Jewish feminist writer E.M. Broner dies at 83

Posted June 23, 2011, at 10:08 p.m.

NEW YORK — E.M. Broner, a pioneering Jewish feminist writer, has died in New York City. She was 83.

Broner’s death Tuesday of multiple organ failure as a result of an infection was confirmed Thursday by her daughter, Sari Broner.

E.M. Broner was the author of 10 books, including “The Women’s Haggadah,” ”Weave of Women” and “Mourning: A Kaddish Journal.”

“The Women’s Haggadah,” co-authored with Naomi Nimrod, was originally published in Ms. magazine in 1977. It reimagined the traditional Passover Seder from the point of view of women including Moses’ sister, Miriam.

Broner began leading women’s Seders in New York started in 1976; regulars included feminist leaders Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug.

Broner wrote that after the 1998 death of Abzug, the New York congresswoman known for wearing wide-brimmed hats, Seder participants began a new custom of leaving a chair empty except for a large hat.

Broner was born Esther Frances Masserman in Detroit in 1927. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Wayne State University in Detroit and a Ph.D. from what is now the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati. She later taught in the English department at Wayne State, and also taught at Sarah Lawrence College and elsewhere.

In addition to Broner’s writings on Jewish identity and ritual, her work included novels, plays and short fiction.

Broner’s papers are in the archives at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Sarah Shoemaker, the director of university archives and special collections, said that Broner was well enough to give a telephone interview to a student who was writing about her last fall.

Broner’s husband, printmaker Robert Broner, died last year. Her survivors include two daughters, two sons, a brother and two grandchildren.

 

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