Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides the Jewish community with a unique and multifaceted opportunity each year: it's a chance to turn our communal attention from its inward focus to a more outward-directed perspective. A chance to connect with our African-American neighbors. A chance to celebrate the man who still looms large as a model of religiously-inspired leadership. A chance to recall with pride a time when many Jews stood up for the rights of all people, black or white.
As soon as I begin talking about the history of Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, a few names immediately come up in conversation: Abraham Joshua Heschel. Micky Schwerner.
I've been loving the coverage of Elena Kagan's youthful challenge of her rabbi over her right to have a bat mitzvah. I love it because it confirms what I've always believed -- that the chutzpah of young girls is not just pre-teen attitude but a sign of inner strength and a harbinger of great things to come (and I say this not only in a self-serving way as a former obnoxious girl-child or as the mother of a burgeoning one).
When a people have been around as long as the Jews, they have to be pretty good at renewing and re-imagining traditions in ways that feel authentic and also relevant. How else can rituals, practices, and beliefs survive the changes of time and place? It's a fine balance that is nicely captured in the term "old-new"--used, for example, in Theodore Herzl's Zionist novel about the "Old-New Land."
One hundred years ago, the German socialist Clara Zetkin originated International Women's Day to coordinate women's demands around the world. Zetkin, who proposed this new holiday at the 1910 second International Conference of Working Women, was inspired by the power and organization of women labor activists -- many of whom were Jewish -- who had provoked sweeping changes in the garment industry in the 1909 Uprising of the 20,000. In March 1911, the first International Women's Day brought out more than 1 million women and men to demonstrate for women's rights to work, vote, and serve in public office.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. " Judith Rosenbaum ." (Viewed on April 21, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog/author/judith-rosenbaum>.