Sunday, January 8, 2012

I am Woman- HEAR ME!

No matter where you look, what you read, and or what website you happen upon, Beit Shemesh is just everywhere!  I really like this town, but I'm reasonably sure I never read about Chicago or NYC as much as I read about this place!  Honestly, the reports are starting to meld in my brain and it amazes me how self-righteous indignation can twist and turn the same narrative.  Such an "easy" fix, y'know- you respect me, I'll respect you, you don't shove your version of Judaism down my throat, and I won't shove my version down yours.  See?  Simple!  Its a good thing the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale because it looks like I'm gonna finally get to cash in...

The issues surrounding Orot
 Banot and bus service have received a lot of very well deserved, MUCH needed air time.  I could talk about those issues here, but it's not like you don't know where I firmly stand in regards to both.  I participated in the Beit Shemesh flash mob a few days ago, which was an act both of protestation and solidarity.  It hit me, as I watched the amazing variety of women gathered for dance practice, that the "we" that's been spoken about for months and months is so much larger than I properly tended to.  All these "women's issues" are not about secular or religious women- they're about WOMEN.  GIRLS.  FEMALES.  Those carrying a double X chromosome.  I fancy myself a relatively enlightened gal, but I must admit I felt naive when I realized that I was not enlightened enough.  One of the coolest, nicest things about being part of the mob (I will NEVER be able to say THAT again) was that women from every walk of Jewish religiosity (yes, I just made that up) were there. There were heads covered, heads not covered, heads relatively covered, pants, skirts, gauchos, jeans, sleeveless tops, turtlenecks, and so many other flavors of what make up our dress code diversity.  Participation wasn't just about Beit Shemesh or our collective desire not to be bullied.  We stood, and danced, together as proud Jewish women.  And it ROCKED!

I've overheard, read, and been part of conversations where folks have debated and discussed with whom we, as the Dati Leumi community, are closest to- the Chareidim or the Chilonim.  Frankly, I am not a fan of the question.  My husband and I discussed the issue this past Shabbat and we agreed that we don't want to be a part of any group who professes disgust of another- and yes, it really is that simple.  See, I was once part of a different "we" and spent the first 15 or so years of my life as "them."  No, I was not born an alien, but I was born into a non-religious family.  I was the chick in the pants and sleeveless shirt.  I was the "chiloni" who was looked at sometimes disparagingly because I looked "other."  I joined the wild and wacky ranks of the religious world only after meeting people who were more interested in speaking with me about Judaism versus all the ways I was messing mine up.  When I was truly accepted for the questioning, persistent bugger of a teen that I was, I was able to say, "OK- I'll hear what you have to say."  One husband, four babies, several snoods, multiple treifed up pieces of cutlery, and an Aliyah later, I credit that turning point in my life to folks who gave a dang and really meant it- folks who saw me as Jewish and not less-than because of how I dressed, what I ate, or the music I liked.

I know first hand that being looked at as an 'other' hurts in a visceral way.  I also know that being accepted into the fold feels right.  I know that dancing with women who shared a common purpose felt right because none of us was 'other' though an entire group of misguided individuals sees us collectively as such.  There was something amazingly girl power-y about dancing in a public square.  And I will admit that I was concerned about that public-ness but ultimately determined it was OK to be a part of.  See, there is a lot, and I mean A LOT, of awesomeness that goes into being a religious Jewish woman.  I love lighting Shabbat candles.  I enjoy covering my hair on most days (though good hair days are just a nasty, nasty tease). I relish being a Jewish mommy, with all the Yiddishisms, Shabbos soup, and deliciousness that it comes with.  And I bet that every single woman at that dance has perhaps the same, or different, things she loves as much.  Being part of something that vital, that empowering, and that example- setting, resonated deeply.  And apart of my love of dance and self-expression, I was profoundly struck, in that 'I could've had a V-8' kinda' way, by this: if I don't stand up for my rights as a Jewish woman, then my daughter and daughters-in-law will have to fight the same, ugly battle.  Why *not* stand up for my rights as a Jewish woman, in my homeland no less, only to leave the dirty work for the next generation? 

I participated in the flash mob for me and for the women who've been made to feel less-than because they are women.  If I'm not for myself -and my progeny- then who will be?  And if I can't show solidarity with all types of women seeking nothing more than the respect the Torah Itself affords us, then I can be sure that this battle will linger well into my children's and their children's lives.