Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

Diane Markowicz Memorial Lecture on Gender and Human Rights

Catherine MacKinnon speaks from the podium

2018 speaker Catherine MacKinnon

What are the most pressing challenges in the quest for women’s human rights? Who are the most innovative thinkers taking on these issues? How can their work inform the struggle for gender equality around the world?

The Lecture Series features internationally renowned scholars, judges and activists discussing ways of negotiating the tensions between gender equality and religious or cultural norms.

Past Lectures

"War Crimes Redefined: The Oct. 7th Attack by Hamas on Women, Children and Families"

March 10, 2024

Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy

Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy is an international law and human rights expert and founder of The Civil Commission on Oct. 7th Crimes by Hamas Against Women and Children. An independent, non-governmental collaboration of international human rights experts and women's rights organizations, the Civil Commission was created to advocate for and support the investigation of war crimes committed by Hamas against women and children during the massacre of the 7th of October 2023, and the continuous war crimes. On Oct. 31, Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy spoke before the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. 

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"Populist Regimes and Plans to Control Women: The Israeli Experience"

April 19, 2023

Professor Yofi Tirosh

Professor Yofi Tirosh is an associate professor and Vice Dean at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law and a Research Fellow at Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute. Her groundbreaking work on antidiscrimination law and the intersections between law, culture, and the body has been published in leading international journals. Alongside her academic work, Tirosh is an award-winning public advocate of civil and women’s rights and a regular legal commentator on national media.

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"The Torah of Reproductive Freedom"

March 20, 2022

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is an award-winning author and writer. She was named by Newsweek and The Daily Beast as one of 10 "rabbis to watch," as one of 21 "faith leaders to watch" by the Center for American Progress, by The Forward as one of the top 50 most influential women rabbis , has been a Washington Post Sunday crossword clue (83 Down) and called a "wunderkind of Jewish feminism" by Publishers Weekly. Her newest book, on applying an ancient framework of repentance and repair to the contemporary public square, to institutions, and to national policy is due from Beacon Press in 2022. She serves as Scholar in Residence at the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW).


"The World Split Open: Redefining Sexual Harm in Halakhah"

November 18, 2020

Rachel Adler

Rachel Adler is the David Ellenson Professor of Modern Jewish Thought at the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). She was one of the first theologian/ethicists to integrate feminist perspectives and concerns into the interpretation of Jewish texts and the renewal of Jewish law and ethics. Her essay "The Jew Who Wasn't There," first published in 1971, is generally considered the first piece of Jewish feminist theology/ethics.

She is the author of "Engendering Judaism," the first work by a female theologian to win the National Jewish Book Award in the category of Jewish Thought. "Engendering Judaism" is also available in a Hebrew translation. In "Engendering Judaism," Adler proposed a new Jewish legal model for Jewish marriage rooted in partnership law rather than property law. Some Jews use this ceremony rather than the traditional one. She has published more than 50 articles on issues involving Judaism and Gender, many of them reprinted in collections.


“Sexual Harassment: The Law, The Politics and The Movement”

October 14, 2018

Catharine MacKinnon

Long before the #MeToo movement, Professor Catharine MacKinnon pioneered the legal claim for sexual harassment and, with Andrea Dworkin, created ordinances recognizing pornography as a civil rights violation and proposed the Swedish model for abolishing prostitution. The Supreme Court of Canada has largely accepted her approaches to equality, pornography and hate speech, which have been influential internationally as well.


“Iran's Unfinished Revolution — What Began in 1979 Continues Today” 
Roya Hakakian

Roya Hakakian, 2017 HBI Scholar-in-Residence, is a widely published author, poet, journalist and documentary filmmaker. Today Hakakian is outspoken on current issues in the Middle East, most recently commenting on the uprisings in Iran and the actions of Iranian feminist women.

“Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Women's Stuggles Against Fundamentalism in Muslim Contexts”
Karima Bennoune

Karima Bennoune is a Professor of International Law at the University of California — Davis, School of Law. She is the author of "Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism" and is the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

“Good Morning Heartache: International Law and Global Challenges Facing Women”
Fareda Banda

Fareda Banda is a law professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and a Global Professor of Law at NYU. She is the author of "Women, Law and Human Rights: An African Perspective," the definitive text on this issue. She has consulted to the United Nations on laws that discriminate against women. Her academic work focuses on the human rights of women in multiple international settings.

“Women in Israel: From the Back of the Bus to the Top of the Agenda”
Anat Hoffman

Anat Hoffman is the chairwoman of Women of the Wall and the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. She has brought a series of successful legal challenges to sex segregation in public life in Israel.

“The Woes of WOW: The Women of the Wall as a Metaphor for Diaspora Relations”
Pnina Lahav

Professor Lahav is a Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law. During the course of her legal career, Pnina Lahav has published nearly 50 journal articles and three books, including the critically acclaimed "Judgment in Jerusalem: Chief Justice Simon Agranat and the Zionist Century." Winner of Israel’s Seltner Award (1998) and the Gratz College Centennial Book Award (1998). Professor Lahav is the recipient of the BUSL Melton Prize for excellence in teaching in 2011. She has taught at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Herzlia, Oxford University and Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 in Lyon, France.

“Polygamy and Gender Justice in the 21st Century: Reflections on Basic Principles”
Dr. Abdullahi An-Na’im

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory Law School, associated professor in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, and Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion of Emory University. An internationally recognized scholar of Islam and human rights and human rights in cross-cultural perspectives, Professor An-Na’im teaches courses in international law, comparative law, human rights and Islamic law. His research interests include constitutionalism in Islamic and African countries, secularism, and Islam and politics.

“What History Teaches Us: Gender and Human Rights in the New Century”
Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella

Justice Abella's theories on gender equality have influenced courts and legislatures around the world. The first Jewish woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, she was previously a family court justice of the Court of Appeal. Justice Abella has chaired the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Ontario Law Reform Commission and the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment. Her opinion in the landmark case of Bruker v. Markowitz (2008) recognized the rights of Jewish wives to sue for damages in circumstances where their husbands use their power under Jewish law to deny them divorce.

“Gender, Peace and Human Rights” (inaugural lecture)
Dr. Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams

In 2006, Ebadi and Williams founded the Nobel Women’s Intiative to use the visibility and prestige of the Nobel prize to promote, spotlight and amplify the work of women’s rights activists, researchers and organizations worldwide.