Archive for : Gender & Sexuality

Shabbat Service: Storytelling and Empowering Women

Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:

The story: In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Naso we come across a moment in the Torah where the words of the Jewish peoples’ most sacred text do not necessarily match up with our modern-day ethics. The parsha describes the law of sotah: the punishment given to a wife if a man has suspicions that she’s had an affair. The Torah reads, “If a man has suspicions…he brings her before the kohen (priest), who makes her drink a mixture of holy waters and earth. He removes her head covering and warns her that if she has indeed been with a man other than her husband, the ingested waters will cause her thigh to collapse and her stomach to distend.”

As dvar tzedek author Adina Roth writes, “Having heard the kohen’s warning and just before drinking the water, the woman must answer “Amen, Amen.” In this context, we realize that ‘Amen,’ despite its benign, comforting associations today, actually means to submit to God’s will. ‘Amen’ is sinister here, as the woman is forced to surrender her fate to forces beyond her control.

The takeaway: It can be difficult to reconcile passages in the Torah like this, when they seem so opposite to our modern day understanding of what’s right and wrong. But Roth writes that the passage – as difficult as it is to read – reminds us that, “the telling of women’s stories in their own voices can be a powerful antidote to oppression…stories can serve as activist tools to help women in all cultures move beyond ‘Amen Amen’—and into empowerment.”

The “to-do”: Roth writes, “Women across all cultures are working to author their own stories. Whether it is the sharing among Jewish women in a Rosh Chodesh circle or the oral narratives of women travelers in sub-Saharan Africa, stories are being used to make room for today’s…women’s voices to be heard.” Support this movement by supporting organizations – like Change.org and WITNESS – that give women, and all people, a chance to voice their side of the story.

Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday! Hopefully you enjoyed a spectacular and restful weekend. Now, say hello to the week with your weekly round up of semi-random but totally inspiring service related posts from around the web.

  • The Huffington Post shared an op-ed that argued that the key to sustaining the world’s food security is to empower the world’s women farmers.
  • Sustainablog published a piece about an awesome new smart phone app that helps you curb your food waste.
  • The Forward looked back in history at activism in New York City over time – and what lessons we can learn from the past.
  • Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, a grantee-partner of Repair the World shared the story about the revitalization of a neighborhood library that is changing the world of reading in a Rwandan neighborhood.
  • GOOD leaves us this week with the story of an anti-poverty campaign that moved from tweets to historic Camp David, where this year’s G8 Summit was held.

Modern Day Passover Heroes: Aaron

Each year during the Passover seders, we recite the ages-old story of the Jews’ exodus from ancient Egypt – a tale which can seem far removed from our lives today. But each year, we also have the opportunity to breathe new life into the story as we join together to put ourselves in our ancestors’ shoes, and make connections that help bring the story closer to our own reality.

In recent years, modern adaptations of the Ten Plagues have been created, additions (like oranges and olives) have been added to the seder plate and tons of versions of the classic Maxwell House Haggadah have been written. The Exodus story has provided endless inspiration. But what about the story’s main characters?

Some serious game changers starred in the epic story of Passover, and we think they deserve some attention. So this year, Repair the World decided to have a little fun and explore modern day heroes – today’s leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of others and tikkun olam – and see how they remind us of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron.

Last but not least: Aaron.
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Modern Day Passover Heroes: Miriam

Each year during the Passover seders, we recite the ages-old story of the Jews’ exodus from ancient Egypt – a tale which can seem far removed from our lives today. But each year, we also have the opportunity to breathe new life into the story as we join together to put ourselves in our ancestors’ shoes, and make connections that help bring the story closer to our own reality.

In recent years, modern adaptations of the Ten Plagues have been created, additions (like oranges and olives) have been added to the seder plate and tons of versions of the classic Maxwell House Haggadah have been written. The Exodus story has provided endless inspiration. But what about the story’s main characters?

Some serious game changers starred in the epic story of Passover, and we think they deserve some attention. So this year, Repair the World decided to have a little fun and explore modern day heroes – today’s leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of others and tikkun olam – and see how they remind us of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron.

Next up: Miriam.
Read more

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday! Here, as always, are you inspiring service-related posts from around the web.

  • Join for Justice featured a video of David Schwartz, who was a VH1 “Do Something Awards” finalist for his project the Real Food Challenge.
  • Tablet Magazine, speaking of food ethics, published a popular article about a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn inspired by Jewish sage and physician, Maimonides.
  • Have Fun Do Good promoted this year’s National Day of Unplugging, which starts this Friday, March 23.
  • The Huffington Post published an article about hunger amongst elderly Americans.
  • eJewishPhilanthropy featured an exhibit that celebrates the “bat mitzvah’s coming of age” in America. Who knew when the first bat mitzvah was held in 1922 that bnai mitzvot would become such hotbeds of volunteering and tzedakah?