Guest column by Rachel Wasserman
During the High Holidays, the sound of the shofar echoes throughout the walls of our synagogues and temples, reminding us to wake up, to take an account of our actions and to commit to being better in the year ahead.
For us as individuals, this might mean being more patient with our children, being more generous with our volunteer time, or committing to be less judgmental and more loving. For us as a greater Jewish community, there is also much for us to wake up to, to take an account of and to commit to improving.
We must wake up to the fact that there are women (agunot) in our community, both locally and around the world, who are trapped in marriages by husbands who will not grant their wives a legal Jewish divorce. As a community, we must acknowledge that this is a form of abuse and commit to supporting these women and prevent future agunot through education and advocacy.
We must wake up to the fact that women working full time in Georgia earn, on average, 70 cents for every dollar men earn. The gender wage gap is even wider once part-time workers are considered. As a community of organizational and business leaders, we must take an account of our own institutions and commit to eliminating the gender wage gap by compensating equal work with equal pay.
We must wake up to the fact that nearly one in five undergraduate women will experience attempted or completed sexual assault before graduation, and we must understand that our Jewish daughters and granddaughters are not immune. We must commit to preventing sexual assault by educating our sons and daughters about healthy relationships and by encouraging them to be active bystanders if they witness a potential crime happening.
We must wake up to the fact that many of Atlanta’s Jewish institutions are still not offering paid parental leave, thereby limiting the economic and career possibilities of their employees. We must commit to investing in the people who run our congregations, teach our children and plan the programs we love to attend by providing supportive work environments where they can care for elderly parents, sick spouses or new babies without having to take unpaid time off.
To address these issues, as well as the myriad issues affecting Jewish women and girls, we must talk about these problems in our community and acknowledge that they exist. Then we must commit to eliminating them by working together.
At Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, over 100 local female philanthropists are pooling their time, treasure and talent to facilitate social change for Jewish women and girls with strategic grant-making, education and advocacy through a gender lens. We operate as a giving circle, where women work collaboratively to effect change in the areas of economic empowerment, girls and youth, leadership development, violence against women, legal security, and educational advancement.
In our first four years, we have granted nearly $350,000 to secure a safe, healthy and equitable future that is full of possibility. No other organization is as exclusively and passionately dedicated to the advancement of Jewish women and girls in Atlanta and around the world.
This Rosh Hashanah, as the shofar reminds us to wake up, take an account and commit to change, please join Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta by investing in our community’s girls and women. You can learn more by visiting our new website at www.jwfatlanta.org or by reaching out to me directly at 678-222-3716.
L’shana tova u’metuka.
Rachel Wasserman is the executive director of the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta.