Traditionally Jews worldwide have shared mishloah manot, little packages of sweets and treats, with their loved ones and friends for Purim. What would the equivalent be for our digital age? Rebecca Katz of Repair the World, a US based organization, asked this very question, and in a brainstorming session with Mikki Pugh from the Jewish Women’s Archive and me from the Jewish Multiracial Network, the #ShareHerStory campaign was born.
The premise is simple. Think about it: how did the Purim story of a young woman of colour from an exiled people living in modern-day Iraq end up being remembered globally for millenia? Despite that fact that women have always contributed significantly to Judaism, the stories of women, and especially women of colour, are often lost to history. Someone, somewhere, kept Esther’s story going, passing it along from generation to generation.
It takes love and dedication to keep women’s legacies alive. In the spirit of Esther, the #ShareHerStory campaign spreads the legacies of exceptional modern marginalised Jewish women of colour, including Mizrahi and Sephardi women, whose efforts to strengthen the Jewish community deserve to be celebrated, emulated, and remembered.
Digital ‘cards’ illustrated by Shannon Wright can be passed from friend to friend via Social Media to sweeten their day, like little mishloach manot. Nine women form the 2018 cohort: April Baskin, Vice-president in the largest US Jewish denomination; Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, senior rabbi of one of most prominent congregations in New York City; Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses, the first woman rabbi from the Syrian Jewish community; Dr. Carolina Herron, author of the award-winning children’s book, Nappy Hair; Ilana Kaufman, expert community organiser in Oakland, CA; Loolwa Khazzoum, creator of the first multicultural Jewish curriculum; Yavilah McCoy, pioneer in promoting equity for Jews of colour; Rabbi Alyssa Stanton, the first African-American Rabbi to be ordained by a mainstream denomination; and Rachel Sumekh, founder of a nationwide initiative to end hunger on college campuses.
But the #ShareHerStory initiative merely begins with them; the power of the campaign continues with you. At the end of each card is a way for you to share the stories of the unsung Jewish heroines in your life through the Jewish Women’s Archive whose deeds, like Esther, deserve their place in history. You are as critical to this initiative as the ones who created Esther’s legacy, millenia ago. Be part of history this Purim. #ShareHerStory wide and far.
Tamara Fish is the president of the Jewish Multiracial Network. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and invites Jews of colour to attend the 19th Annual JMN retreat this June 15-17 in New York.