Gail T. Reimer receives the Auburn Seminary's "Lives of Commitment" Award
On Friday, May 6th, Auburn Seminary in New York held its annual “Lives of Commitment” breakfast. I’ll admit I was a little disoriented to arrive at Cipriani on 42nd St.—a former bank building with towering marble columns, soaring ceilings, inlaid floors and elaborate chandeliers—at 7:30 AM to find the space filled with 450 guests and the program about to begin.
I should not have been surprised. For the past 15 years, Auburn has been honoring and celebrating “women across faiths whose bold leadership bridges religious divides, builds community, and pursues justice.” This year, Gail Reimer, founder and Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Archive, was one of those women.
She was in good company. Since 1997, Auburn has given its Lives of Commitment award to 48 women, including Blu Greenberg, Alice Walker, Ruth Messinger, Judy Collins, Margot Stern Strom, Jane Goodall, Dorothy Height, and Marlo Thomas.
In addition to Gail, this year’s honorees were:
- Kayrita Anderson and Deborah Richardson, two Georgia women who have sparked a nation-wide campaign called “A Future. Not a Past” to end sex trafficking and to protect and inspire hope in girls who have survived commercial sexual exploitation.
- Minerva Carcaño, who in 2004 became the first Hispanic woman elected to the episcopacy of the United Methodist Church. Currently serving as Bishop of the Phoenix Episcopal Area, Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, she is the official spokesperson for the Council of Bishops on the issue of immigration.
- Jensine Larsen, who, moved by her work covering indigenous movements and ethnic cleansing in South America and Southeast Asia, founded World Pulse, a global media and communication network devoted to connecting women around the world into a powerful force for change.
- Chely Wright, the first openly gay female country music star, who recently published Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer and released the critically-acclaimed album, “Lifted off the Ground.” She established the nonprofit organization Like Me, which provides scholarships, assistance, resources, and education to LGBT individuals, their families, and friends.
Each of the honorees spoke of the passion, and in some cases the pain, that motivated her work; each talk was inspiring—none more so than Gail’s. She described founding the Jewish Women’s Archive as part of a search for a ritual of mourning for her mother and a desire to ensure “that the next generation … would have access to the sources they needed to tell the story of our times whole—to tell a story in which the thoughts and deeds of women and men are valued equally.” She concluded, “While the focus of our work at the Jewish Women’s Archive is on capturing and sharing stories of the past, our passion for the future—a future in which women and girls learn to listen to their own voices, speak their own truths and have confidence in their capacity to shape their world —a confidence that derives from knowing the myriad ways in which women have shaped the past. We hold up the stories of what women have done so that our daughters may believe, “this is what we can do.”
As I listened to the honorees, who are fighting for causes ranging from an end to sex trafficking to the acceptance of gay artists in country music, I was buoyed by the sense that JWA is part of a movement for social change that is fueled by energy, vision, and courage from many different quarters. And as I listened to Gail’s remarks, I felt energized by the knowledge that a 200-year-old progressive institution like Auburn Seminary recognizes the Jewish Women’s Archive as an organization that advances Auburn’s mission to “Trouble the waters. Heal the world.”