Womanhood, Judaism, and Unifying Grief: A Call to Action

Amanda Schwartz headshotBy Amanda Schwartz, JWI

Note to readers of this blog: An important part of analyzing literature is establishing the ethos of the author. So, before you read I would like to start with some background about myself.

My name is Amanda Schwartz and I’m one of JWI’s summer interns. I’m studying English Literature and Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. With a passion for women’s and girl’s empowerment, I try to engage with the issues both locally and globally. I am a lead facilitator with a UMD initiative for girls’ empowerment in local elementary schools. Working with Power Up girls club I learn about obstacles to universal equality and equity in classes, and I have the privilege of mentoring young girls on a weekly basis. I will be a Tzedek Fellow in the fall semester with Hillel where I will have the opportunity to learn more about social justice and its intersection with Judaism.

On a more global scale, I have worked on campus advocacy for American Jewish World Service’s “We Believe” campaign to raise awareness about the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) and have brought together students at UMD to learn about the Jewish obligation to Tikkun Olam (Repair the World) at the Global Women’s Justice Shabbat Dinner. I am learning more about the work that JWI does in its varied capacities—both locally and globally—to prevent and end domestic violence, support victims of abuse and support related legislation and political actions on nearby Capitol Hill. Working at JWI is a wonderful way to blend my mixed interests and learn about more tactics to combat issues facing women around the world.

Womanhood, Judaism, and Unifying Grief: A Call to Action

As a Jew, I am hit hard by the news that the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens—Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad—have been found. The details of these tragic murders hurt my heart and I ache for the families of these innocent victims. I identify with the families who are mourning as if they are my own family; the pain of a single Jewish community crosses international borders and the sympathies from others hearing the news is in fact genuine and deep. I hope that the sadness Jews around the world are feeling is not for naught; if these boys’ perpetrators are not brought to justice it is an incomprehensible tragedy and shame, but if we stand by and allow violent crimes to continue in quantity and escalation because we do not take enough preventative action, shame on us, too.

The murders of these boys should act as a catalyst for more Jews to get involved in service—to try to cancel out the evil in the world with acts of kindness. In the coming days of aveilut (the traditional seven days of mourning), our nation should come together to mourn our losses, gird our strength and renew our commitment to pursuing righteousness. Our unequivocal duty as Jews to Tikkun Olam is vital to our unity as a nation and an important mechanism to channel our grief into something positive. Oftentimes the act of giving of ourselves is the most rewarding medicine.

On Tuesday morning, June 24, I was one of the many visitors to the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, lined up in a long queue to try to gain access to the main room of the Combating Violence and Discrimination Against Women: A Global Call to Action hearing led by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues. I snagged a seat in the overflow room and listened to more than 10 influential (and might I say, badass) women and men testify about their inspiring work relating to global gender based violence.

As I listened and watched these distinguished speakers make impactful comments I felt a sense of community with the other D.C. interns, professionals and committed activists watching and listening beside me. The chilling statistics were difficult to comprehend and somewhat depressing in light of the harsh realities of stagnant politics; the seemingly endless list of futile attempts at bipartisan support efforts on all our minds. Yet, the dedication and passion that the speakers have for combatting violence and international horrors is uplifting and inspiring.

Sometimes it is easy to forget the impact that a single idea can have; but walking out from the fabulous panel including women from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Women Waging Peace and Senator Boxer was a moment I will never forget. I was simply struck by the commitment to action that was taking place toward social justice and I realized I want to be engaged in these issues and have an impact on policy and social change.

As a Jew, I feel an overwhelming sense of grief and obligation—to continue working for strides in social justice. As a woman, I have a passion to fight for those whose voices are being silenced around the globe.

I urge all Jews to recommit to fighting for social change, human rights, and peace.


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