She was our spiritual leader. She made room for us at the table by creating a whole new one — a Seder table at which women’s voices were heard. She encouraged us to ask the Four Questions of Women and to recite women’s plagues, of which there were always more than 10. She honored our foremothers — not just the matriarchs, but also women in the Bible who are unseen, unsung and unnamed; women scholars of the Talmud; the wives and mothers who made it possible for children to flourish and for men to study Torah: the union organizers, suffragists, partisans, peaceniks, lawyers and legislators who won us our rights. Esther Broner coaxed all these women out of their silence, and in so doing, she empowered our generation.
I speak confidently in the collective plural because I know how many thousands of lives Esther has touched and how many Jewish women walk taller for having followed in her groundbreaking footsteps.
Esther Broner, who died on June 21, aged 83, was the inventor of the original women’s Seder (now proliferating throughout the United States and Israel); co-author with Naomi Nimrod of “The Women’s Haggadah” (published in Ms. magazine in 1977 and later in Esther’s book, “The Telling”); creator of enduring Jewish feminist rituals; published poet, novelist, pamphleteer, autobiographer; literature professor; political organizer, activist and all-around holy troublemaker. But Esther was, above all, a weaver of women.
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