Last night I was still receiving emails congratulating me on being chosen as one of the Forward 50 for our work in bettering the status quo. I was lauded for having, “spoken out against rape in the Orthodox community, as well as the need for women to assume leadership roles in American Orthodox Judaism.” I spend my days fighting the good fight for a better tomorrow. I encourage my friends, family, community members, and strangers on the street to see the need for change and to be that change.
Last night I was also preparing for a board meeting. As I was making last minute preparations, at 6:03pm, I received a text message from my husband, Rabbi Ben Greenberg. It read: “Our 5 year old son just pointed to a female character on a kids show and called her a ‘disgusting woman.’ I asked where he heard that and he said, ‘Donald Trump says it and people picked him to be our new president.'”
As you might imagine, I was stunned. I spend my days and nights fighting misogyny, and my son, MY son, had uttered these words. A few tears were shed. Ben assured me that he turned off the television, and had a heart to heart with our son. Of course I trusted my partner in life to address the situation appropriately, lovingly, and effectively. But I am still aghast, how could this happen?
One might argue that my son is not aware of what I do, but that isn’t the case. While I spend a great deal of my time working with my official feminist hat on, my husband and I, unsurprisingly, have made this a priority at home. When my husband shared what happened at 6:03pm, I thought about the many instances when I whisper in my son’s ear. “You know that mommy can also say the blessing over wine. Right?” “You know that your father and I both do housework. Right?” He understands and has responses verifying his cognizance of our words and actions in the home. We’ve discussed gendered toys, colors, leaders, just about everything with my adorable 5 year old.
In thinking about whether or not a non-profit that has not historically been involved in American politics should be speaking up, this event hit home. Literally. The reality is that had words of sexism and misogyny been uttered by a rabbi, we would be speaking up. Had they been muttered by a professional leader, a teacher, or a lay leader, we would be speaking up. We have indeed spoken up in those cases.
At this point, the election has come to an end. Tension is high, and the situation volatile. Despite that, I have an obligation to speak up and call out misogyny. I have an obligation to address the anti-Semitism. I have an obligation to speak up for those under attack, be it for their race, religion, gender, or political opinion. We need to protect those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable.
At this point in time, no matter how you voted, I would like to encourage you to join me in creating a world where my son is not exposed to hate, despite the bubble that we all try to create for our children. I would like to encourage you to report acts of hate. I would like to encourage you to call out discrimination of any kind, not because you are right or correct in your political stances, but because it is the right thing to do.
Some conversations are moot at this point in time. How the election could have gone differently. The actions of candidates who ran and our respective political party national committees are in the past. In the present, we need to be active and fearless in joining across party lines to defend our values of equality and address words of hate, be they from our religious leaders, and yes, our political leaders as well.
While all people and certainly all presidents are fallible, there are moments when those flaws are made public. They have been addressed and condemned in the past, and there is no reason to switch course despite the current climate.