Strassfeld, Sharon

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STRASSFELD, SHARON (1950– ), U.S. Jewish educator, feminist, and community organizer. Educated at the Providence Hebrew Day School in Rhode Island and the University of Massachusetts (B.A. 1971), Strassfeld participated in the Jewish "counterculture" through the havurah movement as a member of "Havurat Shalom" in suburban Boston from 1971 to 1975. Drawing from this experience, she co-edited the three volumes of The Jewish Catalog, (1973, 1975, and 1980), inspired by the countercultural Whole Earth Catalog which had appeared several years earlier. Strassfeld was instrumental in establishing the annual Havurah Summer Institute, a week-long educational and cultural retreat first held in 1979, and an innovative Jewish day school, the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York, which opened in 1983.

Strassfeld is also noted for introducing women's sensitivities into the Jewish counterculture, which despite its purported egalitarianism had initially been male-dominated. Following the birth of her daughter, she (with then-husband Michael Strassfeld) pioneered the simḥat bat ceremony in the 1970s as the girls' equivalent of the male brit milah. Through her writing and educational activities she has become a proponent in the Jewish mainstream for the equality of women in Judaism that she originally voiced in the Jewish counterculture.

Strassfeld applied her business acumen to effect a synthesis between conventional financial activities and Jewish countercultural values of tikkun olam (repairing the world). As a businesswoman, her real estate and construction activities have generated resources that enabled her to support creative programs such as Ohel Ayalah (free High Holiday services for non-affiliated Jews in New York) and the Jewish Appleseed Foundation (outreach to isolated Jewish communities). She has headed Strassfeld Consulting, providing real estate services for non-profit organizations, and is a principal of the Soul Support Foundation, a philanthropic fund.

Her major publications include Everything I Know: Life Lessons from a Jewish Mother (1998); The Jewish Family Book, co-edited with K. Green (1983); The Third Jewish Catalog, co-edited with M. Strassfeld (1980); Behold a Great Image, co-edited with B. Aron (1980); The Second Jewish Catalog, co-edited with M. Strassfeld (1975); The Jewish Catalog, co-edited with R. Siegel and M. Strassfeld (1973). She also contributed articles to Jewish periodicals, notably Response and Shma, and wrote a weekly column syndicated in the Jewish press titled "Dear Molly."

[Peter Margolis (2nd ed.)]