Women enjoying the "Seeing Seattle" open-air tour c1910
Women seated in "Seeing Seattle" open-air touring vehicle, Seattle, Washington, approximately 1910
Note from donor file: "Seeing Seattle" car, ca. 1910. Blanche Newberger (Stern), 8th from right; Seattle.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections/Washington State Jewish Historical Society, JEW0684
My parents, Stanley and Marianne Marcus, had a bohemian streak that prompted them to hop in a station wagon with my sister, brother, and myself to explore Northwest Washington in the summer of 1967. Shortly thereafter we moved from Northern New Jersey to Bellingham, WA, where I attended Sehome High School, graduating in 1972. Violin in hand (my teacher in Bellingham was the amazing Arthur Thal), I headed for the University of Washington. At the UW, I played in the symphony under the baton of the also amazing Samuel Krachmalnick. These formidable musical leaders, who both happened to be Jewish, sparked my lifelong love of music and performing. It was Seattle trumpeter Peter Lippman who helped me find my Jewish musical home when he introduced me to Klezmer music in the late 1970s. Yossi Stein, of blessed memory, and I formed a duo, The Mazeltones, that later morphed into a band created by Rabbi Jim Mirel and I, also called The Mazltones. For 16 years we rode the Klezmer revival wave an d had tubs of fun at weddings, concerts, and B'nai Mitzvah celebrations everywhere in the West, the East Coast, and Russia. Jim and I still play music, independent of each other.
With KlezKidz, sponsored by Temple Beth Am (where I worked as a teacher and music director for 31 years), clarinetist Shawn Weaver and I guided the next generation of Klezmer musicians.
I feel very lucky that in the world of Jewish music - especially in Seattle - there were no barriers to where and what I could perform. I learned Ladino music to play for Sephardic lifecycle events. I taught Israeli dances to festival attendees in the streets of Anacortes, WA. I sang Yiddish from a barge in Lake union when The Mazeltones performed at Fratelli's Family Fourth, sponsored by KING FM in 1990. Even the Chabadniks hired the band (with a woman in it!) to play for Purim in the University District Chabad House, I knew I was "in" when Rabbi Levitin poured me some vodka to make a "L'Chaim" that evening!
In the '80s and 90's, people were intrigued to be dealing with a young, female, Jewish bandleader. I was super conscientious about treating my community well -- it was work AND it was a mission to preserve a beautiful musical tradition. I also loved dancing and good food and drink, the power of a good party! I whole-heartedly subscribed (and still do) to the Jewish concept of a "shem tov", a good name, and tried my best to be respectful and trustworthy. I did not use contracts until the final years of the band and did so only because society started to change and demanded such paperwork.
Today, I am semi-retired. I still do a little music for virtual services at Temple Beth Am. I teach Yiddish. I teach violin to youngsters, including my granddaughter Marisa. I am tickled and grateful to be a link in the chain of Jewish musical tradition in the Northwest.
In collaboration with the Jewish Women's Archive, the Washington State Jewish Historical Society is proud to announce Agents of Change: Washington Jewish Women's Stories, featuring women telling their SHORT stories in their own words (and must include a photo).
The short stories that will be shared are of women who have made their mark in a wide array of fields. Agents of Change illustrates the many important contributions Jewish women are making every day in Washington state and in our world.
Please note that your "story" should be no more than about 2 paragraphs or under 3 minutes in the recording. We are not looking for your life story, but instead a statement about what is meaningful to you, what you have accomplished, what you feel is significant to you or your family or the community. Again, NOT your life story here.
We also MUST have a visual submission with this - a photo of you or something related to your submission. If you have problems with any of this, please contact Sara Mottaz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note that these prompts are ONLY suggestions and you might only answer one or two of them in your SHORT story submission. You will not have time to answer all of these.
- How did you or your family come to live in Washington State? What has your experience been like here?
- Please describe a time in your life when you took a risk or had a powerful experience and challenged yourself. What did you learn from this experience?
- What barriers have you faced, if any, and how have they made you feel?
- Could you share a time in your life when being a Jewish woman was particularly meaningful or particularly challenging? How does Jewish wisdom, practice, or identity show up for you today?
- Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you would like to share?
Agents of Change are remarkable Jewish women of Washington State who have made their mark, created change, and inspired others. Are you a Jewish woman from Washington State who broke a barrier, stood up to lead, went above and beyond, or achieved something great? If so, share your story with us. You can also interview an Agent of Change and share her story.
- Nominee must identify as a Jewish woman
- She can be a contemporary or historical figure
- She must represent a significant achievement
- While nominees do not have to have been born in or currently live in Washington State, the majority of the work or the achievement for which she is being recognized must have been completed in Washington State
- Her work or achievement should exemplify Jewish values
- Nominations will be accepted through July 2020
- Submissions should be brief and concise
- A photo must be included with the submission
- Permission must be granted for materials to be used on WSJHS website, Washington Jewish Museum, social media, physical exhibits/publication
All submissions must include a visual element that is relevant to your submission and high resolution.
Photos will ideally be a portrait, or similar, of the subject of your submission but can also be of something related to the story including pictures of an important location, group of people, building, document, or landmark. You must have permission to share the photo because submitting your story and photo gives the WSJHS and JWA permission to use the materials.
Questions can be submitted by email to Sara by clicking here.
Examples of Jewish women in Washington state include but are not limited to these type of contributions (and can be in the present tense or the past.) Feel free to also submit for your relatives living or deceased. Please remember, these are short stories, not life biographies.
- You are a leader in a Jewish organization or any business or organization
- You are a volunteer in any nonprofit
- You are an advocate for your child in the school system
- You volunteered for the JFS food bank once a week for years
- You helped access the health care system for a relative or yourself
- You were a first in any position as a woman or a founder
- You had a small idea and it turned into something amazing
- You write a blog about something you care deeply about
- You believe in any cause and wish to share this
- You have gone through struggles in some aspect of your life and you story should be shared.
Additional examples will be added here as we think of them and as they are received.
When in doubt, you probably belong to this group of amazing women and you should submit your story.
Questions should be addressed to Sara Mottaz at this link.
When recording your story of no more than five minutes in length, use the the story prompts provided below as a starting point and feel to provide additional information answering an unasked question. Choose what is meaningful or of interest to you. Submissions should be brief and concise and must include a photo.
When beginning, first clearly state and also spell your name. If you are interviewing someone else, then state and spell both your, and the narrator’s names.* Listen attentively and ask follow-up questions as you go allowing brief pauses between questions and answers.
*If you are sharing someone’s story who could not be present for the interview, feel free to answer these questions based on your conversations with her or from your point of view as someone who was impacted by her experience.
Again, this is not the place for a life biography, but instead a short statement about your work or passion.
Funding for Highlighting our Jewish Women in Washington State through the Washington Jewish Museum was made possible, in part, by the 4Culture Sustaining Support Grant, the Women's Endowment Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the Washington State Women’s Commission and the Washington State Historical Society through the Votes for Women Centennial Grant Program.
Washington State Jewish Historical Society is dedicated to discovering, preserving, and disseminating the history of the Jews of Washington state and promotes interest in and knowledge of the life, history, and culture of the Jewish people and communities through publications, exhibits, displays, speakers, tours, and performance.
Jewish Women’s Archive is a national organization dedicated to collecting and promoting the extraordinary stories of Jewish women. JWA explores the past as a framework for understanding the issues important to women today; inspires young people with remarkable role models; and uses Jewish women’s stories to excite people to see themselves as agents of change. For more information, please visit www.jwa.org.