By Larisa Klebe
If you work with teens in any number of settings (religious school, day school, youth group, Rosh Hodesh groups, etc…), you know that for many of them, the #MeToo movement is at the forefront of their minds. While teens haven’t yet reached adulthood, these issues affect them, and are important to them. Although it’s not our primary role as educators to provide counseling for teens who may be struggling with their own #MeToo experiences, we can play a part in helping them navigate this complex and multi-faceted conversation, and in a Jewish context.
The Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) is committed to amplifying the stories and voices of Jewish women, throughout history and now. The #MeToo movement shows us, now more than ever, how critical it is that women’s voices are heard. By addressing #MeToo with teens, and doing so in a way that puts women’s voices at the forefront, you can be part of breaking the silence around sexual harassment and sexual assault.
JWA has a number of materials that you can incorporate into your discussions with teens about the #MeToo movement. From foundational materials that explore concepts like Jewish women’s involvement in the feminist movement and the relationship between women and midrash, to a video interview with consent expert Jaclyn Friedman, to blog posts relating the #MeToo movement to Torah text, JWA can help you hold this conversation in a Jewish feminist context, and from a uniquely Jewish perspective.
Building a Strong Foundation
At its core, the #MeToo movement is about equality for women, and about ensuring that women’s voices and stories are heard, not silenced. The following resources can help your students better understand the history and context for the #MeToo movement, and provide a Jewishly grounded foundation for #MeToo discussions.
Collection: The Feminist Revolution
As activists, professionals, artists, and intellectuals, Jewish feminists have shaped every aspect of American life. Drawing on the insights of feminism, they have also transformed the Jewish community. In this online exhibit, you will discover the powerful contributions of Jewish feminists through their own words and historical artifacts.
Lesson Plan: What Does It Mean to be a Jewish Feminist?
In this lesson, students explore ways in which Jewish women and men define feminism in the context of their own religious identity and practice.
Lesson Plan: Lilith Evolved: Writing Midrash
In this educational guide, we explore the notion of midrash and highlight “The Coming of Lilith” by theologian Judith Plaskow as an example of how contemporary Jewish feminists have created their own midrashim – retellings of biblical stories – in order to incorporate women’s viewpoints into the traditional texts of Judaism.
Blog Post: What We Need from Jewish Male Feminists
Author and JWA Blog Manager Bella Book outlines what men can do to educate themselves about feminism, and productively engage in the feminist conversation.
The following links provide a few different perspectives on the #MeToo movement, and approach it from various angles.
The authors of these two pieces are current high school students, and participants in JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship. In their respective blog posts, they draw connections between the #MeToo movement and the Torah, and emphasize the importance of recognizing Judaism’s patriarchal roots, and of paying attention to who gets to share their stories, and who doesn’t.
Jaclyn Friedman has been researching and radicalizing the way our culture understands sex, pleasure, and women’s empowerment since she was an anti-rape activist in college. Now, Friedman is one of the most powerful voices in the conversation on how we can live authentic sexual lives while existing in our country’s screwed up sexual culture. In this video, JWA Executive Director Judith Rosenbaum interviews Friedman about her latest book, and about her activism.
Blog post: To Men Questioning #MeToo
Rabbi Sarah Mulhern reflects on men’s responses to her #MeToo post, and outlines the harmful messages and assumptions inherent in asking women to go into more detail about their experiences, and to explain what definition of “sexual assault” they’re using.
Larisa Klebe is the Associate Director of Programs and Education at the Jewish Women’s Archive.
To help ensure that this historical movement remains grounded in the voices that sparked it, JWA is creating a #MeToo archive on jwa.org. We want to ensure that women’s stories are not erased or forgotten when it comes time to write the history of this watershed moment. Add your experience to this communal narrative today.
Crossposted on JWA’s blog.