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Hope Blecher
Member, Hadassah Lower New York State Chapter

From Emma Lazarus to Henrietta Szold to Katy Perry: It’s Time to ROAR!

Author Hope Blecher armed with her favorite jewelry. Photo courtesy of the author

It happened slowly. I moved to a new home. I started doing different types of chores and projects. The more handiwork I did, the less jewelry I wore. I started teaching on Zoom and the bracelets and rings became a distraction as I moved my hands while being a virtual teacher. 

Then, there were a few interviews and other outings. As I wasn’t sure of the audience, I became a bit self-conscious. So, at first, I didn’t wear the necklace. Then, the bracelet and then the small silver ring. Finally, in a cleaning spree, there was the small plastic bag that got tucked into a jewelry box. 

What did I choose not to wear? There were a few items. There’s the small silver Star of David ring that I’ve owned for forty years. There’s the silver bracelet with a saying engraved on the inside and the outside that I purchased in Israel while on a trip with my daughter. Finally, there’s the necklace.

Forward to June 24, 2022, and the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. After that, I read social media posts and articles in the newspaper. That same weekend, my husband and I were hosts to three twenty-eight-year-old women, one of which was my daughter.

Weekend conversations and actions ranged from baking challah to kayaking, from watching “Impeachment: American Crime Story” on Hulu to random remarks about abortion. We chatted, looked things up online, shared comments and “look at this” remarks.

What did I do? How did I react? What did you do? How did you react? 

It started with doing things together such as baking challah and lighting the Sabbath candles. Then it was a chit chat during our Shabbat meal. How do you feel about it? Can you believe it? What will happen next? That’s when we decided to watch ”Impeachment” on Hulu.

I slept. I thought. I slept some more. I can tell you now that it’s a nagging thought. What’s changing? How did I get so complacent? What was I taught in elementary through high school versus what’s happening now? 

I took action, yet not in ways you might envision. I mowed the lawn. I walked. I cleaned leaves out of the slowly running stream.

By Sunday, I’d made a decision, at least in my mind. I need to be able to advocate and participate. I need to shed the fear of losing my job if I choose to do something.

Forty-eight hours later, I looked for my jewelry. It was in the plastic baggie, the bracelet was among others I’d worn, previously. The forty-year-old ring that I’d bought for myself four decades ago was in a small box in my top dresser drawer.

The Hebrew name necklace that I received for my Bas Mitzvah back in the year of America’s Bicentennial, was hanging on a small hook with other necklaces in my standing box.

Then, by Tuesday morning, I slowly put on the ring and the bracelet. I smiled to myself. It’s my statement to myself not to hide. And off to work I went.

As I sit tonight, continuing to type this blog post, I am listening to a rabbi in Teaneck, NJ. He’s hosting a Zoom about Roe v. Wade. He is expressing his thoughts and touching upon some perspectives as Jews and as Americans. On top of this is the SCOTUS ruling about the public-school football coach and prayer.

How do I feel? What am I thinking? Vividly, I remember feeling pressure to pose my hands, to move my lips, to join in rather than not. Let’s not underestimate the power of the coach, the authority figure.

These two Supreme Court decisions will have implications for days and years to come. To paraphrase Professor Michal Raucher, a host of the Zoom, there is an expected rise in maternal mortality rate that will especially impact minority women. There are implications for further decisions and potentially other freedoms. Restricting abortion is forcing a pregnancy.

As people who identify as women, as people who identify as members of Hadassah, as people, it is important to listen, to read, to learn, to register to vote and to vote. The potential for having a medication delivered via the US Postal Service is an option. However, that may also become illegal.

To see an infographic and read, here is a resource, Lay of the Land: Abortion Policies and Access in the United States | Guttmacher Institute.

To see my graphic, what I’m wearing, again, look at the photo with this post. 

To see your thoughts, your feelings, your musings, you may doodle, paint, pace, bake, craft, run or wander. You may choose to attend a protest, say a prayer, or give a hug. Your lips may move, your eyes may close.

Your image may be of the woman mistaken for a drunkard and then known to be with child. That harkens to the passages read during our High Holy Day services.

You may hold your breath; you may open your eyes. As with the Statue of Liberty aka Mother of Exiles, you may stand with outstretched arms to welcome the poor and those yearning to be free.

Yet, as July 4th, known as Independence Day, is upon us, one may question that sense of independence and freedom. 

Emma Lazarus, the author of “The New Colossus,” the poem on the pedestal of Lady Liberty, was descendent of Portuguese Sephardic Jews. She questioned that sense of freedom as she saw the plight of the Russian Jewish immigrants while working on Ward’s Island.  

Lazarus’ poem was selected as part of a fundraising campaign for the statue to have a home on what is now known as Liberty Island. That statue, titled “Liberty Enlightening the World,” was created in France and presented to the United States on July 4, 1886. An impetus for this project was the democracy of the new country and yet, today, that sense of democracy appears to be shifting.

Abortion became legal in France in 1975, 47 years ago.

Recently, news reports conveyed that the politicians in France were seeking to enshrine abortion freedom into their constitution. Yet, it was the freedom that Americans had back over 200 years ago that the French yearned for and that a group decided to solidify, symbolically, in The Statue of Liberty.

Hadassah is an organization with a rich heritage of advocacy. Hadassah, an organization for women and those who support women in a variety of causes. And yes, such causes are fertility, infertility, and medical care for the birth parent and child.

Henrietta Szold credited Emma Lazarus with helping spark the Zionist movement: “With her own hand she has sown the seeds that shall transform her grave into a garden.”  

Hadassah, the myrtle, the tree, the fragrance that spreads so sweetly. Like the scent of freshly baked challah, like the ripple of the pebble tossed into the stream, like the sound of the shofar blast teaming through the air, there’s a moment that will feel right for you to take a stance. And when you are ready, may it feel like it did for Yentl in the closing scene of that movie. Or maybe it’s a “Roar” in the style of Katy Perry.

This decision by the SCOTUS has brought people to post many emojis, many photos, their opinions, graphics and quotes. Some appear ordinary and others meant to raise the ire of the reader. Some appear shocking and others may bring you to tears. I’ll close this post with the words of Golda Meir.Once in a Cabinet we had to deal with the fact that there had been an outbreak of assaults on women at night. One minister suggested a curfew; women should stay home after dark. I said, ‘But it’s the men who are attacking the women. If there’s to be a curfew, let the men stay home, not the women.’

For Hadassah’s statement regarding the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, visit here.
 

 

About the Author
Dr. Hope Blecher has been working in the field of education for 37 years. Currently, she serves as an English as a Second Language teacher for an adult education program in NJ. Recently, she became the founder of hope4education.com. Previously, Hope served in capacities from being the first Middle School Curriculum Coordinator and Humanities teacher for a yeshiva in Teaneck, NJ, to serving in public schools as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and the Supervisor of English Literacy, Social Studies and Media Services. Dr. Hope Blecher holds multiple standard NJDOE issued certifications that she has used by serving as an adjunct professor, a teacher of high school students with special needs, English Language Learners K-adult, and those in the elementary age level classrooms. Along with friends and colleagues, Hope co-authored educational books and articles. She earned a BA in Sociology, an MA in Early Childhood Education, and an Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership. She has been a member of Hadassah for over a decade, first in the Southern NJ chapter and currently in the Lower New York State chapter.
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