Welcome to #SWC, a quickie, 5-minute story about an amazing Jewish woman in history!
Thank you for joining me!
This week I attended an online summit, where they asked for three women we were inspired by and why.
Maya Angelou: because of her talent, her beauty, her message, her words. She was the ultimate strong, smart, woman. But she isn’t Jewish, so we won’t talk about her today.
The second woman was Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx: what I learn from her is to hustle, hustle, hustle; to believe in yourself despite others not believing in you and to do it all with grace. But, although Sarah is Jewish, she is also alive, and this podcast is about dead Jewish women. So hopefully I’ll be able to get Sarah to come on to the podcast, and I’ll interview her, in real life, and not just read about her.
And the third woman I wrote on that list was Joan Rivers: a woman who broke taboos and was not afraid to speak when others expected her to be soft and quiet and docile.
I started looking for her quotes and clips and I got to watching Fashion Police, which used to be my number one favorite show on TV, which I don’t watch at all now (unless there’s an amazing series, then I spend most of my time NOT watching it, until I can’t hold out anymore, and I binge a few episodes… Like "The Americans", for example.. )
Her story is not a simple one, but one of breaking new ground for women. With a huge personality, a lot of love behind her persona, and a life that wasn’t always clear or easy.
It’s hard to summarize Joan Rivers into a short blog post or podcast.
And I know she may not be in consensus, as to if you think she’s somebody to admire and be inspired by. But I did, and I am and continue to be inspired by her.
Her ultimate chutzpah, the way she could take your breath away with her humor again and again and again. Her ambition was second to none.
One of the things I learned on the summit I attended, which was given by Gloria Feldt and Mary Legakis Engel, was Carpe the Chaos! Meaning, if you want to make a difference, sometimes it’s the difference you’re making that will be the balagan, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
In Joan River’s case, she spoke about gender discrimination all the time, about LGBT issues, about injustices, about abortion rights, about women coming out from under their husband’s rule, way back in the 60’s, when she first became famous on the Johnny Carson Show.
So here’s a clip from 1974, which is clean. I’ve watched hours of her now, supposedly researching today’s show, but really just loving every bit of her. In those hours of research, this is 10 seconds of clean audio, so enjoy!
Let me try and tell you a little about her, some things you may know, and others you may not:
Joan was born Joan Molinsky in New York in 1933, to parents who immigrated to the US from Russia.
She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Barnard College.
She performed her comedy in many many small clubs for about 7 years, before she got her break on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She became a regular feature on the show, as well as the Ed Sullivan show, before becoming the permanent host when Johnny was away, and she always credited Johnny Carson with her success.
She did not have an easy career, and she was never conceited about her success, quite the opposite. She was an incredibly hard worker, with a crazy work ethic and ambition.
Joan Rivers was married for six months to her first husband, and they divorced and did not have kids together.
Her second husband was also her producer, Edgar Rosenberg, and together they had Melissa Rivers, their only child. They were married for 22 years, and unfortunately, Edgar Rosenberg committed suicide.
Joan Rivers wrote 12 books, had a line of jewelry and clothing on QVC, was in many movies, TV shows, and on Broadway theater. She was nominated for multiple awards; she has a Grammy and a Daytime Grammy award.
Sadly, Joan Rivers died from complications of surgery on her vocal chords, at the age of 81.
Howard Stern, delivering the eulogy, described Joan Rivers as "brassy in public [and] classy in private”.
This week has been a historic week for women and all of the women’s movements. As you might know, this podcast is nonpolitical, so I won’t talk about the new President, Mr. Trump. I won’t talk about the inauguration either. But it is impossible to ignore the millions of women who marched as a protestor even more, as a response to President Trump’s words, actions and his derogatory innuendos towards women and their rights. I believe that the women’s march was a lot more than a protest. It was a beginning.
A strong, powerful action that regardless of your political belief women came together. That we are not going backward in time. We are not going to put up with the rubbish we put up with for the last decades and centuries or forever. We will not be ignored. We will not be groped. We will not be objectified and we will not be patronized.
In the spirit of freedom and the end of inequality, and in the spirit of hope that the march has brought back, I’d like to highlight, in today’s podcast, Emma Lazarus.
Emma was a Jewish woman, best known for her poem “The New Colossus” which is engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty. She was born in 1839 and she died when she was only 38 years old. But her first book of poems and translations was published when she was only 17 years old. She was just a child, a girl.
She grew up as part of the elite society in New York City. Her father was wealthy. He was a sugar refiner and they were very well regarded. Mainly because they were not new immigrants from Eastern Europe, but rather they could trace their heritage back to being amongst the first settlers in that area of the United States.
Emma was always aware of being an outsider, of being different. She was also conscious of the antisemitism that bubbled not very far under the surface both in New York and overseas.
Emma Lazarus was not religious at all. She was very happy in her secular life, but she was open about being Jewish, standing up for Jewish rights and civil equality. Her writing was always well received; she was popular in mainstream publications. But she always advocated that immigrants take on the culture of their new country. And reflect the beauty of where they are now and not continually try to adapt their work, writing and their beliefs from the old country and old belief systems. She was very vocal about writing against anti-Semitism and taking a stand against the pogroms in Russia and writing about antisemitism that was going on in the U.S.
Emma Lazarus even wrote in Jewish publications about a new homeland in Palestine. She is credited with being one of the first people to have this vision well before Zionism was even a word and well before Herzl came along. She was a pioneer in those thoughts. She wrote “The New Colossus” in 1883 but that was placed at the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1903 well after she died, 16 years later.
I want to thank the Jewish Women’s Archive, as usual, for most of this information. To end today’s short tribute to this Jewish women’s activist, I’d like to read a short excerpt from her book “Epistle to the Hebrews” where she emphasizes that it doesn’t matter if you, yourself, are doing well if others in the world are suffering. If you don’t’ know, like me, I didn’t know what the word epistle means, epistle means a letter. That’s good to know, so if you ever need to write an epistle instead of a text message, you’ll know what that means.
This is an excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ book “Epistle to the Hebrews.”
“In defiance of the hostile construction that may be put upon my words, I do not hesitate to say that our national defect is that we are not "tribal" enough; we have not sufficient solidarity to perceive that when the life and property of a Jew in the uttermost provinces of the Caucuses are attacked, the dignity of a Jew in free America is humiliated. We who are prosperous and independent have not sufficient homogeneity to champion on the ground of a common creed, common stock, a common history, a common heritage of misfortune, the rights of the lowest and poorest Jew-peddler who flees, for life and liberty of thought, from Slavonic mobs. Until we are all free, we are none of us free. But lest we should justify the taunts of our opponents, lest we should become "tribal" and narrow and Judaic rather than humane and cosmopolitan like the anti-Semites of Germany and Jew-baiters of Russia, we ignore and repudiate our unhappy brethren as having no part or share in their misfortunes- until the cup of anguish is held also to our own lips.”
Have a good week everybody. Please take strength and hope from the women’s march and go do good in your world.
Yael Jekogian is the Managing Director of Wings Worldquest, whose mission is to advance women explorers in the field by giving unrestricted grants, connecting women explorers by building community, and providing an outreach educational program for women scientists and explorers to share their work and inspire the next generation of intrepid explorers and global problem-solvers.
Yael is a civil engineer who specialized in environmental engineering prior to leading WINGS.
We talk about sexism in the workplace, female scientists, bringing up girls and fundraising for a cause you believe in.
Welcome to #SWC, a quickie, 5-minute story about an amazing Jewish woman in history!
Thank you for joining me!
Today we have Gertrude Berg!
Yup, she was a Berg, and I’m a Berg, at least through marriage, so that’s as good a way as any to choose somebody to highlight!
Gertrude Berg was an actress, a screenwriter, and a producer, born in 1899.
She was responsible for the TV program The Goldbergs, which started as a radio play.
The Goldbergs became one of TV’s most popular sitcoms of the time, beginning in 1949, post-WWII. Gertrude was able to bring a Jewish family into everybody’s TV sets, into their homes, and by doing this, she was able to show Jewish people in a positive light. She’s funny, very stereotypical. You know that ignorance is dangerous, and Gertrude Berg was changing this about the Jewish American, the Jewish Immigrants from Europe to the US, by teaching the US public, in a funny way, about the Jewish immigrants.
I’ll tell you why I was attracted to Gertrude, other than her name:
Gertrude wasn’t just the actress; she was the business woman behind the production.
And a genius marketer.
The program starts and ends with her facing the camera, and naturally talking about the product she’s advertising, in this case, Sanka coffee, as if it’s part of the program.
Now that’s exactly what podcasters do, and why they have such phenomenal success when advertising products. The presenter is believable! You trust them, know them, and like them.
So if the Molly Goldberg on the show, or Gertrude Berg in real life, recommends a product to you while talking to you face to face, in the most personal way, then you’ll buy what she’s selling!
So, I thought a fun thing to do would be for you to be able to hear Molly Goldberg talking about Sanka at the end of her show, The Goldbergs.
Isn’t it great to hear how she speaks? How she so naturally talks about a product, as if you and she are best friends, and she is doing you a favor by telling you about it, and how you’d be silly to miss out.
She certainly has a lot of shtick !!
Gertrude Berg went on to win a Tony award in 1959 for her performance in "A Majority of One",
She died in September of 1966, which coincidentally is the month I was born. How's that for bringing the story back around :)
Thank you to the Jewish Woman’s Archive for a lot of this information.
Thanks for joining me, this was fun, even though it took a really long time to make this week.
Judith Rosenbaum is the Executive Director of The Jewish Women’s Archive.
In the podcast today we talk about JWA, and how they are highlighting and preserving the current and past history of Jewish Women and the larger stories that surround them.
In the podcast you’ll hear:
• How stories are often a way to connect to your Jewish identity beyond the synagogue
• How it is important to be able to explore feminism inside of the Jewish religion in a comfortable way
• How history is unfolding every day and that we are a part of it
• How we can learn a lot from each other
• How we can connect to feminism while respecting religious practices
• How to learn to shape conversation in your community and be a thought leader
Resources mentioned on today’s show:
• Jewish Women’s Archive
• The JWA podcast: Can We Talk
• BRCA Gene: The National Cancer Institute
The Strong Jewish Women’s Summit is coming up soon!! Stay tuned for details!!
Today we’re doing something different!
I am interviewing a dead person!
I’ve been thinking of this idea for a long time but wasn’t sure how to incorporate it into the Strong Women's Club, and maybe here is the best place!
So I’m going to to a series of quickie podcasts, where I talk about dead Jewish women.
What that means is that we’ll be exploring, in the short form, the history of Jewish women leaders.
Let’s get to it; we don’t have much time!
For the Strong Women’s Club podcast this week, which will be released this Wednesday, I interview Judith Rosenbaum, who is the executive director of the Jewish Women’s Archive.
So I’ve spent some time on that site, which I have grown to appreciate, as a vast repository of information that is all interesting and exciting and relevant to the work that I’m doing!
On there, this week, is a highlight of Ida Cohen Rosenthal, because Jan 9th, which is today, the day I’m recording this episode, was Ida’s birthday, way back in 1886, in Russia.
So let’s talk about Ida, and how she changed our lives!
Do you know who she was?
Ida Cohen Rosenthal was one of the founders of Maidenform, who invented the bra!!
So let me tell you how they got the idea, and how, even though she invented the bra, Ida was a true feminist. An entrepreneur! A Strong Jewish woman and a leader in her time.
Her name is Ida Kaganovich, and she immigrated to New York in 1905, where she Americanized her name to Cohen, so she became Ida Cohen.
She then met and married William Rosenthal, a good Jewish boy, but because she was not willing to go and work for anybody else, she bought a sewing machine and decided to become a seamstress.
After ten whole years of being a seamstress, she and her husband, William, together with Enid Bissett opened a custom dress shop.
This was in the 1920’s.
So back then, the popular fashion was the flapper dress. And flapper dresses were only suited to women with very flat chests, and the poor women would wrap their boobs up, to make them look flattered. Make them look like boys or “boy form”
Ida was not having any of that. She wasn’t going to flatten her boobs for anybody.
So she invented the bra, where the boobs were held in cups, had straps over the shoulder and fastened in the back! Making you look like a girl, or “Maiden Form,” hence the history of the name.
In the beginning, they were giving away the brassieres for free, to go under the dresses. But women began to ask for them so much, that they quickly closed the dress shop, and changed the name of the business to Maidenform!
William was in charge of the designs, and he invented the different cup sizes and maternity bras. Ida got the patent for adjustable shoulder straps.
But Ida was in charge of the business side of things. And she was a genius marketer.
She came up with the ad line “ I dreamed I was...whatever… in a Maidenform Bra”.
That advertising campaign was used for 20 years successfully!!
So even after Enid retired and William died, and Ida became the president of the company, Maidenform continued to grow and prosper.
Sadly, Ida had a stroke, then died in 1973.
But Maidenform is still run and owned by the Rosenthal family, their daughter, Beatrice, was the president, and also their granddaughter Elizabeth Coleman.
So this has been the first of bringing to you Jewish women leaders in history.
I wanted to have women call in their brags, and learn to say great things about themselves, and inspire others, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds, and it doesn’t sound all that easy.
Plus, regarding the tools and tips: Many people are already doing that, and doing it well. I want to have episodes that are special to me, to the Strong Women's Club, and to strong Jewish women.
So let’s give this a go! See what you think… please let me know!
The best way would be to go to iTunes and leave a real, honest, rating and review.
Look up The Strong Women’s Club on iTunes, or my name, and it will come up in your search results. Plus some interviews I’ve done on other podcasts, they will also show up there.
I appreciate it a lot!
Keep your eyes and ears open for more news on the summit… the website for the Strong Jewish Women’s Summit is coming up soon and you’ll be able to get lots of info.
Ok, so thank you for joining me in my quest for the perfect short podcast.
Today was fun, talking about dead Jewish women is going to be a blast,
Looking forward to next week!
For now, have a great day, continue to be strong!
Anniken Fjelberg is the founding partner and co-owner of 657 Oslo, Norway’s largest co-working space for the creative industries, as well as communications agency Superblaise, and the disruptive UT: student agency.
Anniken works actively as a board member and in advisory boards both in the corporate world as well as in the startup ecosystem in Norway. She’s a fierce believer in paying it forward, and does so by being an emerging angel investor and a passionate mentor for entrepreneurs, startups, and students. Anniken recently took part in building the new community #pointnineniners, and through this movement she looks to empower women to choose the investor- and entrepreneurial paths – which are oftentimes interrelated as shown in her own career.
We get a sneak-peak into a female entrepreneur’s life in Norway. Did you know that men have to take at least one month’s paternity leave, and that women get another 11 months’ paid leave ?!?
Great to learn from people in other countries, and bring the best back to our homes.
Have a great 2017 everybody,