By Rabbi-Cantor Penny Myers
Reflecting on this month’s many activities, what stands out to me is our recent celebration of Purim. When we fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the 10 chapters of Megillat Esther, we find ourselves hearing deep and rare specific narratives of women’s voices and, particularly unusual, strong themes of feminism. In our Torah, except for the 5 daughters of Tzelophehad in Parshat Pinchas , women’s voices are often muted, diminished in content and often disappointingly absent. Megillat Esther however, highlights themes of feminism that are radical. One could argue there is no story in the entire Torah that comes close to such advocacy of autonomy over a woman’s body, status, and the exceptional outcomes that can occur when women are in positions of power and influence.
Vashti’s bravery to stand up to her King by not allowing herself to be sexually objectified, combined with Hadassah (Queen Esther) and Mordechai’s steadfast resoluteness in their Jewish identity, finally lead the King to recognize the abuse and evil of Haman’s (BOO! HISS!) plan to eradicate our people. Megillat Esther provides us with a robust teaching of the profound effects of courage, feminism, and speaking up to those who hold power. We can learn to take these themes into our own Jewish Buffalo. The possibilities can be impactful when we elevate, elect, and support women to leadership positions.
In our community, we have witnessed two women who finally broke the stained-glass ceiling that has prevented many of us from helping to raise our community to a different level.
We wish a hearty Mazal Tov and Hatzlachah Rabbah (Best of Luck) to these 2 incredible women:
Miriam Abramovich, the first female COO (Chief Operating Officer) of the Buffalo Jewish Federation, and Rabbi Sara Rich who will become the first female Rabbi at Temple Beth Tzedek. Rabbi Rich is the first female Rabbi to take the helm in the history of Buffalo Conservative synagogues.
Who will be next? One is never sure, but with these two women in leadership positions of large and influential institutions, I have no doubt we are poised for greatness.
To those individuals who were part of choosing these women for leadership roles, Kol Hakavod!
You took part in making history, breaking precedent by choosing the BEST candidate regardless of gender and teaching us that we all can be a little bit braver to stand up for our ideals like Vashti and possess the leadership qualities of Queen Esther without whom our people in Persia may not have survived.
Best wishes for Zissn Pesach!
Rabbi-Cantor Penny S. Myers is the Regional Chair of the Great Lakes & Rivers Region of the Cantors Assembly, as well as a Disaster Spiritual Care Team Member of the American Red Cross.