by Lisa Litman
March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), a day to focus on womens’ rights and gender equity, speaking out against oppression, and celebrating the valiant women who fight for justice in our world. The date commemorates a Russian women’s revolution before World War I. At the same time, Sylvia Pankhusrt was publically chained and arrested for advocating for women’s suffrage in London.
This year, IWD comes the day after Purim. You know I love a good coincidence. The Purim story, as we tell our children, is about love and bravery. As adults we can read the subtext. In Megillat Esther, we come to discover that Persian women had no rights and could easily be discarded or taken from their homes to appear before the king at his whim. An extremist government had all the power. One brave woman, Esther (or some say Vashti), started a revolution.
Not enough has changed in the treatment of women in Iran and world-wide, according to attorney and activist Jasmine Barr. Jasmine is a family friend, Jewish mom of Iranian heritage, and advocate for women’s rights. She reminded me of the radical change in government policies once the Islamic Republic of Iran took over from the Pahlavi regime in the 1970’s. Women lost many of their rights that had been established in the 1930’s. They no longer had a choice about wearing a hijab, a religious head covering, in public.
The Islamic Republic of Iran ranks in the bottom of all nations in its treatment of women. Yet, it is the women who, for the first time in history, are leading the revolution. Galvanized by the brutal treatment of Mahsa Amini, the revolution is gaining strength. Similarly, in Pakistan, the women’s revolution began with the attack of Malala Yousafzai in 2012 while she was speaking publicly for women’s education rights.
Two important concepts in Judaism are B’Tzelem Elokim, being created in God’s image, and Pikuach Nefesh, preserving life. If we all lived by these principles, we would continue the fight for women’s rights without waiting for violent actions to spur us on. Read about the Mahsa Amini Human rights and Security Accountability Act (MAHSA Act) and contact your representatives if you agree. Speak out against oppression in all forms in the United States and abroad.