With the performances of this year’s Purim shpiel this weekend and the actual holiday of Purim a week later, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the central role of women in the story. Queen Vashti refuses to do her husband’s bidding and perform in front of his assembled male guests and is subsequently banished from the kingdom. A Jewish maiden, Esther, ascends to the throne, yet she risks everything by revealing her true identity to Ahasuerus and championing the cause of her people.In a holiday guide published by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, it states:
“Purim is traditionally a time in which Jews partake in frivolity and excessive eating and drinking. We celebrate the triumph of Mordecai and the Jews over Haman and his attempted genocide. However, underneath the lighthearted nature of the holiday are more serious themes. Purim tells us the story of two women whose basic human rights have been threatened: Esther for her Jewish heritage and Vashti for her gender. Just as the Book of Esther disturbs us for how Vashti was exiled for standing up for her personal rights, so must we consider the plights of women all over the world, who fight for equal protection and bear the brunt of effects of poverty…Jewish values speak to the issue of women’s rights and fighting against a reactionary worldview of women.”
This Saturday is International Women’s Day. Thousands of activists around the globe will celebrate the extraordinary achievements of women and girls worldwide. Yet with all there is to celebrate, tremendous injustice continues. As noted by the American Jewish World Service, “More than 7 in 10 women in some countries will experience physical violence at some point in their lives.In many countries, countless lesbians are raped to ‘be cured.’
In November 2013, Congress introduced the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).
Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the International Violence Against Women Act. Add your name to the petition now!
If enacted, IVAWA would:
Support local programs that help women and girls do things we so often take for granted: Go to school, earn an income to help sustain families, collect food or water without fear of rape or harassment, and bring perpetrators of abuse to justice
Guarantee that ending violence against women and girls will remain a top U.S. diplomatic priority
Ensure at least 10 percent of U.S. assistance go directly to local groups around the world that have been shown to decrease violence against women and girls
Support vulnerable populations including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and religious and ethnic minorities.
It’s a tradition to celebrate Purim with feasting and merriment. But let us not forget to pay heed to serious themes that permeate the story and work toward creating a more just and peaceful world.