The Professor and the Activist
Each week, we select the most interesting Jewish obituary. This week’s is that of Paula E. Hyman, the prominent Jewish feminist (as in, not just Jewish and feminist, but Jewish-feminist) who died last week at 65. What is remarkable is how at home she seemed on both sides of the line that divides scholarship and activism. She received a Ph.D., specializing in Jewish life in fin de siècle France; at the same time, she was organizing “consciousness raising” feminist discussion groups geared toward increasing women’s participation in Jewish life. In 1976, she co-authored a classic, zeitgeist-y history-from-the-ground-up study, The Jewish Woman in America; in 1981, she became the first woman dean of undergraduates at the Jewish Theological Seminary after lobbying for many years to get the Conservative movement to drop many Orthodox-derived restrictions on female participation. She is seminal in the field of scholarship, and she also effected real change in Jewish practice. Not too bad for a life cut tragically short.