What a great parlor meeting we had last Thursday! I met Debra Schultz, the author of “Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement” at the Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and thought the topic would be a wonderful one for our members to hear about…and I was right. Debra’s book contains the oral histories of 15 Northern, Jewish women who traveled to the south in the 60’s to participate in the Freedom marches and efforts to integrate the South during a dangerous time in our history. The interviews, letters to and from family and the stories of these women were both inspiring and exciting, and the discussion on Thursday was stimulating and thought-provoking for all of us.
I think perhaps the most wonderful aspect of Thursday is that we had members and non-members, young and older, and yet everyone who attended related or identified in some way with these courageous women in Debra’s book. Perhaps my favorite story Debra told was of one woman she interviewed for the book who traveled to Germany each year. The woman told her that each time she went to Germany she would ask the Germans with whom she came in contact what they did during the war. Many said they did nothing and the woman said she couldn’t understand that mentality. When she confronted one of the German women who told her that she had done nothing, the woman said to her “what will you do when it’s your turn?” This motivated the woman who Debra interviewed to join the Civil Rights movement, not wanting to have to respond similarly when she would be asked the same question by future generations. I think those words resonated with me the most. It is our turn, and the JWFNY is giving us an opportunity to become active and engaged and give a voice to those who have no voice so that we will be able to tell our children how we helped or made a difference by being involved.
— Lauren Wachtler, JWFNY Board Member