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October 19, 2012 / Rabbi Laura

Rainbows, promises and being a woman

As my bread machine is kneading my challah dough, and the turkey for tonight’s Shabbat dinner is in the slow cooker, I am reflecting on my week as woman, a mother and a Jew.


We are all talking about Malala Yousafzai, the young woman (she’s only 14) from Pakistan who has been shot in the head by the Taliban for the simple act of seeking an education.

Tuesday evening, erev Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 

A night of dismay, sadness and anger mixed with pride and hopefulness. Here in the United States we watched presidential candidate Mitt Romney mention his “binders of women”and President Barack Obama voice full support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and of the full equal rights, and reproductive rights of women.

At the same time, our Jewish sisters in Israel were marking the beginning of the new month of Cheshvan by gathering as Women of the Wall. They were joined by hundreds of women from Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, who are currently in celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the organization and its contributions to Israel and Israeli society. Sadly, once again, their celebrations and prayers were interrupted by the arrest of several women, including Anat Hoffman, for singing the Shema out loud. The charge – “disturbing the peace”. I am left speechless.

Wednesday morning

I join some of my book group members for a morning with Gloria Steinem.  Hosted by the San Joaquin Valley Town Hall, Steinem spoke passionately, calmly and inspirationally about her work – our work – in pursuit of social justice.  She spoke about how those of us working toward social justice must all stand together. Whether it is the fight for women’s rights, LGBT rights, fighting racism, working to heal the environment or to end poverty, we all are linked by the common belief in the equal humanity of all persons and shared values. I return home grateful for the women and men who paved a path for me to be who I am today. I return home grateful for having found a group of women who support each other as we gather around our proverbial camp fire each month at our book group gatherings.


Having struggled all week to make and eat dinner with my family, we finally sit down together for the first time since Monday. (I think we had dinner together then…its been so long I can’t remember.) Even if its only 30 minutes together before we are all off to our respective evening activities, homework, meetings, it’s a time to touch base, reconnect, laugh together, and of course debate who is going to do the dishes.

…After I do the dishes, I go through the snail mail. It contains not just one, but two separate items from Planned Parenthood, asking me to increase my pledge this year, and even put PPFA in my will.  Once again, I am scared. Women’s access to health care is threatened.  VOTE!

Today, Friday

The parsha for this Shabbat is Noach.  I recall the story of the flood and the covenant God made with humanity to not destroy the world again.  

I think of a common question asked on this Shabbat, “What was Noah’s wife’s name?”  The light-hearted answer: Mrs.Noah.  The real answer: we don’t know. Her voice was silenced in the Torah. Like our sister’s voices were silenced this week at the Wall.

I am looking forward to Shabbat dinner with my family and to being together for Shabbat services tonight, where I know we can all sing and pray together as one community.  The challah is now rising. The turkey smells delicious.

My prayer this Shabbat:

May we have a Shabbat of peace around the world. May we all continue to work together for justice and equal rights for all human beings. May we together create spaces for all voices to be heard, for all to be able to learn and sing. May we all see the rainbow as a reminder of not only God’s promise to us, but also of our promise to God.


  1. Marsha Novak / Oct 19 2012 4:00 pm

    Shabbat Shalom,

    What a beautiful and compelling blog!!! You make us so proud and wish we could be there to share the yummy challah and turkey.

    We love you,

    Mom and Dad

  2. Marilyn / Oct 19 2012 4:43 pm

    very beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Love and xxxxxxxxx’s to all

  3. celticpaisley / Oct 20 2012 5:18 am

    I’ve followed this same journey this week with a few of my own personal manifestations, including a long conversation with my 15-year-old daughter about reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood and the sexuality of women in light of all that is percolating in her life as a young woman and in our national conversation. It’s a horrifying time to observe what is being discussed and assumed about women, and yet it is also exciting to me that we might as women be more drawn together in our mutual reality. I know we are a long way from ever agreeing about what women should seek after as individuals and as a gender both, as is evidenced in my own family, but I believe the conversation had been dormant and has now re-arisen to it’s rightful place in our culture. I feel great anger in the midst of the horror of seeing a 14 year old Palestinian child shot and an Arizonian political candidate putting down Candy Crowley for her * looks!!!* post the debate. But I also feel some hope that we are talking about these things and that they are being covered in the media. We need this conversation. We have such a LOT to talk about.

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