Making a Difference

By Avra Gordis

A few days ago, I had the privilege of representing  The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York at a WePower event entitled 50-50 by 2030 in Tel Aviv. WePower is a non-profit organization in Israel that works to facilitate the engagement of israeli women in Israeli politics and gaining political positions throughout Israel. From seats on municipal boards to mayoral positions and of course, seats in the Knesset, WePower strives to give women a voice in the political landscape of Israel at all levels.  It’s an organization that values all women, regardless of ethnic, racial, religious or political affiliations. And as the title of the event says, their goal is to have 50% women in every political sphere in Israel by the year 2030. As I sat in the audience I wondered  to myself whether we in America would ever be so bold as to set a goal of this magnitude? What an inspiration!

The Jewish Wonens Foundation funded WePower a number of years ago as we recognized the incredible talent and passion of its leader Dr. Mazal Shaul and the partners she identified for her organization. She was and is a true force for social change in Israel!

It was with great pride and humility that I sat in a room with several hundred women from all walks of life in Israel – – modern, educated professors, lawyers and doctors from the Israeli Jewish community as well as Arab women who represented extremely   diverse groups – – from very modern to very traditional as defined by their attire, to even one Bedouin woman from southern Israel. All of these women came together from such varied backgrounds and cultures because they believe that women should be heard and represented in Israeli government and that to do so, will absolutely positively affect the way the government functions for every Israeli. The feeling of sisterhood and solidarity was so palpable as women shared their unique stories of trying to gain independence and autonomy in cultures that are dictated by men. The modern educated Jewish women discussed negotiating with husbands on childcare issues, household chores such as cooking and cleaning and shopping. The traditional Muslim women discussed making sure that their daughters have the freedom necessary to learn and think independently regardless of what the male dominated traditions might have taught them up until now. Then the Bedouin woman spoke emotionally about how different her world is than any of the worlds represented in that room; her worries are about Bedouin girls being allowed to go to high school, being allowed to get jobs. And she said that the only reason why she was able to attend this evening’s event was because her husband drove her to the meeting and would drive her home. This is the only way that women in her community are allowed out of their villages. And she was there! She was there because WePower gave her the opportunity to imagine herself through the lens of empowerment and to meet her husband in a different way, in a way where he understood that within the traditions that are dictated by their village and traditions, he would facilitate her connection to this organization by bringing her to the event. What an accomplishment! And what a long road to meet the goals discussed at this meeting.

As we near the high holidays and spend time reflecting on the impact that we have in this world, now more than ever it is so vital that we stand together to raise each other up as well as women who share some of our struggles and don’t have the privileges that we have.

Thank you all so much for giving me the opportunity to share this experience with you and I look forward to many,  many more like this in all of our futures! Shanna Tova Umetuka.