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Embracing your inner Esther: Charting the course for women in Modern Orthodoxy

Modern Orthodox women should vote for the Religious Zionist Slate at the World Zionist Congress

I have always seen Queen Esther as a role model for the Modern Orthodox woman.  Esther lived at a time when the very identity of the Jewish people was being threatened, and instead of hiding in the shadows, she stood up proudly to defend her nation, even though it put her in grave danger.

What’s more, she understood that when an opportunity to shape the future of the Jewish Nation presents itself, it is imperative that we “seize the day.”

We are once again uniquely positioned at a time of national opportunity, during which we can have an enormous impact on world Jewry. Elections for the World Zionist Congress, the forum that decides upon the policies of and funding for Zionist organizations in Israel and around the world, are currently underway and over a billion dollars in funding for formal and informal Zionist educational programming is up for grabs.

It is time for American Jews to channel their “inner Esther” and exercise their right to vote.  And it is especially important for Jewish women to step up and position themselves at the forefront of this movement.

I single the women out because they have played a crucial and unique part in the World Zionist Congress since its inception.  From the very beginning, the women stood side by side with the men during the laborious decision making processes.  When Orthodox groups joined the second Zionist Congress, it was the women who understood the importance of the opportunity that lay before them, and took the reins on a variety of essential welfare issues.

Additionally, veteran women’s Zionist organizations, including WIZO, Hadassah, AMIT and Emunah, have always put mothers, children, hospitals and education first when others chose to focus elsewhere.

During the early years of the State, Israel was faced with constant external threats and tried desperately to defend its borders. At the same time, the country was on the cusp of internal collapse, with tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world coming home to Israel. While this mass “homecoming” was everything that the Jewish State had dreamed of, it posed numerous social problems.

The new arrivals needed to learn the language and acclimate to the culture, and they required healthcare and basic education.  It was the Zionist women who realized the urgency of the situation and made sure that the needs of the new immigrants were met while Israeli society continued to function like a well-oiled machine.

Many years later, as Israel continues to grow, the aforementioned women’s organizations are still leading the way on these essential welfare issues.

Women are the visionaries who seek out solutions to the nation’s social needs.  They are the ones who ensure that children who come from families facing socioeconomic problems receive both an education and a full package of support. They lead the fight for maternity rights and care, as they realize that only a mother who is both emotionally and financially stable will be able to keep her family functioning properly.  And they do not shy away from the heartbreaking but very real issues of abuse, neglect, and special needs but rather go above and beyond to provide the programming and love needed in order to maintain a flourishing society.

It is for these reasons (among others) that women must be seated in the next World Zionist Congress.  Israel will always face external threats, and its greatest defense will always be nurturing its children properly, raising strong men and women who will be on the frontlines of the battle for our safety, sovereignty and spiritual well-being.

Jewish history has illustrated that the woman’s role is to be resolute, courageous, and proactive. Following the example of the pioneering women who helped found the State, all Jewish American women must channel their inner Queen Esther and become actively involved in the current elections for the World Zionist Congress.

The modern Orthodox woman is always in search of opportunities to expand her role in the shaping of the Jewish community, locally and globally.  By voting for and promoting the Religious Zionist Slate, a party that is dedicated to strengthening Israel’s “Jewish soul,” Orthodox women will both ensure that their voices are heard and that a religious voice resides in – and guides – the World Zionist Congress.

Like Queen Esther, Orthodox women must step forward to lead the charge, in this case to ensure the future of religious Zionist ideals.  In the World Zionist Congress elections, voting is not just a “civic duty” – it is an opportunity to chart the course for Jewish life in general, and the role of women in Orthodox Judaism in specific.

We must place women’s issues at the top of our agenda and set the stage for greater female involvement in Jewish communal life. We can only help mold the Jewish future by positioning ourselves appropriately.

And it all begins with a vote.

About the Author
Sondra Sokal is a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, a co-chair of World Mizrachi, and a past international president of AMIT. She currently serves as the US Campaign Chair of the Religious Zionist Slate, a party running in the World Zionist Congress elections. A life-long Zionist, Sondra splits her time between New York and Jerusalem.
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