Joyce Antler is the author of Jewish Radical Feminism: Voices from the Women’s Liberation Movement, forthcoming from NYU Press.
Jewish women were a prominent presence in the radical wing of the feminist movement of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s — only no one knew it. Participants in this fiery and transformative movement known as women’s liberation talked about every aspect of social and sexual life as they raised consciousness together; but in some women’s groups, although many members were Jewish, there was one subject they never addressed — their Jewish backgrounds. “We never talked about it,” said Naomi Weisstein of Chicago’s West Side Group, the first women’s liberation group in the country. Neither did historians.
In good part, this omission was due to the fact that Jewish women participated in the movement not as Jews — as members of an ethnic minority — but as universalists promoting a common sisterhood. “Why would we identify ourselves as Jews when we wanted to promote a vision of internationalism and interfaith and interracial solidarity? asks Vivian Rothstein, another West Side member.