In Jewish tradition, the Moon has been associated with women and the feminine. In today’s world, one of the most central social movements for Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) is that of achieving full equality and rights for the world’s women and girls. Some see the advancement of women as a symbolic fulfillment of the old Midrashic tale that the moon (the feminine principal) will someday shine like the sun (the masculine principle). Appropriate then that the phrase “half the sky” has come to symbolize this movement.
When women are educated and given equal rights, the whole society benefits. But women still need advancement in so many areas, among them economics, social and cultural equality, maternal care and reproductive rights, and freedom from sexual harassment, violence, and exploitation. “Half the Sky,” started by journalists (and spouses) Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is a website and a movement dedicated to the advancement of women and girls around the world:
The Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women. Change is possible, and you can be part of the solution.
There are many other worthy organizations that support women’s rights and advancement. Here are a few of my favorites:
Malala.org, started by the youngest Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban because she attended school. Her goal is to help girls around the world receive twelve years of free, safe, quality education.
Fistula Foundation provides life-changing surgery to women in developing nations, some of them very young, who have been injured in childbirth so that they suffer from incontinence and social stigmatization.
American Jewish World Service: Inspired by the Jewish commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. One of their core missions is to “support women, girls and LGBT people, as they organize to end discrimination, stop violence and live with dignity, safety and health.”
Please share some of your own your favorite organization in the comments.
Women in Society
Supporting the advancement of women goes far beyond donations, of course. It is crucial that women and men alike support women’s dignity and advancement in the workplace, at home, and in religious and cultural settings. The recent #MeToo movement has brought the pervasiveness of sexual harassment to the forefront. It’s up to all of us to make sure that this is not just another passing social trend, but the real beginning of greater respect and support for women in all sectors, including in the Jewish community.
I also see expanding roles for women in the Jewish world as part of that Midrash on the moon. When I was growing up in the 1960’s, it was still unusual for a woman to be in a profession other than nurse or teacher. I remember that we called the female pediatrician at my dad’s office the “lady doctor.” Nonetheless, I dreamed of being the “first woman rabbi.” By the time my wandering life path led me to became a rabbi at age 41, there were many before me, starting with the Reform’s movement’s Rabbi Sally Priesand in 1972. Still, I thought that it would be another century before Orthodox women were ordained. That came much faster than I dreamed, and women are already becoming wonderful rabbinic leaders in the modern Orthodox world as well.
Featured Image: Half the Sky Movement poster