On Women’s Leadership
I recently received a letter from Dr. Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. It was sent to faith leaders across the country to thank us for helping to protect communities from spreading Coronavirus at life cycle events and religious ceremonies, but also to ask us to provide our congregants with access to mental health resources. Dr. Tam writes: “Colder weather and more time spent indoors can also cause feelings of sadness, stress, confusion and worry. You and your organizations will continue to be critical in providing the mental health support your communities need. The website Canada.ca/coronavirus also has a wide range of immediate mental health resources and supports for Canadians, including the Wellness Together Canada portal.” I was moved by Dr. Tam’s letter and how she acknowledges the role that faith communities have to play in the spiritual-emotional-social health of Canadian citizens.
I usually shudder at sweeping generalization about gender roles, but the flurry of reports about women’s leadership during the pandemic have something to teach us. Women are disproportionately on the frontlines of health care and in the trenches of education. It seems that the nineteen countries led by women today are navigating the pandemic better than others. Forbes
describes these Prime Ministers and Presidents as having the capacity for “big-thinking, empathy, and good communications.” The New York Times
describes them as “risk-averse, caring, and thoughtful.” These attributes are not necessarily the winning combination for successful leadership in other settings, but it seems that against the backdrop of Coronavirus and its unique constellation of challenges, women are better protecting their people from economic and health crises.
Two Leading Jewish Women of Canada
This month launches two Jewish women, Yaara Saks and Annamie Paul, into political office. Saks, who earned a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy from Hebrew University, is the new MP from York Centre. I wonder if she is the first Israeli-Canadian to serve in parliament. She introduces herself and describes her Zionism in the Canadian Jewish Record.
Annamie Paul is the first woman of colour and the first Jewish woman to lead a political party in Canada. She is a human rights lawyer and former diplomat. When recently interviewed by the Jewish Independent, she was outspoken about anti-Semitism in the Green Party.
We wish Saks and Paul a Mazel Tov and much success in their service. I hope we’ll have a chance to welcome these Jewish Canadian leaders to Holy Blossom one day soon.
Two Leading Jewish Women in the Reform Movement
In the next two weeks, we will be blessed by the opportunity to learn from two leading figures of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Hara Person and Rabbi Professor Joan Friedman.
Rabbi Person is the Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). I am honoured to serve as a Vice President of the CCAR and to be able to observe Rabbi Person’s leadership up close. She has been a Rabbi to thousands of North American rabbis throughout these many months of stress and strain. Tomorrow morning she will give the sermon in celebration of our centenary as a Reform congregation. In 1920 Holy Blossom affiliated with the Reform Movement and welcomed its first CCAR Rabbi.
On November 14, we will welcome Rabbi Dr. Joan Friedman back to Holy Blossom. Many will remember her from when she served our congregation as the first woman rabbi in Canada. Rabbi Friedman now chairs the Reform Responsa Committee, as Rabbi Plaut z”l once did. In celebration of our “100 Years Reform,” she will walk us through a century of fascinating Reform responsa, which tells the tale of the dynamic tensions between tradition and modernity. The link and registration for this event will be coming soon!
This week’s parasha is a celebration of leadership. God commands Avram to “Go forth” to the place God would reveal to him. The command comes with a promise of progeny, land, and a great name, but also the promise to make of him a blessing for all the families of the earth. So may it be for every woman and man who takes on the mantel of leadership, whether it be for this good country or for the Jewish People. Shabbat Shalom.