Ally Is A Verb

By Rachel Gildiner, Haley Schreier, and Tilly Shames

In our work towards achieving greater gender equity in our Jewish communal and work spaces, we have found tremendous meaning and encouragement from the voices of allies seeking to understand and support women’s experiences. This includes male allies seeking to share power and deepen equity with women, and also applies to white women seeking to share power and deepen equity with women of color. These allies see that something is wrong in the spaces in which we work and gather, and want to commit themselves to be a part of the solution forward. They recognize women’s anger and hurt, they see the inequities and injustices in our community, and they seek out opportunities to say, “how can I show up?,” asking:

I noticed a woman was interrupted in the last meeting and I didn’t know what to say. How can I be a better ally in the next meeting?”

I was just asked to recommend candidates for a position. Do you know of any women who might be interested that I can add to my list?”

I realized the text study I’m writing only includes male sources. Do you have any recommendations on women who have written about this topic?”

Finding allies – whether in the boardroom or on the bimah – can make all the difference in turning a disrespectful, harassing, or even abusive situation into one that feels seen, recognized, and addressable.

In response, we are calling men in to live their allyhood as a verb by committing to, sharing, and living out the pledges that first emerged in the The Week That All Jewish Women Turned Invisible article. Live The Pledge is a new website to help allies actively engage in this comprehensive list of actions. With input from male allies and focus groups, these pledges have been expanded to bring them to life as part of our ongoing commitment to achieving greater gender equity in our Jewish communal workspaces.

Through, we are asking all allies to:

1. Live the pledge. Allyship is a verb, not just signing onto a list. Your everyday actions will show everyone around you that you are an ally that they can come to for support. So please post the commitments and also strive to live them.

2. Visit the websiteand join the social media platforms. Use these social media spaces to share stories of allyhood you’ve experienced or witnessed, and to ask for action from allies who have committed to these pledges. Return to these spaces often to see new acts of allyhood you can take in your workplaces and help guide others through this process. Live the Pledge will be a resource where we can be in relationship with one another to ask these questions and be clear about the kinds of supports that are needed in our Jewish communal and work spaces.

3. Post this comprehensive list of actions publicly – through social media, on your office door, in your lunch room, at your Shabbat table. Even buy a mug to display on your desk.

You may be wondering why we are doing this as a side project to our full-time work and busy lives. Or you may be asking why we as women have to take on the (additional) emotional labor required to educate others about equity and inclusion. It’s because we believe it is only through putting the labor in now, that we will be able to develop a strong cohort of allies who can then turn to one another to share and model how to show up for women.

We hear in our male colleagues’ responses to #metoo and in Respectful Workplace trainings, their desire to be good actors and their fear and trepidation around doing or saying something wrong. “What if I point out something that I saw and women roll their eyes at me for not seeing it until now?” They are afraid of being “that guy” who “mansplains” gender inequities to women who are experiencing those inequities. We also hear remorse from men, for past wrongdoings, and a rising consciousness that they were not always the strongest allies to women in the room.

We know that this work is hard, confusing, and even scary, for all of us. Women too are asking themselves questions of when to speak up and whether they have done enough to lift up other women. We have all been guilty of disrespectful behavior. And we can all reach out to the people who we have wronged to say that we are learning and that we are sorry for our actions.

What is clear to us is that many allies are generally willing and want to understand how to show up but often don’t know how. Many are afraid to start until they have all the answers. To this we say, none of us have all the answers and we do not expect you to do this alone. By asking for and offering support, we can all strive to be good leaders, good colleagues, and good allies uplifting this work in our community. Without being in conversation with each other, we as women will grow angrier that nothing is changing, and allies will grow more confused and removed from the cause. Live the Pledge is one of the ways we can come together to deepen our understanding and learn how to be stronger allies in support of one another.

Live the Pledge will be a space where we will all learn from each other. Women will be able to access a new forum to build power and seek support. Men will see concrete actions to take to address gender inequity in their workplaces. And we will all build community with Jewish women of color and listen to their narratives to better address the inequities they experience. We hope that by being in relationship with one another through this online community, we will all be better prepared to answer the question, “how do I show up?”

We hope that you will join us in this Live the Pledge community for allyhood. We welcome your questions, your stories, and your requests for action.