From Rabbi Toba Schaller – January 1, 2018 from Ha-Kol

January 1st, 2018 by

On January 20 last year, I woke up in the middle of the night, packed a bag and got a ride to a bus waiting in a quiet parking lot. Fourteen hours later, 30 new friends and I unloaded our bus near Washington DC. We prepared to take part in what would later be designated the largest single day protest in US history. (This includes the number of people who marched in other cities around the country).

Our morning began with a prayer service led by the Religious Action Center and the Union for Reform Judaism before hundreds of Reform Jews marched to the mall together shouting for Tzedek for all people. Before the day was through, we would pray, sing, share stories with strangers, and take part in one of the craziest dance parties I have ever experienced (and I experienced quite a few dance parties in my 20s in New York City). I hugged a construction worker I just met and took selfies with an Episcopalian priest. I met the person who designed the logo for the event and was interviewed for their blog. I spent hours upon hours standing around in a crowd wishing I could see what was going on. I had the most glorious day.

After I returned from the march, several people asked me if I thought it had or would change anything and my answer was unequivocal. It changed me! I’m not sure if protest and rallies and marches have a perceptible impact on politics. On some level, it is clear that the march didn’t change anything immediately. What I do know however, is that in that one day, I had a chance to speak my truth loudly. I had the chance to connect in a meaningful way with friends and with strangers. I made it home feeling physically exhausted, but spiritually rejuvenated, feeling powerful and feeling supported. Much like when I pray, I don’t expect that God heeds my prayer, or that God sends me whatever I wish for in life. But the act of prayer, changes me, connects me to myself, my community, my world and my creator. Like prayer, participating in the march helped me to be a part of something greater than myself, and I need it!

On the day I write this article, several weeks before you read it, yet another celebrity has stepped down amidst a sexual harassment scandal. Yesterday, a survey was published reporting salaries in Jewish non-profit organizations and has turned my social media feed into a heated debate on the lack of gender diversity in those positions. Time Magazine’s person of the year recognized the twelve women who stood up to harassment and misogyny this year. There are many who say that all of this is the result of last year’s march. This year has been called “the year of the woman,” and I’ve ready arguments so many people felt empowered and changed by that one day last year, that is has impacted every day since. I’m not sure that I’m qualified to say. I’ll leave it to statisticians and politicians, sociologists and historians to make that call.

What I do know is this, as I prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March, I know that I am not done talking about what it means to be a woman in the world today. I’m not done connecting with other women and sharing our stories. I’m ready, one year later, to feel a similar sense of spiritual empowerment and rejuvenation, and I know I’m not alone.

On January 20 of this year, I will wake up at a much more civilized time, and set out in search of another experience that brings together women’s voices in prayer, song, study and friendship. This year I will participate in the congregation’s 4th Annual Women’s Shabbaton.

If this sounds like what you are looking for, I invite all the women of the congregation, anyone over the age of Bat Mitzvah, to join me and your congregational community in a day of Shabbat prayer and celebration, of song, of storytelling, and of bonding at our annual Women’s Shabbaton. The cost for this day together is only $18 and includes program supplies and lunch.

If you are interested in taking part please RSVP to me by Tuesday January 16. If you would like to take part in the planning, we welcome you to share your hopes for the day with our planning committee.


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