- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 18, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford’s new exhibit about trailblazing Jewish women is currently on display at the Mandell JCC.

The exhibit details the lives of 12 Jewish women, all who once lived in Connecticut or have some other connection to the state, who they believe deserved to have their stories shared with a wider audience.

Estelle Kafer, the executive director, said the idea for the new exhibit, which they created from the ground up, came to them during the research portion of another project.

“We knew about a number of famous Hartford ladies,” Kafer said. “When we started doing research for some other projects, we came across some women who really sounded like leaders and innovators yet no one had heard of them. These are some women who really deserve to be recognized and acknowledged.”

The featured women include Ellen Ash Peters, the first woman appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, and Jody Cohen, who became the first female associate rabbi to serve at a Connecticut congregation when she was appointed to the position at West Hartford’s own Congregation Beth Israel in 1984.

“A lot of these women observed and saw something that they really wanted to change,” Kafer said. “They went ahead and really advocated for things. That’s all the more reason this is so impressive. They are go-getters.”

Kafer hopes the stories of these women - particularly the more untold stories - resonate through the community, especially with the younger female audience.

“These are important stories,” Kafer said. “We came across some very interesting stories that needed to be told about trailblazers. It’s important for young people, especially young women, to see how these women - in a time when it was difficult for women to be heard and recognized and acknowledged for any contribution they made - in spite of all those obstacles were able to overcome them and really flourish.”

The diverse exhibit also details the lives of Rebecca Affachiner, who is known as “the Betsy Ross of Israel,” Matilda Rabinowitz, who fought for better working conditions for women, and Anni Albers, an artist who became a leader of the 20th century modern art movement.

Many of the panels are accompanied by period clothing on loan from the Estelle M. Sprague Costume and Textile Collection at the University of Connecticut.

“It’s inspirational for sure,” Kafer said, walking through the exhibit and commenting on each woman. “The immigrant story here is important for sure. We did this because women’s stories are more in the limelight. I think it’s important.”

Kafer said the historical society designed the exhibit with the intention of being a traveling exhibit. It hasn’t booked its next stop yet, but for now it will be on display at the Mandell JCC’s Chase Family Gallery through Oct. 2.

Online: https://bit.ly/2mmktnD

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