Noah Levy, Mazkir 2016-17, looks at the link between IWD and Purim.
Yesterday, across the world we commemorated International Women’s Day, and on Motzei Shabbat, we welcome in the festival of Purim. Both International Women’s Day and Purim look at the oppressed, becoming empowered, to thrive. International Women’s Day seeks to bridge gender inequality for a more inclusive society, through empowering women to breach societal norms. It was first observed in 1908 by 15,000 women marching through NYC to demand shorter hours, better pay and voting rights (for more information, check out the website – https://www.internationalwomensday.com/). But actually, the principles of IWD can be seen far before this, just read the Torah! There are plenty of examples of heroism and activism from female Jewish leaders such as Miriam and Sarah, and of course Queen Esther in the Purim story, who all proudly stood for the liberation of the oppressed.
You all know the story, Queen Vashti was banished by King Achashverosh because she didn’t want to ‘dance’ for him at the banquet. So King Achashverosh seeks a new Queen, enter Esther. Even though Vashti is dislike by many of the commentators for a variety of reasons, her act of refusing to obey the decree of her husband, the King, is something to be admired and learnt from. So, Queen Esther enters the story, the cousin of Mordechai a leading Jewish figure. Esther keeps her Jewish identity pretty quiet, until Haman (boo) signed a decree to eradicate the Jewish people. This is when Queen Esther took a stand, led the rebellion and in doing so, she essentially saved the Jewish people.
The message of International Women’s Day is important, we should look up to, follow, and become the leaders who seek to create a more inclusive and equal society, something I see of our members, every day. As Jewish people, we should be proud that some of the earliest documentations of women standing up against oppression, and standing up for their religion is recited in synagogues around the world, on a day that many view as the holiest Jewish festival. So when you’re hearing the Megilla on Motzei Shabbat and on Sunday morning, don’t just BOO Haman, but let’s also cheer, and celebrate our Jewish Queens.