Cantor’s Column – March 2019

Speaking to Power

Cantor Ilan Davidson

Purim is almost upon us, and with it, the fun, frolic, silliness, and sometimes drunkenness. In fact, through the haze of the party atmosphere, we might sometime forget to see the important lessons of this holiday. Among them, we celebrate women, and their rights and abilities to use their voices to speak to power. Just as Esther went against the laws of the Kingdom to speak out for justice, before being spoken to, so too do we spend time remembering and honoring those modern day women who have followed and continue to follow her example.

In these modern times, there are way too many strong women to begin to mention, but I would like to applaud four such women, from our very own congregation, Hannah Brooks, Jordan Davidson, Alissa Wagner, and Alexandra Zarchy. These four young women, along with the brave Max Zarchy, our token teen male, joined me just a little over a month ago on a journey of empowerment, education, and speaking to power. As part of the 400 teen strong, second cohort of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism’s L’taken program, these teens spent a weekend descending upon our nation’s capital, learning about important issues such as Gun Control and Oversight Laws, Climate Change, Criminal Justice Reform, and Women’s Reproductive Rights, to just name a few.

Sir Frances Bacon said, “Knowledge is power,” and as the great philosopher, Ben Parker (Spiderman’s uncle, quoting Voltaire) once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Neither of these quotes were lost on these young women, following in Queen Esther’s footsteps to Capitol Hill. They and their colleagues, including Max and 17 teens from our partner, Congregation Or Ami, walked into their Congressional Representative’s offices and those of Senators Feinstein and Harris, and they raised their voices to power. They lobbied, presenting the issues, their own personal stories, and the Jewish context that guides them on these issues, finally asking their representatives to give heed to their voices and support important, specific legislation on their topics. I could not have been more proud.

Indeed, this month we will celebrate the victory of Queen Esther, Uncle Mordechai, and the Jews of Shushan, with a great party, costumes, and tomfoolery, but, as I read of Esther’s brave plea, I will not be able to help but think of her legacy, passed down to these young heroines of Temple Beth El. May these young women, and the young men and women who will no doubt share in this experience with me in coming years, always remember that their voices can, will, and must be the voices for change in our world.