A new and trailblazing social media campaign dedicated to raising awareness and lifting up the voices of Jewish women of color, Sephardi and Mizrahi women has debuted just in time for Purim. Under the auspices of the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA), the Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN) and Repair the World, the campaign, called #ShareHerStory, highlights the unique contributions these women have made to the larger Jewish story. In this first iteration, nine women’s stories are celebrated and elaborate on the female-centric Purim story.
These women include activist and social justice entrepreneur Yavilah McCoy; Angela Buchdahl, the first Asian-American rabbi and cantor; Alysa Stanton, the first African-American rabbi; and April Baskin, the Union for Reform Judaism’s first vice president of audacious hospitality. McCoy recently told JewishBoston that, “For many of the women of color featured, this is the first time we’ve seen all of our faces simultaneously. Our story being told in this way tells a deeper story about Jewish women and [the] Jewish community.”
McCoy noted the collaboration among JWA, JMN and Repair the World focuses on the power and diversity of the Jewish people. “This is a great way to celebrate Purim,” she said. “There is an element of the Purim story which is hopeful, and which turns things upside down to reveal what has been hidden.”
She pointed out that Queen Esther was initially powerless in the palace, but things turned around when “she not only lifted up her voice but lifted up her people and empowered them to be able to tell a different narrative of genocide and survival. It is beautiful for women to claim that story and change our narrative of survival to a narrative of liberation.”
As Rosenbaum noted, most women’s stories never make it into the official historical narrative. She sees Esther’s story as an exception. “Esther is a Jewish woman of color risking everything for her people,” she said. “Who would have thought that her story would be remembered for thousands of years? It takes creativity and dedication to keep our legacies alive.”
#ShareHerStory encourages people to share the biographies of the nine women whose collective image is the face of the campaign. In a prepared statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tamara Fish, president of the Jewish Multiracial Society, said: “The fact that we mark Purim as a holiday is a testament to the power of storytelling. We can learn a lot from this! So, in the spirit of Esther, we are ringing out loud the stories of risk-taking and groundbreaking Jewish women of color, together with Sephardi and Mizrahi women, who deserve to be remembered in history.”
Rabbi Jonah Pesner, head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, shared the hashtag and tweeted, “I have learned so much from these talented leaders; seeing their faces together is magnificent and inspiring.”
Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses, the first female rabbi to come from the Syrian-Jewish community, is among the nine faces of the campaign. As she wrote on her Facebook page: “Purim is exactly the time for the heretofore invisible to become manifest in the world; as Esther starts off as an invisible passive figure and emerges as a powerful Jewish leader over the course of her story and the story of the Jewish people, so do we.”