Last year, during the High Holidays, my Heshbon nefesh brought me to question whether I am doing enough to share and protest regarding my unhappiness with the Netanyahu government. I felt that there was much more that I could do.
I thought about the meeting I had with Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish religious women… a place of true meeting, and thought to myself, “Everyone enjoys Arab hospitality, what about if we turn this on its head and invite our neighbors from Arab towns and villages to our Jewish homes? ”
We invited 40 women of three religions to be hosted by 40 Jewish women. We met their bus with songs and flower petals. Drinks were served. A representative from each religion offered a prayer. Right there, I felt the Oneness of Rachmana, I understood in basic Arabic, that the Muslim prayer was a like Shema and V’Ahavta. A love prayer for God. We danced, warmly and closely, we served our lovingly made food. They joked that it wasn’t spicy or sweet enough, but they appreciated the effort. Our cultural differences are real, emphasizing the need for a bridge.
Meanwhile the cataclysmic changes of the government in the USA took place. We joined those of you who marched on Washington and around the States. A sister demonstration was organized in Tel Aviv opposite the American Embassy. Rabbi Naama Kelman asked if I would address the crowd as an Israeli Rabbi ordained here but brought up in America. I was thrilled as I was born in 1958, and grew up in the anti-Vietnam protests, cut my teeth on sit-ins to wear pants to school in the 5th grade and was blessed to grow up in the first wave of Jewish feminism. That experience and music are what brought me to Judaism, as my sisters assimilated into American society and disappeared as Jews. Social justice is in my blood and in my soul.
Feeling a strong sense of Oneness with everyone marching in the world against racism, sexism, heterosexism, chauvinism, and anti-religious sentiment- we arrived with our signs. Do you ever wonder if Rachmana arranges Torah portions to fit a given situation?
I spoke these words as I spoke to the crowd in Tel Aviv:
Israeli women unite with women of the world! We are the midwives of a new era of activism and hope, we are Shifra and Puah, who refused the edict of the newly appointed leader and chose life for all!
We are the Daughter of Pharoah, whose simple but profound action changed the course of history. She had her eyes open to see a troubled situation, she empowered other women to help, and she opened up the basket to get to the root of the problem. She heard the pain and cries of the child. She paid women what they were worth! She adopted another as her own. She teaches us all that we have to know as to how to bring godliness to this world. We join the chain of women who redeemed others.
We are seeking our name and our voice, like God, “We will be what we will be.” We will be our best selves and dedicate ourselves to be change and hope in this world.
The promenade by the sea filled up with hundreds of women, men, and children, some of American origin, some Israeli born. My husband is who is British, was there as a feminist and a seeker of justice, and as the steadfast partner to a Rabbi. It was so liberating to remind ourselves that action, praying with our feet, making an effort to go to the big city, to call friends is what it truly important. Today we appeared in Haaretz and other press, including the Hebrew press.
There are so many ways to explore the meaning of “Shema Yisrael.” To make our voices heard. To make our voices count. To listen to the “other.” I was delighted to hear at this rally, “Black lives matter!” “Queer lives matter!” To be humbled by the “other.” By our togetherness, by our Oneness. We are all one.
Rabbi Judith Edelman-Green serves as Pastoral Care Giver at Tel HaShomer hospital and at Beth Protea with the elderly, those with dementia, and those in nursing care. She also leads creative musical services in Kfar Sava. For the High Holidays, Rabbi Edelman-Green has served Rodef Shalom in Mumbai, India since 2010.