for Suffrage in Mandatory Palestine published Brandeis Series on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law and the HBI Series on Jewish Women.

Discussants will be Professor Melissa R. Klapper, author of Babies, Ballots and Banners of Peace: Jewish Women’s Activism 1890 -1940 to discuss the role of Jewish women in the suffrage movement in the United States; and Attorney Riki Shapira-Rosenberg, a current HBI Helen Gartner Hammer scholar-in-residence, who acts on behalf of ultra-Orthodox women in Israel in their struggle to have a voice in the contemporary electoral process.

Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, Ph.D, will moderate and introduce challenges to voting access today.

Sunday, October 30, 7 p.m.
Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library
Brandeis University
RSVP recommended, light refreshments

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