How perfect that International Women’s Day and the Jewish festival of Purim are celebrated on the same day this year. When I think of Purim, memories flood back to me of being a young girl performing the story of Purim at my Temple on Long Island. I was always in awe of the bravery of Queen Esther , who risked her life, for her family and “tribe”. Esther, a Jewish woman in ancient Persia was actually named Hadassah, but the Persians called her Esther, after the goddess Ishtar/Astarte, who personified beauty , love and strength.
The story goes that the prime minister Haman, angry at Queen Esther’s Uncle Mordecai for refusing to bow to anyone but God, decided to have all the Jews killed. But Esther appealed to her husband , King Ahasuerus, to save her people. Haman was executed on the very gallows that were build to kill Mordecai.
Imagine what it was like to actually stand up to the King and admit that you were Jewish, when the Prime Minister wanted to kill all Jews ? Would you have had the courage to stand up for your beliefs even in the face of death? It is certainly something to ponder.
As we celebrate Purim and International Women’s Day ,we are reminded of the contributions of the women in our lives and around the globe. Women now hold public office, run multinational organizations and juggle family and work. Let us celebrate them and at the same time, be aware of the gender discrimination that still exists in 2012. Our work is not finished yet.
And, most of all: may we each have the courage of Queen Esther,and the ability to effect change in our own unique way as we speak up for what we believe in.