A Weave of Women: The Book of Esther
Esther (E.M.) Broner, Jewish feminist, prolific author, professor,and stalwart pioneerof the Women’s Rights Movement died and bequeathed the rich legacy of her inimitable voice, character, and spirit to all humankind. An innovator in reimagining traditional Jewish customs and rituals, Broner co-wrote The Women’s Haggadah, which included women within the conventional structure of Jewish patriarchy. In her most celebrated work, Broner encouraged women to devise their own version of traditional rituals. Leading the first feminist Seder in 1975, she used The Women’s Haggadah in all readings and rituals for the Passover meal. Since then, her work has been used in hundreds, if not thousands, of feminist Seders throughout the world. Indeed, in her other writings, such as Bringing Home the Light, Broner resurrected the little-known history of matriarchy hidden inside Judaic culture and religion.
A Weave of Women: The Book of Esther focuses on Broner’s life using the seders and other rituals to convey the historical times of the early women’s movement. Like the famous schmateh (lilac scarves tied together) encircling the women at the end of the seder, Broner’s last Seder in the Spring of 2011 will be woven throughout the film. The film will feature archival material from previous seders, providing a context for the role she played during the early, exhilarating days of the feminist movement and her lasting legacy. Esther was a charismatic and articulate provocateur who was drawn into a circle of feminist luminaries that included Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Marilyn French, Grace Paley, Vivian Gornick, Carol Jenkins and Letty Cottin Pogrebin.Some of these women are among those I plan to interview.
In essence, Broner asked this question of Jewish women: “Do you want to be inside the tent or outside the tent?” She spoke eloquently of a singular, pointed choice for us to be either secular and separatist (outside of the patriarchal tent) or construct a new tent in which women devise their own version of tradition rituals. The author of 10 books including fiction, the best-selling A Weave of Women, a memoir, short stories and plays, she introduced and illuminated the importance of female consciousness, regardless of faith. Broner taught at many universities including Sarah Lawrence College, Wayne State University, Haifa University, Oberlin, and UCLA.
As a Seder sister and co-creator of other rituals with Esther Broner, in a unique position to tell her story from the intimate perspective of a confidant and friend. Upon the completion of A Weave of Women: The Book of Esther, Rivlin plans to exhibit the film in Jewish Film Festivals and at universities with women’s studies programs as well as interfaith programs.
About the Filmmaker
Award winning filmmaker, writer and political activist Lilly Rivlin lives in New York City. Rivlin was born in Jerusalem and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1945. She received her B.A. from George Washington University and her M.A. in International Relations & Indian Studies at University of California, Berkeley. The ‘personal is political’ is expressed in the documentaries she produced, directed and wrote: including Grace Paley: Collected Shorts, (2010); Can You Hear Me? Israeli and Palestinian Women Fight for Peace (2006); Gimme a Kiss (2000); Miriam's Daughters Now, which aired on PBS and Israel TV (1986); The Tribe, CUNY TV (1983). She contributed to such works as Expulsion and Memory (1995); Full Circle (1995); If Not Now When? (1988); Pillars of Fire, Israel TV’s 18-part series on the history of Zionism (1983); The Jews - a series commissioned by David Puttnam and Sandy Lieberson (1970-72).
Ms. Rivlin’s articles were published in Newsweek, MS Magazine, The Washington Post, Lear’s and US Magazine. Other publications include "Welcome to Israel" with Gila Gevirtz, (2000); "Which Lilith? – Feminist Writers Recreate the World’s First Woman" coedited with Enid Dame and Henny Wenkart (1998); concept and photographs for "When Will the Fighting Stop? A Child’s View of Jerusalem" (1990). She was principal researcher for O Jerusalem by Larry Collins and Dominque Lapierre, (1972). She is listed in Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975 (2007) and Jewish Women, A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia (2007).