‘Women’s Haggadah’ author Broner dies, leaves her papers to Brandeis

Bob Vigiletti

E.M. Broner

E.M. Broner, a highly-regarded Jewish feminist and author, died recently at the age of 83, leaving a legacy of papers to Brandeis. Her work includes plays, stories, articles, poetry and books.

“I saw her as pioneer of the Jewish Women’s movement,” says Shula Reinharz, director of the Women’s Research Center.

“The Women’s Haggadah,” written with Naomi Nimrod, was one of the first tellings of the Passover story from women’s point of view. Originally published in Ms. Magazine in 1977, its popularity remains strong at women’s seders around the world.

“The Women’s Haggadah” was issued in book form by HarperSanFrancisco in 1994.

“The original purpose of the women’s seder was to attract Jewish women from the former Soviet Union, acquaint them with the seder and empower them,” says Reinharz.

According to the New York Times obituary, Broner held a women’s seder in Manhattan beginning in 1976; it was regularly attended by luminaries such as Gloria Steinem, Grace Paley, Bella Abzug and Letty Cottin Pogrebin.

The initial Deed of Gifts from Broner to Brandeis was signed in 1997, according to Sarah Shoemaker, special collections librarian. Included in the E.M. Broner Collection are ritual objects, ceremonial artifacts, correspondence, speeches, teachings, criticism, other authors writing awards, multimedia and manuscripts including her book “A Weave of Women,” which shows the evolution of the text written by hand.

“We certainly have many collections related to Judaica and contemporary authors, but her collection is related to both,” says Shoemaker. “She was really a pioneer of Jewish feminism.”

Brandeis is the home of the first Jewish Women’s Studies graduate program, which was established here in 1992.


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