Rosh Chodesh: Supporting gender equality

Jillian Potler
Jillian Potler (Sharon Fullerton Photography)

By Jillian Potler

Last week we celebrated Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the beginning of the Hebrew month of Tevet. One interesting fact about Rosh Chodesh is that  it is traditionally connected  to women.

A Jewish new month begins  when the new moon is spotted,  and one reason that Rosh Chodesh is connected to women is because the status of the moon is compared to the status of women. The Talmud shares a legend that the sun and the moon were originally created equal in size, but the moon protested, asking how they could both rule equally. God responded by making the moon smaller than the sun, and the Talmud sees this as representing how men had a higher status than women in society. During ancient times, women were seen as caretakers, not as workers, and this made them seem weaker and less capable than men.

Unfortunately, today women are still unequal to men in many ways. Women disproportionately face domestic violence, discrimination and unequal participation in America and around the world. Even in communities where women are making advances, they are still not fully equal. For example, women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an American lawyer and jurist, proved that women are capable of doing anything they put their minds to. However, according to  the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, women earned 82 cents to every dollar a man earned. Even after all these years, this shows that there is still work to be done to promote gender equality.

It is important to support companies that provide equality: paying the same salary and bonuses, and giving the same benefits to everyone no matter their gender. The more we support companies like this the more things will change. Other actions we can do to help promote gender equality include recognizing the unpaid work like household chores and childcare that women do more than men; not making comments or jokes that humiliate or demonize women; and being an advocate for women to be paid fair and equal wages.

We can even rethink the  Talmud’s idea that the moon’s small size represents women having a lower place in society. Size isn’t everything; after all, we celebrate Rosh  Chodesh when the moon is at its smallest. Maybe the tiny sliver of the moon on Rosh Chodesh should remind us to celebrate all the small steps women have had to take, and are still taking, to obtain an equal place in society.

Jillian Potler is an eighth grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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