Moment’s Year of the Woman is in full swing. With help from some very savvy women and men, we’re compiling an exciting list of powerful and thoughtful women leaders to interview and honor this year.
I’ve been thinking about the need for more women leaders since I was a child. My mother, Ruth Epstein, was a dynamic leader. She stayed home like many suburban moms of her era but was also the president of a number of women’s organizations and a leader of local causes. When she would return from that mysterious something called a meeting, she’d casually drop that she had been elected president or vice president. For most of my childhood, I assumed all you had to do was show up at a meeting to become president. (Only in ninth grade did I learn there was much more to it. I ran for student government in a new school without bothering to prepare my speech, and lost by a humiliating margin.)
After volunteering at the local JCC, my mother eventually worked her way up to assistant executive director. Only after a series of male executive directors did not work out did the board turn to the highly competent and visionary woman who had been there all the time. She went on to oversee major membership and building expansions, as well as to launch and manage a second JCC in an underserved part of the county. I tell you this because my mother exemplified some of the special qualities many women bring to leadership. In addition to being a compelling speaker, she was also a warm, inclusive collaborator who paid attention to the critical role of tone in bringing people together. And she was a strategic thinker who applied common sense to find opportunities for agreement. In short, she possessed the kind of leadership qualities that our world desperately needs.
In a different era my mother might have run for political office, and I know if she were alive today, she would be thrilled at the record number of women who are doing just that. In this issue, Moment’s Ellen Wexler introduces us to a few of them, including three who cut their political teeth in Jewish institutions. But even if all these women win, there still won’t be enough women in office. In 2015, when I asked Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg what the court would be like if four or five women were appointed, she looked at me and said: “‘People ask me, ‘When will there be enough?’ and I say, ‘When there are nine.’” She pointed out that the nation had nine male justices for centuries. I agree with her thinking. Certainly, it’s time for many more women on the Court and in Congress.
We wade into another hot topic in our symposium by asking, “What is the meaning of God today?” Moment culture editor Marilyn Cooper talks with clergy, scientists, artists and believers, agnostics and atheists. The responses of Reza Aslan, T.D. Jakes, Ruth Calderon, Jay Michaelson, Avivah Zornberg, Sharon Salzberg and others remind us that there is no one way of contemplating God, even within Judaism. As historian Steven Weitzman says in his review of Martin Goodman’s A History of Judaism, Judaism is “a religion that has expressed itself in many different and sometimes mutually antagonistic ways.” Our symposium is a perfect example. Fortunately, what shines through most of all is the incredible creativity of human beings when confronted with the mysteries of life.
Which brings us to “The Epic Battle in Hollywood Over the Holy Land,” a sweeping look at the central role Hollywood plays in shaping the storylines around Israel and the Palestinians, by Brian Schaefer. Schaefer’s 2012 Moment story, “The New Normal,” about Israel’s LGBTQ community, was nominated for a prestigious Livingston Award. Schaefer takes us behind the scenes in the film, TV and music industries to show us the strong bonds between Israel and Hollywood that have led to, among other things, mega-hit collaborations such as Homeland, In Treatment and The Affair. He also details the methods that pro-Palestinian groups such as BDS use to pressure entertainers to distance themselves from Israel and draw media attention to the Palestinian cause.
Elsewhere in this issue, contributor Konstanty Gebert passionately makes the case against the Polish law that now makes it illegal even to suggest that Poles participated in Holocaust atrocities. And almost 75 years after Jews took up arms against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, “Visual Moment” looks at some of the items they buried that document their lives and evoke a lost world. In a “Moment Debate,” two Israeli women, Naomi Ragen and Susan Silverman, put forth very different positions about the imminent deportations of Africans from Israel. “Jewish Word” explores the origins and modern usage of the marvelous Yiddish word “maven.” In an interview about his new book (((Semitism))) Being Jewish in the Age of Trump, New York Times deputy Washington editor Jonathan Weisman argues that American Jews should spend less time arguing about Israel and more time fighting bigotry at home.
Since Passover is around the corner, we asked our rabbis to share their opinions on the wisdom during the seder of asking God to smite our enemies, and we show you how to celebrate a gluten-free holiday. More Passover-related articles will be posted at momentmag.com. Meanwhile, I once again encourage you to invite non-Jews to your seder. This is an invaluable way to teach others about Jewish history and culture. Given the recent rise of anti-Semitism in this country and the world, your invitation is more important than ever. Have a wonderful Passover!