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Poster Commentary
"Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to become themselves?"Betty Friedan
Poster design:Noa Kelner


Commentary by Blu Greenberg

What did I, a modern Orthodox Jewish woman, find to admire in Betty Friedan? In the name of women’s self-actualization, her 1963 bestseller The Feminine Mystique felt to me anti-family and anti-men, and managed to put down so many of the great women I knew who were full-time homemakers and mothers. Were these women in jeopardy of not “becoming themselves”?

The idea Betty Friedan offered the world was radical: gender equality. This meant equal access, equal talent and brains, and equal dignity. The Feminine Mystique may not have addressed the joys of raising children, but once Friedan implanted in our minds and hearts the idea of equality of genders – once she posited this as ethics rather than as a battle between the sexes – each of us would work out the details in our own lives. Had Friedan not opened the door, feminists would not have transformed society at large and Judaism in particular, with its belief that male and female were created as equals in the image of God.

While her pen wielded enormous power, Friedan also understood the covenantal nature of organizational life. For the work to continue, one needed more than an idea: one needed organizational structures that would allow others to find an address and take up the work. In co-founding the National Organization of Women and the National Women’s Political Caucus, Friedan helped spawn the most profound social revolution of the last few centuries without a drop of blood being shed.

Friedan is one of the great change agents of modern history. The word “Jewish” might not appear in The Feminine Mystique, yet every heartbeat was a Jewish one.

Blu Greenberg is founder of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. She writes and lectures on matters of contemporary Jewish interest and is active in Jewish feminism and interfaith dialogue. Her books include On Women and Judaism and How to Run A Traditional Jewish Household.