Arc-ing Towards Justice

This week, Justice lost a fight and a fighter. It is difficult to follow my own advice from the High Holy Days with the whirlwind of politics that escalated over the past weeks, culminating in appointment of a new Supreme Court justice via a process that seemed far from just. When I think of how a group of us sat together on Shabbat morning and wrestled with issues of gender and equity in our tradition and liturgy, I am reminded of how deeply entrenched male power is in human society. And while we progressive Jews can look at the stories of men acting badly throughout Torah as lessons of lo ta’aseh – don’t do that – we know there remain plenty of Jewish communities that continue to treat our texts and patriarchs as without blemish. Equality between men and women lasted all the way through chapter one of Genesis. Yet, we also see examples of women taking stands, demanding their rights, and men accepting blame and apologizing. Read the story of Tamar fin Genesis chapter 38 or some inspiration! But the examples are sadly scarce.

We have a long way to go. And we cannot become caught in the frustration and anger, but rather must look forward, both far and near, and figure out how we can help create the world we want to see, in our homes, our communities and our workplaces. We must each have a vision and determine where our energy and our priorities lie, trusting that collectively our myriad passions and skills will cover the breadth of possible need. The only unacceptable outcome is anyone looking back and thinking, Why didn’t I….. or I should have…….

Estelle Katz, who died last week, had vision. One vision, her desire to be a physician, was not one she was able to fulfill in her lifetime due to restrictions based on her religion and gender. Throughout her life Estelle found ways to support others oppressed because of their minority status, in both very personal and and via legal, organizational avenues. She pursued justice as long as she was able. Her commitment is a model for caring about those both near and far.

Below you will find information on a number of community events focused on justice, both near and far. Well before the Kavanaugh hearings highlighted the issue, the Milwaukee Jewish community had launched an effort to address the issue of domestic and sexual violence. I was excited to be part of a very diverse group of representatives from the Jewish community to begin to vision this effort, called SHOFAR. The kick-off event will take place on November 13th and feature gymnast Aly Raisman. This weekend, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz will be speaking in our community at CBINT. I worked with Shmuly as a student and was thrilled to watch as he made a huge impact in NYC with the Teudat Tzedek – a certification that restaurants were service just food and not just technically kosher food. I expect his talk to inspire us for the work ahead of us.