Today, Jews across the world will be going to synagogue to hear the story of Jewish redemption, excitingly, at the hands of a woman. Considered one of the seven prophetesses and the savior of the Jewish people on Purim, the story of Queen Esther is known across Jewish culture and beyond.
As a people we must always ask the question of what we can learn from these biblical stories that are so far away from modern times. In celebration of this holiday, of international women’s day, and in the spirit of this question, here is a list of five modern day Jewish women who are saving us as they change and contribute to the world in their own way.
1. Gal Gadot
A native born Israeli, Gal has gained worldwide recognition for her work as Wonder Woman. While she was in other films before, most notably The Fast and the Furious franchise, she gained world renown for her outstanding performance as Wonder Woman in the Justice League movies. However it wasn’t just her performance that endeared her to audiences worldwide, it was her personality; her honesty, her straightforward and open nature. She has also been transparent about the work it took leading up to being able to perform her role as the superhero, and the fact that she was able to do a lot of the stunts and martial arts herself left audiences impressed. Gal is not shy about where she comes from; she is a proud Israeli. In her interviews and on her Instagram she represents the modern, Jewish, Israeli women to the world. She has also spoken out against the treatment of women in Hollywood and in the workplace. She’s now pioneering her own projects involving strong, Jewish women and giving them, and us, representation in the world. She’s a real live superhero.
2. Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg is a name recognized the world over. In her role as COO of Facebook she has not only survived, but thrived in a world and role typically filled with and by men. She brought us the phrase “lean in.” She showed us how to carry on in the face of adversity, both in personal and professional circumstances. She is the embodiment of the modern working mom, trying to be there for her kids, while running one of the biggest companies in the world – and she’s a single mom to boot. Facebook is known as a family-friendly company. With her leading the way having children even before The Zuck did, she paved the way for the family-friendly policy that Facebook now typifies. She is a rockstar at her job and she’s also a rockstar mom. She symbolizes the everywoman trying to balance work and career and figuring it all out along the way. She’s another Jewish superhero.
3. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
No list of modern Jewish superwomen, someone personifying the modern-day Esther, would be complete without the beloved and notorious RBG. Now a feminist icon, previously a Jewish mom and bubbie, she has been on the Supreme Court of the United States for 26 years. She has been part of landmark cases such as United States v. Virginia where women were granted the right to attend the all-male Virginia Military Institute. She authored the first law school casebook on sex discrimination. She also notably wrote the dissent view for important cases such as Ledbetter v. Goodyear. She has not been afraid to be who she is: a woman, a judge, a mother, a Jew, and above all else a person who sticks to their morals and values whether they are shared by everyone or no one. Now at the age of 86, she also has endearingly shared with the world her workouts with her personal trainer and how she stays fit and Supreme Court Bench ready everyday. Maybe she’d be better compared to the prophetess Devorah, who served as a judge to the Jewish people, as opposed to Queen Esther, but either way no one can deny the enduring power of this real live super-Jewish- judge-bubbie.
4. Beatie Deutsch
Beatie is what we would call in Hebrew a Haredi woman. In other words she is Ultra-Orthodox. She is also a mother of five and is the new face of women’s running. Since taking up running a mere 4 years ago Beatie has won and set records in marathons consistently. She has beat long professional women runners and men as well. Running with a full hair covering and modest clothing, she outpaces the competition, perhaps just sweating a bit more. She recently achieved world ranking after her marathon in Cape Town, South Africa. Her dream and her goal is to represent Israel in the Olympics this summer in Tokyo. This dream unfortunately may not come to fruition, as a change in the date of the women’s marathon was just announced. It was originally supposed to take place on a Sunday, but has now been moved to a Saturday. As an Ultra-Orthodox Jew, Beatie will not be able to compete on shabbat which has really devastated her. However, in a true show of strength, she has spoken out and said that while she dreams of going to the Olympics, the most important thing is her training and getting better for herself every time. That statement alone makes her worthy of this list, but she also makes us proud representing Judaism in a whole different light and arena. Go Beatie go!
5. Judy Blume
Judy Blume feels kind of like an oldie. but a goodie. She is someone who is timeless, even at the age of 82. Judy Blume changed the face of young adult novels by writing in a way that made her sound like a kid, and therefore her novels and stories were/are so relatable. Now, at a time when teenagers and young adults are crying out that movies and books do not actually portray the teenage experience, Ms. Blume, who is now giving her own Master class, seems to be more relevant than ever. Bloom is quoted as saying that what she does is not writing, it’s telling a story, and she’s telling it from inside the mind of the protagonist. The younger generation of authors whose works our youth feel are unrelatable, could take a page from her book (pun intended). Bloom was the first to write about so-called taboo topics including puberty, divorce and teenage relationships. Even more amazingly, she tackled these topics at a time while others were still shying away from them, and she continues to do so. She is still paving the way for those who have come after her. May she do so for a long time to come.
Queen Esther didn’t just save the Jewish people, she also changed the way we were perceived in the world. In that light we can certainly compare her to all the women on this list. They too are shining examples of what we can accomplish when we live with purpose and with values. In that way we can all save the world.