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Ketubbot flower image from Bitsela Artz

Ketubbot flower image from Bitsela Artz.


        Miriam's Cup: Biography

Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Letty Cottin Pogrebin is an important early leader in the women's movement who combined her feminist ideas with Jewish values.

Ms. 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.

Letty 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.

Letty 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.

So 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 religious traditions.