We were happy to catch up with Emma Breitman, an alumna of the class of 2020 who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's in women and gender studies, minors in Spanish and Ethnic Studies, and a certificate in LGBTQ studies. While at CU, Emma worked as a research assistant for Dr. Samira Mehta, assisted on a research project for Dr. Janet Jacobs, and also completed her honors thesis under the guidance of Dr. Emmanuel David, Queer Futurity and Hybridity in "Arrival" and "Embrace of the Serpent". Emma was also the recipient of the Joanne Easley Arnold Outstanding Senior Award, selected for her outstanding academic achievement and service to the department, and the campus through her work with CU Hillel.
After graduation, Emma began working with Hillel at Florida International University, as the Martha Escoll Springboard Fellow. "The majority of my role consisted of creating programming events for students that were related to various social justice topics," Emma explained. "Some of the events that I helped students coordinate included a speaker series about voter suppression with events about the disabled and trans communities and how they are targeted by voter suppression. I also helped coordinate a panel for Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week where I brought in several people who identified as two-spirit to talk about Missing and Murdered Indigenous People and colonalism broadly speaking. All of these events also usually had some Jewish connection to help students understand that social justice is a Jewish value. A lot of times I think Jewish students feel like their Jewish and feminist identities are mutually exclusive, so a large part of my role was helping to bridge the gap and help students find out how the two can work together."
After her fellowship, Emma moved from Florida to Massachusetts for her new role as Executive & Development Assistant at the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA). Celebrating their 25th year, the JWA is a national organization dedicated to collecting and promoting the extraordinary stories of Jewish women, to inspire young people with remarkable role models and use Jewish women’s stories to excite people to see themselves as agents of change. "My current role at JWA is a lot more administrative," says Emma. "I do everything from processing incoming donations and working with donors to answering email inquiries about the archive. A lot of times this involves me researching the Archive so that I can answer these questions. It's really nice and feels like I still have the opportunity to learn and grow. Even though I mostly do administrative work, JWA is a very collaborative environment, so I often help provide feedback about upcoming programs. My work really changes on a day to day basis, but its really cool to be working for an organization that empowers the voices of marginalized Jews (women, trans people, non-binary people, queer people, etc)."
Dr. Samira Mehta, right, assists Emma Breitman, center, in a class project in 2019.
In this new role, Emma notes that she is constantly utilizing the research skills that she developed during her time at CU. "When fielding inquiries about our Encyclopedia, for example, I often have to do indepth research about specific historical figures and moments. My WGST degree, and especially the research that I did for my thesis, along with the research I did for Dr. Mehta, helped prepare me to think creatively and deeply when doing research. It also greatly helped me to think critically and be a creative problem solver." Emma often has to problem solve issues with the JWA database, "although I don't always know how to fix things right away, the research skills I developed at CU always help me find a work around. And of course, on top of all of this, I am lucky to work at an organization where feedback on general operations is always welcome, so I am able to use the knowledge I gained at CU about race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. to help JWA continue to ensure its content is as accessible as possible."
When asked what she liked most about working for the JWA, Emma quickly explained why she is proud to be able to support such important work. "I am lucky that JWA has existed for as long as I have been alive, but before its inception the history of Jewish womxn and their involvement in feminism was extremely difficult to find out about. Reading JWA's content in undergrad in Dr. Mehta's class helped me better understand how my Jewish and feminist identities can intersect, and I have seen how the access to JWA's materials have also helped other young Jews feel more connected to their feminist and Jewish identities."
Learn more about the Jewish Women's Archive at https://jwa.org/