Savion Tzoref (Gal Leadership Academy ’19) on Michelle Obama
Women’s Day is a great opportunity to honor strong women who have made a difference and influenced the world, even when they weren’t given that power and they had to fight for success.
I chose to focus on a woman who is an inspirational figure to me: Michelle Obama. She’s known as the wife of the forty-fourth president of the United States, Barack Obama, but I chose to focus on her success and her unique path without assigning her to the man she married—to tell the story she wrote for herself.
Michelle Obama was born and grew up in a town south of Chicago, and she is a descendant of African American slaves—an unexpected start to her well-known path in life, in which she became the first lady of the United States. Even as a child, she applied herself to her studies. She earned degrees and honors in the institutions where she studied, even reaching the prestigious Harvard University, where she pursued a degree in law. Throughout her years of study, Obama was active as an advocate for minority rights in the United States and in her immediate environment.
One of my favorite quotes of hers, one that characterizes her spirit, is: “Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values, like you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond; that you do what you say you’re going to do. That you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them and even if you don’t agree with them.” Michelle did a lot and used her power and influence as the first lady of the United States in the fields of human relations, health, and education, and she emphasized and invested greatly in children and teens. I consider Michelle a charismatic, strong woman, a talented speaker and an independent person. As an African American woman, she proves to the world that with hard work, anything is possible, and that the secret is to fight for our goals without compromise.
Noy Azaria (Mechinat Melach HaAretz ’19) on Miriam Peretz
I’d like to tell about Miriam Peretz as a woman who inspires me.
I met Miriam when I was in elementary school in Givat Ze’ev. I had the privilege to go to the school where Miriam Peretz was the principal for many years. I had the privilege of hearing what she had to say, including outside of school. Miriam is a first-rate educator. Love of the Land of Israel is important to Miriam, and it’s clearly close to her heart. She educated us with the values of Zionism, love of the homeland, mutual responsibility, modesty, and love of the other. Miriam pushed us to explore our roots and listen to the other, and helped us understand that our strength comes from us and our ability to countenance opinions that are different from ours.
Miriam inculcated me with the desire to live a life of meaning and take action for the sake of society. I learn from her that despite the difficulties in this country and in life, we need to stand tall as a proud Jewish nation and keep moving onward.
Miriam lost two of her sons, but she chose to focus on life and its meaning: educational work and empowering the next generation, not bereavement and pain. All of this she does out of responsibility and love of the Jewish people. Personally,
my decision to spend a year at mechina before going into the army was influenced in part by dear Ms. Miriam.
Avishag Virt-Shalom (Midreshet HaShiluv Natur ’19) on Henrietta Szold
I was asked to write about an inspirational woman. Truth be told, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around it and choosing. I asked female friends and relatives: What is an inspirational woman? Is it a woman who worked for my rights as a woman and makes me want to be an activist? Is it a woman who dedicated her life to creating in what was mainly a man’s world? Is it a woman whose femininity stands out?
At the end of the day, I chose Henrietta Szold, mostly because she was a woman of kindness and love, which motivated her to create and labor. Henrietta was a family woman and a teacher. She connected to the Zionist idea as a solution for the ills of the Jews in Europe. She did much for the health of the Jews in the Land of Israel and founded Hadassah, which distributed food, provided medical treatment, and taught nursing. She was one of the leaders of Youth Aliyah, and made a point of talking with all of the young men and women who arrived. She was the first woman to study at JTS, and a member of Brit Shalom.
To me, Henrietta’s character, which is reflected by her letters and especially her actions, symbolizes love of humanity more than anything else. Henrietta lived in a time of great ideologies, nationalism, and revolutions, and she, unlike all those, turned her undivided attention to individuals. She dedicated her work to the men and women who were behind those great ideas of immigration to Israel and establishing a state, and in this she was unique and creative. Henrietta inspires with her simple, compassionate, and humane understanding of reality. I want to hope that we will succeed in understanding the women and men around us and their needs, and they will be the ones who bring us to act, with sensitivity and compassion.
Omer Noy (BINA Mechina ’19) on Marie Curie
“Nothing in life is to be feared,” said Marie Curie. “It is only to be understood.” As a student at the BINA Mechina, one of whose pillars is the thirst for knowledge and insight, I find her aphorism inspirational, as I do her character—a pioneering, groundbreaking woman and scientist.
Marie Curie was the only person to win two Nobel Prizes in different fields of science: physics and chemistry. She was the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics at the Sorbonne, and the first woman elected to the French Academy of Medicine. After her death, her bones were transferred to the Panthéon in Paris, and she was the first woman interred there thanks to her own achievements and not those of her husband.
Her achievements were not handed to her on a silver platter, and they are especially notable in light of the time in which she lived, when women were considered not to have rights, and its painful effects are distinctly clear: Since women’s doctoral studies were not favorably viewed by the university, she was forced to work in a dilapidated hut, rather than the main laboratory, lest her presence distract the men. The prize committee initially saw fit to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of radioactivity only to her husband, even though their research was entirely collaborative.
During the mechina year, I developed a social-minded worldview, and so Marie Curie’s humanitarian actions are an example to me no less than her scientific discoveries. She returned the amount of the scholarship she received as a student to help other Polish students, donated her Nobel medal to assist the French war effort, shared her scientific knowledge with the entire scientific community without expecting any payment in return, and created mobile X-ray laboratories during World War I.
As a woman who aspires to soon find a place in the scientific world, I hope to succeed as she did in fusing a humanitarian worldview with actions in the field of materials and research.
I look at Marie Curie as a model of scholarship, curiosity, and resolve, and I’m grateful to her for breaking barriers for female researchers of the future.