Esther Broner: A Weave of Women
A film by Lilly Rivlin




"Esther Broner: A Weave of Women, a documentary film by Lilly Rivlin, profiles the life of Esther Broner, Jewish feminist, prolific author, professor, and stalwart pioneer of the Women’s Rights Movement."


A film by Lilly Rivlin
62 minutes, 2013

ESTHER BRONER: A WEAVE OF WOMEN / A film by Lilly Rivlin / 2013

Prolific writer, passionate activist, dedicated scholar and pioneering feminist, Esther Broner indelibly shaped modern Jewish history, and yet, most people have never heard of her. In the mid-1970s, as the women’s rights movement was vastly changing society’s views on gender and equality, Broner created a radical new Haggadah (the book of readings for a Passover seder service) for a new era, one that, while maintaining Jewish culture and rituals, shifted the focus onto women, transforming the traditional Passover service into a powerful reclamation of women’s lives and stories. What followed in 1975 was the first feminist women’s seder, which began as a small gathering to celebrate Passover with Broner as their leader and would blossom into a movement. One of the founding members of the seder, director/producer Lilly Rivlin (Grace Paley: Collected Shorts, SFJFF 2010) documents Broner’s rich and engaged political and spiritual life with archival photos, video footage from the seders themselves and interviews with Broner’s closest friends and original “seder mothers” such as Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem and congresswoman Bella Abzug. Woven together with Broner’s own moving words, this documentary is both an inspiring portrait of a feminist trailblazer and a testament to her legacy which has helped empower generations of Jewish women around the world. — Alissa Chadburn

Director Lilly Rivlin in person...

Esther Broner, co-writer of the Women's Haggadah and creator of the Feminist Seder, was my friend. I was a "Seder Sister". When Esther died I decided to make a film about her and the evolution of the Feminist Seder over a period of 37 years. In 1975 Esther Broner and Naomi Nimrod wrote the first Women’s Haggadah, leading the way for modern Jewish feminism. For the next 36 years, Esther Broner led the Feminist Seder in NYC with a core group of women. This film documents the evolution of Jewish feminism through the Feminist Seder. We use archival footage and interviews with leading Jewish feminists who attended the Seder such as Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Gloria Steinem, and Canadian feminist/author Michel Landsberg. At the same time it tells the story of Esther Broner, described by the NY Times as a writer who explored the double marginalization of being Jewish and female. She was “intensely concerned with Jewish spirituality, and with carving out a place for women in a faith tradition that had long seemed not to want them.”


“Weaving together readings of Broner’s prose, documentary photographs, interviews, and footage from many of these Seders, the film goes a long way towards evoking Broner’s unique contributions towards feminism, Judaism and literature, documenting and celebrating the breadth of one women’s legacy.”
Jewish Daily Forward

"A film by a remarkable woman about another remarkable woman...This is a film for Jewish Studies, for Documentary Studies, for Gender Studies, and for those who simply want to know more about a transformational group of women."
Alex Keller, Dir.
Film Studies Program, Smith College

"What a deeply fascinating and heartfelt portrait of Esther. It's an important documentation that brilliantly captured a complex multi layered woman who dares challenging the norms of her time."
Ariel Jordan

"Rivlin’s tribute to Esther Broner’s life reminds us of the energy and passion with which the first generation of American Jewish feminists engaged with Jewish ritual, liturgy, and traditions. As a result, modern Judaism is more colorful, inclusive, and meaningful. In the film, Broner reminds us that the work of Jewish feminism must extend to the wider world, to alleviating poverty and inequality everywhere."
Lori Lefkovitz, Ruderman
Director of Jewish Studies and Humanities Cnt, Northeastern Univ.

"Rivlin captures Broner’s big heart, wildly inventive mind, compassion and her loud, infectious, frequent laugh. Her strong storytelling skills are also evident…"
The Jewish Weekly

"The film is a gift, of a time, documented so we can feel again how fresh it was to be in the presence of passionate women creating beauty/power/community, feeling it rise out from under."
Myra Shapiro

Feminist Seder Pioneer Esther Bronner Is Subject Of New Documentary /

Lilly Rivlin: Filmmaker, Story Teller, Activist /

TJC's The Salon Web Extra: Lilly Rivlin on her film "Esther Broner: A Weave of Women" / video

Statements & Articles related to the Feminist Seder:


Evolution Of The Feminist Seder, by Debra Nussbaum Cohen, April 14, 2000

   Telling the Seder's Story In the Voice of a Woman | History First

MIRIAM'S DAUGHTERS NOW / Lilly Rivlin, 1986




Lilly Rivlin © 2004 - 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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