In honor of International Women’s Day, JNS.org looks back at some newsworthy Jewish women from the past year's headlines.
1. Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko: Exactly one year ago, on last year’s International Women’s Day, Israeli athlete Knyazyeva-Minenko became an Olympic contender after capturing the bronze medal in the triple jump at the European Indoor Championships in Prague.
In her first attempt in the Prague arena, Knyazyeva-Minenko jumped a distance of 14.49 meters (47.5 feet), setting a new Israeli indoor record. Her medal is the first for Israel at the European Indoor Championships since 2000.
2. Israeli female archaeologists: While not devoted to a particular woman, this section honors a number of female archaeologists working at the historic City of David in Jerusalem. As archaeologist Ayala Diamant tells Breaking Israel News, “People are constantly asking me if I really dig, and I tell them that anyone can do it—man or woman, it doesn’t matter.”
Her sentiment is echoed by Ze’ev Orenstein, director of International Affairs at the City of David, who says that “some of the most significant discoveries from Biblical Jerusalem in recent times have been made by [women].”
3. Susan Friedman: In July 2015, the 90-year-old Friedman, an American Jew, proved that it’s never too late to be a pioneer by making aliyah on a charter flight through the Nefesh B’Nefesh agency. After five children, 18 grandchildren, and 37 great-grandchildren, she decided to move to an independent living facility in Ra’anana.
“I am going home,” she told JNS.org.
4. Nili Block: After a decade of blood, sweat, and tears, this 20-year-old daughter of immigrants who moved to Israel from Maryland when she was a young child is a women’s world champion in the rough-and-tough sport of kickboxing. In October 2015, Block was crowned champion in the 60-kilogram (132-pound) senior division (ages 19 and up) after winning four grueling three-round matches at the Kickboxing World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.
In recognition of her achievement, the Federation of Non-Olympic Competitive Sports in Israel, known as Ayelet, named Block as the Jewish state’s female athlete of the year for 2015.
5. Kaifeng women: Last week, five women who are among the few remaining traceable descendants of China's ancient Kaifeng Jewish community made aliyah to Israel. The women plan to formally convert to Judaism and become Israeli citizens.
"To be Jewish, I have to go back to Israel...I've been waiting for this time for a long time,” said one of the women, Yue Ting, a 25-year-old primary school teacher.
6. Gillian Rosenberg: Canadian-Israeli Gillian Rosenberg, 31, stunned the world in November 2014 with the announcement that she had joined Kurdish forces in their fight against the Islamic State terror group, becoming the first non-Iraqi woman to do so. Rosenberg later put fears to rest by denying reports that Islamic State had captured her. In July 2015, Rosenberg returned to Israel, citing the spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East as part of the reason for her decision to return to Israel.
"I think we as Jews, we say 'never again' for the Shoah (Holocaust), and I take it to mean not just for Jewish people, but for anyone, for any human being, especially a helpless woman or child in Syria or Iraq," Rosenberg told Israel's Army Radio.
7. Kira Radinsky: The 27-year-old Israeli graduate of the Technion, who immigrated to the Jewish state at the age of 4 from the former Soviet Union, has made this year’s MIT Technology Review list of “35 Innovators Under 35.” As Haaretz reports, Radinsky has been honored for her development of algorithms capable of predicting global events by using vast repositories of web-based data sources.
“The predictions made by Radinsky’s software are about as accurate as those made by humans,” the technology review board wrote. For instance, the algorithms predicted Cuba’s first outbreak of cholera in 130 years.
8. Rabbi Lila Kagedan: Kagedan, 35, is a recent graduate of Yeshivat Maharat and the first person to be ordained by an Orthodox female clergy institute and to call herself Rabbi. In January, an Orthodox synagogue in New Jersey hired her to join its “spiritual leadership team.”
“There are so many other women who have come before me who are doing this work already,” Kagedan told JTA. “I feel that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. I learn from them and they inspire me. It’s because of the variety of Jewish learning opportunities that already have been made for women that I have this opportunity.”
9. Female IDF combat officers: Among this year’s 360 soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) completing the military's combat course, only 20 are women. Among them, 14 will be surveillance officers, and only six women are becoming combat officers, reports Yedioth Ahronoth. These women include the first officer in the first all-female drone unit of the IDF Artillery Corps, Ophir Eya.
Despite the ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court two decades ago that women cannot be excluded from military pilot courses based on their gender, women are still the minority in major combat roles. But in recent years, there has been an increase in female volunteers for such roles.
10. Ivanka Trump: Regardless of how we might feel about her father, controversial Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, we secretly admire Ivanka Trump.
Trump famously underwent an Orthodox conversion to Judaism before her marriage to Jewish real estate developer Jared Kushner, with whom she has two children and another one the way. In addition to her role as a Jewish wife and mother, Ivanka is the executive vice president of development & acquisitions at the Trump Organization, runs her own lifestyle brand, and manages IvankaTrump.com, a digital destination for professional women. At least based on her public image, she exemplifies the enviable image of having it all (albeit with the probable help of a nanny or two).
“Women have been taught to think that” they’re bad at negotiating, Ivanka told Cosmopolitan. “When you're negotiating, think about the situation, the person, and yourself. The best negotiators are secure with themselves.”
Oh, and did you know she’s taken on the Jewish name Yael?
Check out more trailblazing women in last year’s JNS.org article, “Like Queen Esther, modern-day Jewish women making a difference.”