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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

November 6, 2015  RSS feed
Federation

Text: T T T

The Notorious E.R.S.

Emilie Socash
Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties

A few weeks back, I was on the other end of a phone call with a woman who was clearly cut from a different cloth than me. I was on the receiving end of a full attempt to build familiarity through our mutual contempt of men, agreement on the scourge that their dominance has had over any female progress in the Jewish community, and desire to emit a virtual bra-burning battle cry.

But here’s the rub: her experience isn’t my experience.

The caller’s opening commentary of congratulations on becoming a female executive director in the Federation system, which naturally “crushes women” per this caller, did little to build a bridge between us as women. The caller was a New Jersey agent for a Jewish woman on the speaker’s circuit who wanted me to consider bringing her client to our area. Her tactic of uniting against a shared enemy just didn’t work for me, and I politely declined.

Sometimes, as women, we are our own worst enemies. We have generational gaps: between this woman (who came from an era when women in the workplace had to earn their status by behaving and performing like men) and me (who exists in an era that values “EQ” [Emotional Intelligence] and soft skills and flexible work arrangements). We have “Mommy Wars” that pit stay-at-home against working moms, moms who breastfeed against bottle-feeders, and moms who are free-range against attached moms.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, suggested leaning in, in which women stay connected with work even while raising a family. An oppositional “step back” movement emerged, promoting the “it’s ok to put everything on hold for your newborn” notion. Feminism in the 1980s was marked by shoulder pads and tough talk. Feminism today is marked by the parody video, “Bitch in Business.”

All the same coin, just a constant flipping between its two sides.

As the parent of two girls, it’s interesting to watch their lack of context when it comes to gender issues. Last year, one told me she was surprised that there were “so many” boys in her advanced math class (there were 4, out of a class of 18), because “you just don’t see that many boys who are good at math.” This year, when a well-meaning family member told her that she should stick with her science interests because “it’s so cool to see girls doing science,” she gave a withering glance as if the comment made about as much sense as saying we need more left-handed nurses.

Our tradition gives us a roadmap of strong Jewish women who have shaped our history and saved our people, side-by-side with their male counterparts. Today, we continue that tradition, and I can’t help but find similarities between the women of our history and the women who are making history in Jewish Pinellas and Pasco today.

For example, Sally Laufer, with Jody Sherman by her side, spoke up this year to bring back the popular Main Event, graciously volunteering to be the event’s co-chairs. If you’re not familiar with this event, it’s a Federation Women’s Philanthropy event that brings together women from across the community in celebration of the power of women, and the unique challenges we face. (Mark your calendar: this year’s event is on Dec. 1 and will feature a “Jeans and Genes” theme with a special guest from Sharsheret!)

Or Becca Tieder, who we are honored to have as our Women’s Philanthropy program chair, and who happens to also be a nationally known speaker and expert on consent culture, sexual health, and teaching our children, teens, and young adults about these important issues. Becca is a champion who just spoke at Temple B’nai Israel, and offers a refreshing and useful takeaway.

Or our gaggle of women who are so committed to reenergizing our Women’s Philanthropy leadership structure, who don’t hesitate to speak up and step up, including our Lion of Judah Chair Deena Silver, Women’s Philanthropy Chair Toni Rinde, and many others.

Or all of the women who we honor at the Women of Distinction program. (Mark your calendar: we’ll see you and a few dozen of the community’s leading ladies on March 20!)

With the release of the book, The Notorious R.B.G, in October, I have to admit I’m a bit envious of this tagline. (Quick backstory: a few years ago, a witty Tumblr was created under the same moniker, and when one of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s law clerk’s brought it to her attention, she was delighted. After hearing that it’s a play on “The Notorious B.I.G.,” a 300-lb raunchy rapper’s nickname, she was even more tickled.) We often think of her notoriety in coming from her rulings and her commentary, which have often gone against the grain and have been surprisingly loud. But the biography also details other forms of notoriety: her parasailing, whitewater rafting, riding an elephant with Justice Scalia in India.

What makes me so eager to read this book is a comment one of the book’s authors gave in an NPR interview: “She’s been underestimated her whole life … [as] not radical enough, not liberal enough, too female, and too much a mother ... I think a lot of young women know what it’s like to be underestimated in that way, and they’re inspired by the fact that she ... has so much integrity in who she is.”

Perhaps this is where the varying points of “girl power” converge: integrity. Perhaps all of us – as women – learn to speak our truth in time. The New Jersey agent’s truth was hers to own, but doesn’t have to be mine, or Sheryl Sandberg’s, or yours. Yet all of us, as women and men, can draw inspiration from these multiple points of authenticity.

And someday, perhaps, you’ll hear about “The Notorious E.R.S.”

Liked it? Loathed it? Want to react? I would welcome your feedback and can be reached at emilie@jewishpinellas.org.


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