Rebel Girls

How women have risen to the occasion

Cindy -- Rebel Girls  image

Every evening before bedtime, my husband and I read our two young daughters a page from Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. The anthology chronicles the real-life journeys, past and present, of trailblazing women--Amelia Earhart, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Serena Williams, Malala Yousafzai, and others--who rebelled against the norms of their society, changing the world for good. 

With International Women's Day--a day that celebrates women's rights--this month, I highlight below three women who have changed the world since October 7. My daughters are, thankfully, too young to discuss the horrors of that day. But they're never too young to learn from these extraordinary women how to be rebel girls. 

'After I had Hersh, I was a Mother' 

Rachel Goldberg-Polin dreams of her son Hersh's future-living life with his new bionic arm, and someday being a grandfather. 

While celebrating his 23rd birthday at the Nova music festival, Hersh Goldberg-Polin lost his arm in the massacre and was captured by Hamas. Along with so many other "loved ones of the stolen," as she calls them, Rachel has lived in agonizing uncertainty ever since. 

With steely determination, she's shared her story with the world: drawing a massive social media following; meeting with Israel's War Cabinet, President Biden, the Pope, and other leaders; and pleading with the UN to act on behalf of the hostages. 

Rachel--a Chicago native who made aliyah with her family--wears her humanity, grit, and wisdom like a badge, similar to the tape she affixes to her chest, numbered to mark each passing day of her waking nightmare. 

No one has come to symbolize the agony and resolve of the parents of the hostages more than Rachel. As she posts: "Before I had Hersh I was a person, but after I had Hersh I was a Mother." 

'There's nowhere else to be' 

Trauma therapist and writer Lisa Fliegel shows up wherever needed. Sometimes that's near her home in Boston, where she works with families of homicide victims, including in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. 

Other times, her job takes her far away, to war-torn regions like Northern Ireland, or to the Middle East, where she has championed both Israelis and Palestinians for 30 years. 

Fliegel was first drawn to that corner of the world at 17, when she moved to a kibbutz in Southern Israel. While there, she joined the army, worked as a journalist, and advocated for peace. Two decades later, she returned to Boston. 

Three hours after news of October 7 broke, Fliegel booked a flight to Israel, and was deployed to Eilat, where nearly half of Israeli evacuees took up residence. She treated survivors directly and also provided clinical supervision and training to other therapists. 

"There is a lot going on. There. Is. A. Lot," she posted in The Times of Israel  on Oct. 31. "And there is no place I'd rather be. There is nowhere else to be; if I weren't here, I'd lose my mind." 

'I'm just wired like this'  

Not long after October 7, a pink-haired, non-Jewish pizza sauce maker posted a video decrying Hamas and the rising tide of antisemitism. Among her remarks in her viral post, Caroline D'Amore, a.k.a. "Pizza Girl," said: 

"If you're one of these people ripping off posters and spewing hate, you need to take a really good look at yourself and ask yourself, 'Why would you ever do that?' 'Free the Palestinians' does not mean 'torture Jewish people.'" 

Since then, the Malibu-based single mom and entrepreneur has been using her platform to amplify her support for the Jewish people and plead for the release of the hostages. 

Late last year, she toured Israel to see the devastation of October 7 firsthand and to hear from survivors and families of hostages. 

What motivates Pizza Girl? Her 8-year-old daughter. "I'm just wired like this," D'Amore said. "I teach my daughter: 'if you see someone being bullied at school, it's your responsibility to stand up for them and help them and protect them.' If I tell her to do that, then I need to do it too." 

I pray that my girls will one day live in a world that finds such heroism unnecessary. But if history is any indication, we need to start raising tomorrow's trailblazers today.  

Find ways JUF supports and empowers women and girls all year long:  

To learn more about the JUF Women's Philanthropy, visit juf.org/women. 

To learn more about the Jewish Women's Foundation, visit juf.org/jwf. 

 

 

 


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