Marcia Freedman

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Marcia Freedman
Marcia Freedman D710-038 (cropped).jpg
Freedman in 1974
Faction represented in the Knesset
1975–1976Ya'ad – Civil Rights Movement
1976–1977Independent Socialist Faction
Personal details
Marcia Judith Prince

(1938-05-17)May 17, 1938
Newark, New Jersey, US
DiedSeptember 21, 2021(2021-09-21) (aged 83)
South Berkeley, California, US
Bill Freedman
(m. 1961)
Children1 daughter
Alma materNew York University

Marcia Judith Freedman (Hebrew: מרשה פרידמן‎; née Prince; May 17, 1938 – September 21, 2021) was an American-Israeli activist on behalf of peace, women's rights, and gay rights. In 1969, she immigrated to Israel where she helped establish and lead the feminist movement in the 1970s. She was a member of the Knesset from 1974 to 1977.


Born in to a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey on May 17, 1938, Freedman received a BA from Bennington College and an MA from New York University.[1][2] She was active in the American Civil Rights Movement between 1960 and 1967. In 1969 she immigrated to Israel, and soon became involved in activism and politics. She became famous from her desire to modify abortion laws and raise awareness to the civil rights movement.[3]

In 1973, the feminist movement decided to support Shulamit Aloni's Ratz (the Civil Rights Movement), and Freedman was given third place on the Ratz slate. She caught Shulamit Aloni's attention based on her passion, commitment, and enthusiasm for the movement.[4] Aloni asked Freedman to be the third seat on the party.[4] The party won three seats in the 1973 Israeli legislative election, and Freedman became a member of the Knesset. Ratz soon merged into Ya'ad – Civil Rights Movement, but Freedman and Aryeh Eliav broke away to form the Social-Democratic Faction (later renamed the Independent Socialist Faction). Freedman served in the Knesset from 1974 to 1977.[3] She became a strong advocate for Gay Rights movements because she came out as a lesbian to her daughter and her daughter started to isolate from her.[3]

Prior to the 1977 elections Freedman formed the Women's Party,[5] though she did not stand as its candidate. The party failed to cross the 1% electoral threshold though it did succeed in attracting public support for women's issues. While a member of the Knesset, Freedman was outspoken on women's issues and brought to public attention issues that had never been discussed publicly in Israel, including domestic violence, breast cancer, rape, incest, and teenage prostitution. In addition, Freedman became increasingly involved with the discussion on peace with the Palestinians.[4] However, in her interview in 2015 with the American Jewish Peace Archive, she stated that she "was drawn into what I would call foreign policy issues because I was a member of Knesset, and that was totally accidental and unplanned" (about her involvement with the Palestinian conflict).[4] Freedman was an early supporter of the creation of a Palestinian independent state. She was involved in communications with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and supported what is now known as the two-state solution.[4]

Freedman helped create an advocacy and support network for women in Israel. She was a co-founder, together with Barbara Swersky and others of Israel's first shelter for battered women, established in 1977 in Haifa. Freedman left Israel and returned to the United States in 1981. She again lived in Israel from 1997 to 2002, and founded the Community of Learning Women, which provided education in women's studies and computer literacy.[5][6][7]

Freedman wrote an article titled "Feminist Publishing in Israel" for the Women's Studies Newsletter in 1980. She spoke about different bookstores involving feminist books in Hebrew and the six publishers that allows feminist works to be published. She also spoke about how few books on feminism were originally written in Hebrew and the minimal efforts there were to publish feminist writings.[8]

Freedman wrote a memoir entitled, Exile in the Promised Land, and was dedicated to her father. She stated on the dedication page, "whose example I have largely followed." She was also the author of many articles and reviews.[5]

Freedman was the founding president of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom,[5][6] a pro-Israel and pro-peace organization which merged into J Street in 2010.[9] She was also a past president of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.[5]

She was married to Bill Freedman in 1961, and had one daughter. Freedman died on September 21, 2021 at the age of 83.[1][9][10] As of 2021, she remains the only openly lesbian woman to have served in the Knesset.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Seelye, Katharine Q. (October 2, 2021). "Marcia Freedman, First American Woman in Knesset, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  2. ^ "Bio". Archived from the original on October 11, 2018. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Kirshenbaum, Gayle (November 1990). "Jewish Feminist Visions -- Exile in the Promised Land: A Memoir by Marcia Freedman / Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective by Judith Plaskow". Ms. 1 (3): 55. ProQuest 204301214 – via ProQuest.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Marcia Freedman – American-Jewish Peace Archive (1967–2017)". Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Marcia Freedman". Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. Archived from the original on September 13, 2007. Retrieved February 13, 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Marcia Freedman". Famous GLTB People. Matt & Andrej Koymasky. June 16, 2004. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2008.
  7. ^ "The American Jewish woman who brought feminism to Israel - Haaretz - Israel News". April 22, 2020. Archived from the original on March 16, 2017. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  8. ^ Freedman, Marcia (1980). "Feminist Publishing in Israel". Women's Studies Newsletter. 8 (1): 29–30. JSTOR 40042475.
  9. ^ a b c Bachner, Michael (September 23, 2021). "US-born ex-MK Marcia Freedman, a pioneer of Israeli women's rights, dies at 83". Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  10. ^ Zaig, Gadi (September 23, 2021). "Former Knesset MK Marcia Freedman passes away at 83". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved September 25, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

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