For decades, the Reform Movement has advocated for women’s full and equal participation in society. As the first Jewish movement in America to ordain female clergy, we know that women’s equality is necessary to create a world where all people are treated with respect and dignity. Despite years of progress toward gender equity, women still face systemic barriers to full equality. On average, American women currently make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men and are routinely and systematically denied agency over their own bodies. One in three American women and one in two Canadian women report physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, and the #MeToo movement has underscored that the Jewish community is not immune to the pervasive nature of sexual harassment.
Why Jews Should Care
Our advocacy around women’s equality is based in the Jewish value of kavod ha’briyot, respect for human dignity.
The value of kavod ha’briyot is core to our advocacy around gender pay equity. Valuing a person’s work by paying them a fair and equal wage demonstrates a respect for their inherent dignity. In a society that places so much emphasis on the idea that hard work leads to success, paying women less than their male counterparts signals that their work is worth less, and, as a result, that they are worth less. This understanding is accurately conveyed in the Talmud, which states,
“One who withholds the wages of a hired laborer, it is as though they take their soul from them" (Baba Metzia 112a)
The Mishnah teaches us that violence against another human has repercussions far greater than the act itself: one who injures another person is liable on five counts and responsible for paying for five factors: for the injury itself, for pain, for healing, for loss of time, and for embarrassment (Bava Kamma 8:1). This multidimensional understanding of personal injury can be applied to addressing the insidious and pervasive nature of physical and sexual violence, which we know most disproportionately impacts women and girls.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is the United States' most comprehensive resource for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. VAWA is up for reauthorization every five years, however, Congress failed to reauthorize VAWA in 2019. Each reauthorization provides a new opportunity to enhance these safeguards and ensure all survivors of gender-based violence have access to the resources and protections they need.
American women today make, on average, 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. This disparity is even worse for women of color: African American women make 62 cents for every dollar earned by their white, male counterparts, Native women make 57 cents, and Latina women make 54 cents. The Paycheck Fairness Act would deter pay discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages.
Gender-based violence is violence that is directed at an individual based on their sex or gender identity. Gender-based violence is rooted in unjust power relations, structures, and social and cultural norms, and as a result, worldwide, women are disproportionately harmed by gender-based violence.
The Reform Movement's positions on reproductive rights are grounded in the core belief that each person should have agency and autonomy over their own bodies. Our advocacy around abortion access is inspired by the Jewish value of kavod ha’briyot, respect for individual dignity.
On average, American women currently make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. This disparity is even worse for women of color: African American women make 62 cents for every dollar earned by their white, male counterparts, Native women make 57 cents, and Latina women make 54 cents.
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Engage Your COngregation
Every April, we can raise awareness about sexual assault in our communities, educate ourselves on preventing and responding to cases, and advocate for survivors’ rights. Explore this toolkit, which provides programming ideas and advocacy tips and resources.
What Our Partners Are Doing
- The RAC is partnering with Women of Reform Judaism on the Reform Movement’s Reproductive Justice Campaign, a platform that provides an organizing structure for congregations, women's groups, and other communities to take collective action for reproductive justice.
- The Reform Pay Equity Initiative is coordinated by Women of Reform Judaism and the Women’s Rabbinic Network, with participation from all arms of the Reform Movement.
- The URJ and WRJ are members of the Interfaith Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, made up of diverse national faith organizations that come together to advocate for national legislation and public policies that protect all people from domestic and sexual violence.