Israel's Iron Lady

Golda Meir-focused education project launches ahead of biopic’s U.S. premiere

Participants receive worksheets connecting Meir to the weekly parsha and are encouraged to share information about the former premier on social media

Move over, Barbie: It’s the summer of Golda! A project running through August, leading up to the U.S. premiere of the biopic “Golda,” aims to teach participants worldwide about the former Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir. 

The movie, starring Oscar-winner Helen Mirren as Meir, the hard-nosed, chain-smoking prime minister, tells the true story of Meir’s premiership during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It opened at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July and is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on Aug. 25. The Golda Summer Project (GSP), also called by its Hebrew name Kayitz Zahav (Summer of Gold), is designed to educate “everyone worldwide, Jews and non-Jews” about Meir’s contributions to the U.S. and Israel ahead of the film release, according to Tamar Simon, a GSP spokesperson. 

“Golda Meir affected and continues to influence people of all backgrounds, including Jewish communities across the world, our Evangelical Christian and African-American friends who support Israel, and across all societies and communities. She was a Jewish, Israeli, female leader and trailblazer, who was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Her reach was worldwide, but her foundation was really in the U.S.,” Simon told eJewishPhilanthropy

Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), a co-sponsor of GSP, echoed the sentiment that Meir’s influence is global. “Golda has impacted all of us,” Katz told eJP. 

“Our organization has a deep connection with her, particularly around an early childhood center at Hebrew University that we helped endow and launch while she was prime minister, as well as a program called ‘ship a box,’ in which people in the U.S. sent service boxes to children in Israel, also while she was prime minister.”

“Under Golda’s leadership, women’s organizations in Israel were really brought to the table,” Katz continued. “We ended up having access to the government through her.” 

Katz said Meir, who grew up in Milwaukee, is a role model for women of all ages. “She’s someone who holds up as an incredible leader, and we don’t always see women in such prominent roles. We haven’t had someone in the United States at that level yet.” 

NCJW, which is sharing Meir’s stories on social media throughout the month, is also pushing the U.S. Congress to pass the Prime Minister Golda Meir Commemorative Coin Act, which would require the U.S. Treasury to mint coins in recognition of Meir. “This bill aims to commemorate the unique relationship that Golda Meir had with the United States while additionally recognizing the trailblazer that she was for women’s rights. This initiative also aims to honor the 75th anniversary of the United States-Israel relationship,” Katz said. 

GSP is a collaboration between more than 15 Jewish and Israeli organizations, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, the iCenter for Israel Education and the Embassy of Israel in the United States, as well as the Golda Meir House Museum in Denver, the Golda Meir Institute for Leadership in Tel Aviv and Mean Streets Management. The project includes “Golda Parsha Sheets,” tying the Torah portion to Israeli history and Meir’s impact during the 1960s and ’70s. The sheets are sent every Thursday to GSP participants and are meant to be printed and then distributed during Shabbat.

Another partnering organization is Na’amat USA, which is closely affiliated with Meir, the group’s executive director, Susan Seely, told eJP.

“Golda was a Na’amat leader, she was our national recording secretary at one point out of Pittsburgh in the 1930s,” Seely said, noting that Na’amat was called Pioneer Women at the time. “We have an emotional attachment to Golda, so it’s been fun to be involved in promoting the film.” 

“The movie is not fun and light, of course, but it’s been a way for us to connect back and remember the early stages and struggles Israelis went through, especially seeing it through the lens of women’s organizations,” Seely continued. “It was important for women in the U.S. to make sure women in Israel weren’t being relegated to the kitchen. They wanted to be involved. Na’amat was, and is, one of the organizations intent on providing day care so women could get out.”

Seely said Na’amat’s chapters around the U.S. are mobilizing around the “Golda release. “One of our L.A. groups has filled out an entire theater already with people going to the pre-release on Aug. 23,” she said, adding the group has created fact sheets to spark conversation before or after viewing the film. 

“We align with Golda’s values,” Seely said. “We come straight out of the Labor Zionist movement and that was Golda’s lane as well. She famously said Na’amat was the only Jewish women’s organization for which she worked.” 

“I always like to joke and say, ‘Apparently she went on to something else.’”