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March is National Women’s History Month

In my continuing effort to share information on Social Justice issues from the Religious Action Center (RAC), I would like to welcome you all to the month of March, and the celebration of Women’s History Month.

Growing out of the celebration of ‘International Women’s Day’ first commemorated in 1913, President Jimmy Carter designated the week of March 2-8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress expanded the idea of a week and declared March as National Women’s History Month. A special Presidential Proclamation is still issued every year, which currently honors the extraordinary achievements of American women.

Historically, Jewish organizations have used this month to reflect on women’s issues, even though we all understand that women’s accomplishments should be celebrated all year round. Our history shows that Jewish Women have always been involved in Social Activism, impacting our local communities, our nation and the world. Our Women of Reform Judaism Website overflows with information on Social Justice issues that are championed by women. Think Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rabbi Regina Jonas, Golda Meir, just to name a few.

The RAC Website describes the Reform Movement’s advocacy for equal rights stating; For decades, the Reform Movement has advocated for women’s full and equal participation in society. As the first Jewish movement in America to ordain female clergy, we know that women’s equality is necessary to create a world where all people are treated with respect and dignity. Despite years of progress toward gender equity, women still face systemic barriers to full equality. On average, American women currently make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, and are routinely and systematically denied agency over their own bodies. One in three American women report physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, and the #MeToo movement has underscored that the Jewish community is not immune to the pervasive nature of sexual harassment.

As Jews, our advocacy around women’s equality is based in the Jewish value of kavod ha’briyot, or respect for human dignity. This value is core to advocacy around gender pay equity. This understanding is accurately conveyed in the Talmud, which states, “One who withholds the wages of a hired laborer, it is as though they take their soul from them” (Baba Metzia 112a)

The Mishnah further teaches us that violence against another human has repercussions far greater than the act itself: “one who injures another person is liable on five counts and responsible for paying for five factors: for the injury itself, for pain, for healing, for loss of time, and for embarrassment.” (Bava Kamma 8:1).

In honor of Women’s History Month KI’s Social Justice Committee has a special program planned on Monday, March 15, 2021 that may change our thinking about the 19th Amendment. Often described as granting women the right to vote, what does the 19th Amendment really say about our rights? Join us on March 15th to learn more.

Women’s History Month – When Women Won the Right to Vote: A History Unfinished. Join us to hear Professor Lisa Tetrault of Carnegie Mellon University speak about the 19th Amendment. When women won passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, they did not win the right to vote—despite repeated claims that they did. Just what, then, did the woman suffrage amendment do?

Dr. Tetrault will speak on Monday, March 15, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Click here to register for his important program.