Golda Meir: American Roots, Zionist Life

Mon, Mar 23, 2015, 4:30 pm
Speaker(s): 

Born into abject poverty in Kiev in czarist Russia, Golda ended her formidable life as prime minister of Israel. This lecture explores the American tissue of her identity.

In 1906, Golda and her family immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There she attended public school, learned English and steeped herself in the progressive culture of the period. By the time she arrived in Palestine in 1922, she was a married woman, an aspiring politician gifted at making connections with her audience, and a passionate follower of Socialist Zionism. Amidst pervasive gender-based discrimination she spent most of her time in the company of men and rose to the top of the Israeli political leadership. In 1969, her party elected her as Prime Minister of Israel, a role that brought her to the White House and secured her a powerful voice on the world stage. The 1973 Yom Kippur War, which occurred on her watch, precipitously ended her career. She died heartbroken, five years later.

The lecture addresses the American fingerprints on Golda’s identity and the impact that major legal developments in the United States during and after World War I had on her emotional and political development. It also covers some crucial milestones for her — her difficult family life, her success at codifying fair labor standards for Israel, and the challenges of navigating Israeli politics between the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars.

Pnina Lahav is a professor of law at Boston University. She is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Yale Law School and Boston University. She earned several prestigious fellowships including a Rockefeller Fellowship, a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, CA and a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She also served as a religion fellow at Boston University’s School of Theology. Professor Lahav has published numerous articles on constitutional law, freedom of expression and women’s rights. Most recently she has been working on the issue of women’s prayers in Judaism and Islam. She is the author of the acclaimed biography Judgment in Jerusalem: Chief Justice Simon Agranat and the Zionist Century (University of California Press, 1997) and the editor of several other volumes. Presently she is working on a biography of Golda Meir through the gender lens.

Cosponsored by the Program in Judaic Studies, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Program in Law and Public Affairs.