Past Honorees

At Central Synagogue

Letty Cottin Pogrebin
2011 Author

Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s writing and advocacy helped secure equal rights for women at a time—not so long ago—when the notion of equal pay and non-sexist childrearing were novel and controversial ideas in American society.  She was a founding editor of Ms. magazine as well as a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, which supports women who seek political office.

Pogrebin was raised in an observant Jewish home in Jamaica, Queens, and studied Torah and Talmud, a rarity for girls of her generation. Her mother died when she was 15, and when she was denied the honor of being included in the minyan to say Kaddish because she was female, she turned away from Judaism for years.  The account of the incident in her book Deborah, Golda and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America is shocking and haunting.  But as women in liberal Judaism were allowed to take their place in minyans, and became rabbis and cantors in the 1980s, she was, in her own words, “born again” to her people.

When the 1974 United Nations Conference on Women passed a platform declaring that “Zionism is racism,” Pogrebin challenged this anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic stance by writing about it in Ms. and other publications. She has been a regular contributor to the Forward, the Jewish Week, Moment, Taken, and Lilith and has also been extensively published in Ms., the Ladies Home Journal, the New York Times, and others too numerous to name.

She served two terms as chair of the board of Americans for Peace Now, an advocacy organization that works toward a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has also been president of the Author’s Guild. She is a member of the advisory board of the Harvard Divinity School’s Women in Religion Program as well as on the board of the Women’s Studies Program at her alma mater, Brandeis.  With Marlo Thomas, she co-created the book, record album, and Emmy-award–winning television special Free To Be You and Me.  She is the author of ten books.

Pogrebin and her husband Bert have been married for over 40 years and are the parents of Abigail, Robin, and David and the grandparents of six.