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From Miriam to Mia: Echoes of Feminine Courage

In light of the recent atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th, it is imperative to address the ongoing exclusion of Jewish women from feminist movements. Despite the theoretical commitment to social justice within intersectional feminist circles, in the past six months, Jewish women have frequently encountered marginalization and silencing.

As we approach Passover and reflect on the story of liberation, it is helpful to delve into the story of Miriam. Her resilience offers a beacon of hope amidst a world that seeks to dismiss and even justify recent instances of sexual violence against Jewish women.

This phenomenon is not coincidental but rather a systemic issue within the struggle for women’s rights and safety. Intersectionality, the cornerstone of contemporary feminism, has failed to adequately address the unique experiences of Jewish women. From the erasure of Jewish symbols at feminist marches under the guise of anti-Zionism to the rationalization of Hamas’s use of sexual violence, the movement has regrettably become a tool of exclusion.

At 17, I proudly declared myself a feminist, adorning my bedroom door with bold letters to reflect my commitment. Initially, my feminist identity seemed distinct from my Jewish one. As a predominantly secular Jew, whose identity is largely defined by Zionism, I never anticipated the profound intersection between the two.

However, in college, a class discussion on oppression led to a confrontation where my professor accused me of being a ‘rape denier’ for disputing her libelous claims about the IDF’s alleged use of rape as a systematic weapon of war. She unjustly reduced my arguments to those of a Zionist lobbyist, asserting that my voice had no place in the fight for women’s rights. This incident irreversibly intertwined my Jewish and feminist identities, challenging my previous understanding of them as parallel.

While intersectionality aims to understand diverse forms of oppression, it has often overlooked the complexities of Jewish identity. Despite acknowledging the struggles of many marginalized groups, it fails to fully grasp the unique challenges faced by Jewish women, most harrowingly after the events of October 7th.

Far-left antisemitism challenges conventional victim narratives by propagating portrayals of Jewish people as promoters of white supremacy and capitalist ideals, often through the embodiment of Israel. Originating from Soviet propaganda, this ideology, unfortunately, championed within intersectionality, erases the historical persecution of Jews and perpetuates the notion that Jewish voices, because of their connection to Israel, are inherently oppressive.

Navigating the current feminist landscape as a Jewish woman feels isolating and lonely. We’re expected to overlook undeniable evidence of the brutalities perpetrated against our sisters to remain allies in the broader fight against oppression.

Yet, amidst the darkness, the story of Miriam offers a poignant reminder of resilience and fortitude.

“Miriam the prophetess… took the tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with tambourines and dances.” (Exodus 15:20-21)

Miriam, with her profound feminine wisdom, embodied the bitter realities of exile and persecution, marked by Pharaoh’s decree to kill all newborn Israelite boys. Her soul is deeply intertwined with the suffering of her people. Yet, she watched over Moses in a basket at the Nile’s edge with enduring hope.

Years later, as the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, she was the one who led the women with tambourines and dancing, embodying joy and perseverance. She felt the most pain, and so she was the one to lead them with the most joy. Her legacy resonates today, reminding us of the pivotal role of women in the journey towards liberation.

“We will dance again” are the words that Mia Schem, an October 7th survivor, tattooed onto her arm following her release from 55 days in captivity in Gaza, from hell. Like Miriam, Mia’s story is of unwavering courage. Despite enduring the unimaginable during her captivity, she emerged with a resolve to shed light on the realities faced by those held hostage in Gaza. Mia’s courage mirrors that of Miriam, demonstrating the enduring power of resilience.

As we reflect on their deliverance, let us draw profound inspiration from their unwavering determination. Miriam’s leadership in leading the Israelites to freedom and Mia’s survival and advocacy for those still held captive in Gaza serve as poignant reminders of our collective responsibility. Jewish women must stand as fierce advocates, amplifying the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves—regardless of the challenges or attempts to silence us. In honoring their legacies, we reaffirm the intrinsic connection between inclusive feminism and the struggle for justice and liberation for all.

About the Author
Daphne Klajman holds a master's degree in Diplomacy from Reichman University, Israel, and a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Saint Mary's University, Canada.
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