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Chesler, Phyllis


CHESLER, PHYLLIS (1940– ), pioneering feminist, prolific author, psychotherapist, and expert courtroom witness. Chesler grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Bard College and earned her doctorate from the New School for Social Research. Rebelling against the patriarchal aspects of Judaism that denied her full participation, she turned to secularism and Zionism. However, experiences that included advocating for women's rights in predominantly Islamic countries, encounters with antisemitism within the feminist movement of the 1970s, and involvement in the struggle for women's right to pray at Jerusalem's Western Wall in the 1980s led to a reengagement with religious Jewish life. An Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at the College of Staten Island (City University of New York) and co-founder of one of the first academic women's studies programs, Chesler's organizational ties included the Association for Women in Psychology (co-founder), the National Women's Health Network (co-founder), the Women's Forum, the International Committee for Women of the Wall, the Arts and Letters Council of the Wyman Institute of Holocaust Studies, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and the Academic and Media Watch on Anti-Semitism. She was editor-at-large for On The Issues magazine, and a columnist for the conservative magazine Frontpage and various left-leaning Jewish publications including the Forward. A popular lecturer, she also organized political, legal, religious, and human rights campaigns around the globe and was a frequent guest on national and international television and radio programs. Chesler's books include Women and Madness (1972), addressing the mistreatment of women; The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It (2003); Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism's Holy Site (2003); Women's Inhumanity to Women (2002); and Letters to a Young Feminist (1998).


Author interview (Nov. 23 2004); T. Cohen, "Chesler, Phyllis," in: P.E. Hyman and D.D. Moore (eds.), Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, 2 vols. (1997) 216–17.

[Keren R. McGinity (2nd ed.)]

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