Cottin Pogrebin is an important early leader in the women's
movement who combined her feminist ideas with Jewish values.
Pogrebin was born in 1939 in Queens NY. She was raised in
an observant Jewish home, and loved to studied Torah and
Talmud diligently with her father, even beyond her Bat Mitzvah.
However, when Letty was 15 years old, a sad event happened
that changed her relationship to Judaism for a long time.
Letty's mother died of cancer in 1955. When the Kaddish
minyan occurred in her home, there were only 9 men present.
Letty begged her father to be counted in the Minyan, but
he refused, calling the synagogue to ask for a tenth man.
Letty turned her back on Judaism, and did not become observant
for 15 more years, until she felt that Judaism had ended
the practice of excluding women. It took until the 1980's
before either the conservative movement would count women
in a minyan or allow women cantors to chant from the pulpit,
and until even 1985 when the Conservative movement would
ordain the first woman rabbi.
Cottin Pogrebin was a writer and strong advocate for women's
rights in the early stages of feminism in the earyly 1970's.
She co-founded Ms. magazine and the National Women's Political
Caucus. She has written 9 books, including the memoir, Getting
Over Growing Older, a book on time and aging, and most
recently, her first novel, Three Daughters. But Letty
is a true renaissance woman, enjoying both feminist and
feminine pastimes. She has been married for over 30 years,
raised 3 children, and loves to needlepoint, cook, and entertain.
She is equally comfortable in writing articles for Ms. magazine
or the Ladies' Home Journal.
had the courage to be both a strong feminist and a strong
observant Jewish woman, at a time when most Jewish women
in the feminist movement denied their heritage. In 1975,
at the United Nations Conference on Women, the women's movement
passed a platform declaring that "Zionism is Racism," and
Letty challenged the anti-Israeli prejudice and anti-semitism
in the women's movement by writing articles about it in
Ms. and other publications. In 1991, she expressed her fused
Jewish-feminist identity by writing the book: Deborah, Golda
and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America. With her Jewish
women friends, she began to create Jewish rituals around
life cycle events meaningful to women.
this year we dedicate Miriam's cup to Letty Cottin Pogrebin.
Her reconciliation of feminism and Judaism was important
to many Jewish women who were having doubts about their