Parshat Haye Sarah

Opening the Gaps in Patriarchy

How Rebekah helped empower women.

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Across the globe, when women in traditional societies are given the chance to be hear--on matters of their own health, the financial well-being of their families, or, more broadly, the democratic process--women, men and children flourish. When women are not allowed to be active decision makers in their own lives and in the lives of their families, they stumble.

Contemporary Organizations

Grassroots organizations around the world are working to widen the space for women created by Rebekah. The Afghan Women's Resource Center (AWRC) finds small gaps in patriarchy and, in those gaps, offers courses in literacy, health, women's rights and micro enterprise. USOFOORAL ESUPAN in Senegal found a gap, and in it runs a sustainable gardening project that will provide income for 60 women and youth. The Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP) in Uganda finds space for change at the grassroots level, and in that space, is mobilizing communities to change attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate domestic violence.

American Jewish World Service supports each of these projects and many others that try to change the world for the better through women's empowerment.

These organizations give women--if not Rebekah, then Farhat, Ramatulai, and Nabulung--voices, and provide opportunities through which they can begin to defeat problems that might otherwise be overwhelming. Rather than turning away from an entire society in resignation, they find the places where women can speak and they work to expand those spaces from the inside, much as Rashi did with Genesis 24:57. And so must we each listen for openings and wedge into those cracks the fight for women's empowerment.

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Adina Gerver

Adina Gerver, a freelance writer and editor, is studying at the Advanced Scholars Program of the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. She has served as assistant director of the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning and program officer at the Covenant Foundation.