March is a time of renewal and growth, ushering us into spring and signaling that the cold, short, bare days of winter are behind us and warmer days are ahead. March is also when we observe International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Since 1987 when the first Women’s History Month was proclaimed, there has been an annual theme. The 2023 theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”
It is remarkable that through thousands of years of persecution, Jews have remained and still survive. Constantly a statistical minority, continuously targeted by individual and global acts of antisemitism, Judaism has outlasted myriad other civilizations and continues to do so. A single common thread —the passing down of our traditions, our culture, our religion and our stories from dor l’dor, generation to generation — has enabled our survival.
Storytelling has always been a Jewish value. Rooted in the history of midrash, the sharing of oral tradition and the exploration and interpretation of the stories and laws around Judaism have been essential to Jewish survival. Throughout history, Jewish women have been a crucial component of that. Take, for example, Hemdah Ben-Yehuda, who worked closely with her husband to develop the modern Hebrew we know and speak today, ensuring a modern language that would aid in the longevity of a Jewish people in Israel. Look also to the efforts of the multiple women who have and are contributing to telling the Jewish American story. Like Rosa Sonneschein, founder of the American Jewess, the first English magazine published for Jewish women in the United States; Dora Askowith, a Jewish women’s history expert and professor who taught Jewish women at Hunter College for 45 years; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose comprehensive and pointed dissenting opinions have become famous for telling the story of judicial efforts toward creating a more equitable and fair society.
By participating in and contributing to Jewish life in our community, we are also sharing in our rich tradition of Jewish women telling our own stories. This Women’s History Month, come be a part of that tradition by sharing your voice, telling our stories, and contributing to the longevity of both our local and global communities.