At this time last year, I was sitting in the sanctuary at Rodef Shalom, listening to the Purim Megillah reading. As often happens when Purim falls in March, the holiday coincided with International Women’s Day and with what was, last year, the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. I took it as a good omen for women.
A few days later, we made the difficult decision to postpone the Jewish Community Relations Council luncheon, and by March 16, JEWISHcolorado was operating virtually. To borrow a metaphor from the Megillah, it seemed that lots had been cast. And if that was the case, I was and am proud and gratified to have cast mine with JEWISHcolorado.
The parallels between the story of Esther and this current moment should not go unnoticed by any of us. We are in the midst of a pandemic that will, I’m certain, change the course of history. And it is, once again, women who have both borne the brunt of those circumstances and who have emerged as heroes.
I know you have heard the statistics, but I think they are worth noting here in this virtual room filled with women.
As Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on our lives, America’s women have been hit hardest. We have lost jobs at a rate higher than men. The industry sectors in which we work have been decimated. Education, health and hospitality, public service… women are our frontline workers. They’re serving food and caring for patients and educating children under enormous stress and personal risk. Lack of childcare only compounds the challenge.
Women whose circumstances bear little resemblance to our own …and women just like us… have had their lives upended. They’ve lost jobs essential to their families. They’ve worried about hunger and homelessness and their elderly parents. They’ve felt isolated and guilty for all that they cannot do.
But we are the descendants of Esther and like Esther, in a moment of monumental crisis, we women have become the heroes we need.
Sisterhood spurred many of us into action. We volunteered and raised money and extended hands to those at greater risk than us. We took a hard look at our system, found it wanting, and took the first steps towards changing it.
Our Women’s Philanthropy Committee raised over $13,000 and collected 1,500 pounds of hygiene products, which we used to restock Jewish Family Services’ pantry. We distributed another 500 dignity bags during the Christmas Mitzvah Project.
Together, we raised a $1 million for JEWISHcolorado’s COVID Community Response Fund and for Jewish Federations of North America’s Human Services Relief Fund. We helped our synagogues and Jewish agencies secure their precious spaces, obtain protective equipment, and apply for PPP loans.
Our support enabled the Federation’s international partners to continue to care for and serve Jewish communities around the world. While we were helping our children and each other settle into life during a pandemic, our partners in Israel were helping Ethiopian Jews and other immigrants resettle into life there.
Through it all, we used the tools we had at our disposal to share our struggles and our simchas. We came together as a community and in community. We cast our lots with each other, and in doing so, we honored the memory of Esther and of all of our ancestors.
Purim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,