Most people, if they’ve heard of her at all, connect Emma Lazarus to the most famous phrases of her sonnet, “The New Colossus,” written to help raise money for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal fund in 1883. But poems she translated and composed before that generated another kind of legacy.
Nearly 40 years ago, I stood on the bimah as a bat mitzvah, the first young woman in my family to celebrate my Jewish coming of age. Its significance was totally lost on me, however. Having been raised to believe that both boys and girls could pretty much do anything they wanted, what was the big deal, I wondered.
It began as many new relationships do: I was curious but tentative. How would this new entity fit into my life? Did I really need it? Could I make room for it in my over-stuffed brain and on my increasingly crowded bookshelves? I received The Torah: A Women’s Commentary as a gift during my fourth year of rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
So far, my time in Israel has been filled with more questions than answers. One of the things I’m most excited about this year is the opportunity to live in Israel, to experience daily life here, and to ask as many questions as possible (and learn to be comfortable living without easy answers). My experiences here so far have given me a taste of what Progressive Judaism in Israel looks like.
Something historic occurred last week. It was more than a simple nomination. It is nothing less than a challenge to all of us: to acknowledge our diversity and to see the Divine in each and every human being.