Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Woman's Plagues

Born in Lodz, Poland, Shlomo Katz immigrated to Palestine when he was just 8 years old. Educated in Kibbutz Mishmar Ha`emek, his talent for drawing was apparent from the very beginning. As a young man he went to Paris where he studied art at the Ecole de Beaux Arts. While numerous exhibitions in the US and Canada in the early 70s introduced his work of different periods, Katz developed an original technique of oil painting on a gilded metal surface. The result recalls medieval icons on the one hand, and oriental miniatures on the other. However, these ancient resources combine to form a totally modern image with a light humorous touch and a noble character. These runners take Katz's designs and combine them with the art of rugmaking. Each is signed and numbered.

Those were the plagues God sent to the Egyptians, horrors that were part of our liberation. Today, we see ourselves as God's partners, not in the punishment of other people, but as agents for redeeming the world.

We therefore look around with open eyes at the plagues that enslave us. They need to be identified and confronted. We name these plagues of today:


The dying hopes and reams of women struggling with infertility and miscarriage.


The uncontrollable leaping rate of violence against women: rape, domestic violence, muggings and more.


The negative stereotypes which cause Jewish women to feel shameful or dirty or degraded.


The hunger and poverty that eats away like a beast at the most vulnerable women, especially single mothers, the elderly and children.


The distorted body images that hurt us physically or psychologically, with effects ranging from low self-esteem to the scourge of eating disorders.


The conscious or unconscious sexism that rises to the surface even in Jewish liturgy and communal life.


The continued attempts to limit our control of our reproductive rights, forcing women to have illegal abortions or carry out pregnancies that should have been ended.


The men who feed their egos by oppressing their wives - twisting Jewish law and misusing it by refusing to grant divorces to these "chained" women known as agunot.


The blind eye that does not see women as equal and valuable, leading to sexual harassment, glass ceilings, lack of equal pay, disrespect for aging women, and more.


The pervasive presence of diseases like breast cancer and AIDS, which threaten to take more of our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends.

May this year bring each of us the opportunity to fight these plagues and others, that we may help bring redemption to God's world.

From Lichvod Pesach: A Women's Community Seder Haggadah by Sylvia Schatz, Avi Z. Rosenzweig, Sherry Hahn, Rabbi Debra R. Hachen, Gloria Z. Greenfield, Temple Emunah, Lexington, MA, April 9, 2000.

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