When I was 20 years old, I took a course at Columbia University for the easy A I expected (and got). It was called “Women and Religion” and was presented by a Jewish woman who declared on the very first day that she was a “witch.” It was attended by many different young women, though I only remember one.
Her mother was Catholic; her father was Jewish. By Catholic rule, she was a Jew; by Jewish rule, she was not Jewish (I won’t say we rule that she is a Catholic – we simply say that according to Jewish law, which is matriarchal, she was not a Jew).
Her response to this was that she hated both religions; all religions. The class had little to do with “Women AND religion” and everything to do with “Women AGAINST religion.” I thought about dropping the course but I really needed that filler course and so I decided to continue and take it as a philosophical experiment. I never argued back in anger because I really felt more pity than anything else.
I tried to paint images of my religion as loving and open and they condemned it for animal sacrifices that haven’t taken place in over 2,000 years.
I tried to show how Judaism was very advanced for its time, that in a world that mostly enslaved and abused women, Judaism was teaching women to read, certainly giving them equality in ways that were foreign to most other religions.
I tried to show them that you can have separate but equal and equal but different, but they bought nothing and ridiculed everything.
At the end of the class, the witch…I mean the instructor…announced that all grades were final, papers done, everything marked and now, as a last exercise of the last class she wanted to go around the room and have everyone freely and without consequence, speak about what they had learned.
The non-Catholic/non-Jewish girl spoke of how repressive and reprehensible religion was; others spoke of male domination, the fallacy of believing in one God or even many gods. I wanted to pass but they wouldn’t let me and so finally, I agreed to speak.
I looked around the room and then explained, “I learned that I am not a feminist.” That enraged a few of them – but the teacher quieted them and asked me to continue. And more or less, this is what I said to them…
I am a Jew. I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew. I was also born a woman. Never once in my life have I felt those to collide or contradict and I pity anyone who feels that they do.
I am not less; I am not inferior. I don’t view myself that way and I won’t let anyone think of me that way.
But when the Nazis came to murder me, my Christian sisters of the world didn’t rise up to save me – they stood with their Christian brothers and fathers and sons. When the Crusaders came, same deal. When the Cossacks came and set fire to the synagogue in which my grandmother hid, no woman rushed forward to put out the flames.
A feminist will tell me that I’m being persecuted but the only way I’ve ever been persecuted is as a Jew and my “sisters” never once stood up for me because in their eyes I was as much as Jew as my father and brothers.
I am a Jew.
At that point, I got up, thanked the teacher and walked out of the room and to her credit, she gave me the “A” I had earned.
Yesterday, women marched in Washington. The marches were sponsored and organized, in part, by a Muslim woman who supports Sharia and is anti-Israel.
I am the CEO of my company. I have never been discriminated against as a woman. I have applied for dozens of projects and never once been made to feel as if the decision to take my company or not rested on my gender. Dozens of years ago, an Orthodox rabbi asked me to address a very large shul and give a lesson to the entire audience – from the center of the men’s area.
I felt some 30 years ago, that those women needed to feel miserable to feel fulfilled. I didn’t and so I walked out of that class and went out on a date with a man who would later become my husband. A man with whom I have raised five children. A good man. An honest one. A man who doesn’t do the dishes nearly enough, but takes apart the car or the dishwasher or the air conditioner, my computer, or refrigerator whenever it breaks. A man who has never treated me as an object or said anything sexually inappropriate to me (or any other woman).
I have never understood violence. I didn’t spank my children (okay, I think I spanked my first two a very few times and then realized it didn’t accomplish anything) and no, I do not equate spanking children with violence but I still don’t believe in it.
I have never attacked anyone, never set fire to anything (inappropriate). I have never thrown anything at anyone (other than a ball in a game and even then I missed).
I do not understand violence. I do not understand the marches yesterday. (And yes, I am aware that hundreds of thousands of people marched without violence…I don’t understand that but respect everyone’s right to rally…I just wish I understood what they hoped to accomplish and more, I wish that the rally-rouser wasn’t who it was).
I would not want anyone to look over my life and judge me for things I did or said 30 years ago…or 20…or 10 as a means of deciding whether I am capable of doing my job today. I do not understand attacking Donald Trump for what he SAID while giving Bill Clinton a pass for what he DID.
And worst of all, I do not understand what is gained by attempting to delegitimize Donald Trump. Attack what he does…but denying that he is your president. Sorry. No.
I am a Jew. I am not a feminist. I believe in the equality of women and will fight for my right (and theirs) to be paid equally and treated equally by law. But I don’t automatically assume men are evil; religion is wrong; or that one sexual predator is okay but a man who was incredibly disrespectful to women (in speech) is the greatest evil known to man. Apparently, this makes me less of a woman, less of a human being…at least in the eyes of feminists and so, I am not a feminist.
I am a Jew and I lost hundreds of relatives – literally – to Hitler. The Holocaust scarred by husband from birth and continues to scar my children, my people, my country. Trump is not Hitler and any analogy reflects more on your ignorance than on him.
I don’t live in the United States – that’s true. But many of you don’t live in Israel and that hasn’t stopped you from judging Israel, from believing Israel needs to act a certain way. You were silent when Obama attempted to influence our elections and furious when we told him (and you) to shove it.
Now you are outraged at why we fail to understand and condemn a rumor that Russia might have tried to do the same thing that we have PROVEN Obama did to Israel…and you wonder why we have lost patience.
Now, I begin to see that apparently there is something in you that needs this anger, this all-consuming fear. And so I yield. I will not attempt to convince you or anyone that Trump is nothing more (or less) than a man. I surrender the US to your fears.
But I remain what I am…and what I was, even then, when I was 20 years old. I am a Jew; I am a woman.
And I have grown in the last 30+ years to be so much more. I am an Israeli. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. And I do not fear Donald Trump because the enemies I face are so much more real, so much more violent and deadly.
My enemies blow up buses and restaurants; they stab pregnant women and children; they ram baby carriages. They murder fathers and mothers in front of their children and then dance in the streets to celebrate.
I surrender to your fear. I do not accept it. I do not enjoy it. But I surrender to the fact that you will not let it go.