Women of Valor

Early this morning, I received word that the IDF had recovered the body of Ron Sherman z’l who had been murdered by Hamas in captivity after being taken on October 7th. And last weekend, we heard that Eden Zacharia had been found, also killed after October 7th.

Now, I’ve followed as closely as anyone with sorrow as the toll from that terrible day, and the combat losses thereafter, have mounted. These two have a special heartbreak for me, as when I was in Israel last month with Federation board member Greg Karzhevsky, we met Ron’s mom and Eden’s family, and heard their stories. They were clinging to hope despite the odds, despite the clear savagery of their childrens’ captors, and despite the utter indifference of so many around the world to the fate of Eden and Ron, or the invasion that took them from their families.

Now, they have no hope left for themselves. But, as another mother of another hostage told me, “We’re going to be OK. It will take time, but we will get there. We are worried about YOU, in America. We are praying for your safety.”

These words of chizuk, of support and strength, came from a mother, with the perspective and inclination to protect, to lift spirits, to observe what’s needed and to give even when she has her own challenges to contend with.

This is the strength of the women of Israel, of the Jewish people.

The strength to lead - as the women of our board, committee and volunteers have led, especially these last two months.

The strength to fight - as female IDF soldiers did on October 7th, and since, methodically setting up defenses that saved hundreds, or leading a platoon of tanks directly into larger enemy units and saving entire communities.

The strength to see and warn - as the observation corps soldiers, mostly women, did ahead of October 7th, but were not heeded.

The strength to sustain each other - as so many strong women did in Gaza before they were released, like Rimon Kirsht as she stared down her captors, and as the captive children were sustained and fed and comforted by the women around them.

A good friend of mine, one of the most learned and insightful people I have ever met, Dr. Yardaena Osband, wrote this week about the women of Israel, and she sought a change which I echo here. It may be perhaps something that Israel can emulate from what our communities do in North America. The leader of Jewish Federations of North America (and now, in the wake of last week’s debacle in Congress, also the interim President at U Penn) is a woman. Our Federation president, our Community Relations Committee chair, our board secretary, all women. On Wednesday Federation’s renewed Women’s Philanthropy project, moved forward by lay leaders and staff, gathered at the home of Holocaust survivor Frieda Seidner, and heard inspiring words as we celebrated Chanukah. In Rockland, we are celebrating our women’s leadership.

My friend, Dr. Osband is a pediatrician, a scholar, a lecturer, blogger, podcaster (teaching daf yomi, daily talmud), a first responder, a synagogue founder and non profit leader. She stated that it would be appropriate and effective to have more than the voice of a single woman in the war cabinet pursuing this just offensive, and determining policy in what is to come - whether it is another campaign, a rebuilding effort, a way to sustain unity, or simply taking care of the hundreds of thousands of displaced Israelis. She is 100% right.

We need these voices. We need to be sustained, brought together, fiercely defended and never given up upon.

I draw inspiration from Jewish women, and I am grateful for their leadership.