Dalya Attar (b. 1990) was born in Baltimore to a religious Sephardic family of Iranian and Moroccan heritage. She studied at a Bais Yaakov school, and always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Among her inspirations are Joe Lieberman and Sarah Schenirer. Attar studied criminal justice at the University of Baltimore, then moved on the University of Maryland School of Law (during which time she married and had two kids). After passing the bar, she worked in the office of Baltimore’s State Attorney, first as a juvenile prosecutor and then as a narcotics and firearms prosecutor. She was asked by Baltimore’s Jewish community to run for the state legislature, and realized she could make a bigger impact if she had a seat in government. Despite having no experience or connections in politics, and running against twelve other candidates in a district that is only 5% Jewish, Attar won a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates. She assumed office in January of 2019, becoming the highest-ranking Orthodox Jewish women in American history. Attar has used her position to help all communities in her district. She has co-sponsored and voted for legislation to reduce crime in Baltimore (which has among the highest crime rates in America), and sits on the House Opioid Workgroup to put an end to the opioid crisis. This year she introduced legislation to help Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant them divorces. She is also working towards opening up job opportunities for people coming out of prison, and to get landlords to reduce the risk of lead poisoning. Attar has campaigned for more funding for religious schools, better pay for teachers, and voted against granting people the right to suicide. In her book, “morals and ethics come first”.
He who looks at things objectively, with an open mind, will see and recognize truth and understand the proper meaning of the Torah. The narrow-minded person, stubborn in his prejudiced self-righteousness, will see no more than what he wants to see. – Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
The only known photograph of Sarah Schenirer, taken for a passport
Sarah Schenirer (1883-1935) was born in Cracow, Poland to a Hasidic Jewish family. She left her elementary school at age 13 due to her family’s poverty, and took on a job as a seamstress. Meanwhile, she envied her brother’s opportunities to study Torah, and dreamed of creating similar opportunities for women. One by one, her girlfriends assimilated and left the Orthodox Jewish fold. Troubled by this development, Schenirer understood that girls were losing their connection to Judaism primarily as a result of ignorance. She resolved to start a Jewish girls’ education network, and in 1917 opened a girls-only kindergarten for Jewish studies. The school was called “Beit Yakov”. (The name comes from a Biblical verse, referring to God’s command to Moses at Mt. Sinai to instruct the women along with the men.) The idea flourished quickly, inspiring a “Bais Ya’akov” movement across Jewish Europe. By 1923, Schenirer had to establish a teachers seminary to train new instructors, who taught young girls both Torah and secular subjects. The movement gave rise to camps, clubs, a monthly magazine, international conferences, and even its own publishing house to print textbooks. Sadly, Schenirer passed away from cancer, childless, at the young age of 52. At the moment of her passing, over 200 Beit Yakov schools were operating in Europe and beyond, with 35,000 girls studying diligently. Many of these girls referred to Schenirer as Sarah Imenu – “Sarah, our Mother”. Schenirer had a reputation as a wise and caring pioneer, as well as a modest and holy woman. She did not allow photographs of her to be taken, saying “I don’t need anyone to remember what I look like, I want them to remember my vision.” Her vision is alive and well today, with hundreds of Orthodox Beit Yakov girls schools still shining all over the world.
Words of the Week
God is the ultimate oneness, and everything Godly in our world bears the stamp of His unity. All evil derives from the distortion of this oneness by the veil of divisiveness in which God shrouds His creation. – Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch