A few years ago, after moving to Cincinnati for Rabbinical School at HUC, I saw a sign along the interstate with a quote from the book of Jeremiah that stated “Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you. I have appointed you a prophet unto the nations.” The quote refers to God comforting an incredulous Jeremiah after being told he will be a prophet to all the people at an almost impossibly young age.
Since April 29th of this year, citizens of the great state of North Carolina have been engaging in an ongoing event called “Moral Mondays.” Coordinated and led by the NC-NAACP, Moral Mondays represent the true essence of the Tarheel State—a state and a citizenry who is not afraid of standing up to oppression. It was only 53 years ago that Greensboro, one of the largest cities in NC, experienced this civic action first hand when four African American students from NC A&T staged a sit-in protest at a Woolworth’s segregated lunch counter.
Someone with a sign that read “ask me about my abortion” told me her story with tears in her eyes. She was finally escaping a physically and emotionally abusive relationship when she discovered she was pregnant. She already had a child from a previous relationship, and she was scared for his life as well as her own. An abortion saved her life, and allowed her to escape. After the procedure the doctors discovered a malignant tumor on her ovary, one that had been missed at her previous gynecological checkup. The abortion she received to escape her abuser not only saved her from her hell, it saved her from cancer as well. Those tears in her eyes? They were tears of joy, not sadness. “I can’t help but cry,” she shared, “when I see the entire community out to support women.”
The young actors learn about each other’s cultures (through a Passover seder, Spanish lessons, and more) while learning about themselves. I am constantly amazed by the power of theatre, even after experiencing it personally throughout my education. Watching Liz Swados and her production team interact with the teens reminded me of all the incredible teachers and directors I had the pleasure of working with in high school and college. Theatre gave me self-confidence and taught me the importance of community, and it’s clear that the teens involved in Sosúa learned the same. This fascinating movie provides great insight into the magic of theater as well as into a little known aspect of Shoah history.
Although my friends usually come into the conversation unable to comprehend why nice, Orthodox girls would want to enter the rabbinate, I certainly hope they leave the discussion slightly more enlightened. They don’t have to agree with me at the end of the day; Judaism is very fluid, and no two people must come to the same conclusion regarding the interpretation of halakha. I just hope they can understand why women like the recent Yeshivat Maharat graduates may want to choose the rabbinate or a religious leadership role.
A Jewess isn’t like other women – the word alone makes her stand apart. There’s a slight sense of both shaming and warning in the label, as if it’s her fault that she’s different and she should feel bad about it, and also, you should probably stay away from her—she’s a little different, that one. “Jewess” has connotations of too much: too loud, too pushy, too big, too different (or, according to OkCupid, “more aggressive). She doesn’t perform her femininity as well as non-Jewish women for these reasons—while she’s still recognizable as a women, she’s a different kind of woman. Because of this, “Jewess,” to me, feels more than a little queer.
I am a Jewish-Texan who is supportive of women's reproductive freedom. That's quite a description and it's not easy to be all three in this state. In a state where both the Senate and the House of Representatives are led by the conservative majority, being a Jewish-Texan supporter of women's reproductive rights is like being an endangered species living on a blue island in an ocean of red.
My LGBTQ Jewish heroes are less well known. They're couples who I've watched argue over parshiot, joke about the treyf zone in their otherwise kosher home, and plot to have the gayest purim costumes (I believe they decided on a Roman and a his slave!) They are the people who showed me there was more to Judaism and same sex relationships than a few verses in Leviticus, and introduced me to the five genders within Jewish tradition. I could keep adding to this list, but the truth of it is that the people on it are my friends and mentors, members of my congregation and chosen family.