Last week, I spoke at Hadassah’s annual conference. Hundreds of women assembled to listen to three people: Michael Rukin (community activist and leader); Abi Auer (a Christian woman who raises her children as Jews and an alumna of The Mothers Circle program) and me. While large crowds can be intimidating for anyone, Michael and I are used to speaking to groups of Jewish people. And although our message might be somewhat controversial (though these women were very supportive), it is not an unfamiliar context for us.
As Abi spoke, and mesmerized the audience with her every word, I wondered what it was like for her to speak before such an audience. And based on the number of people who rushed to the microphone to ask her questions or tried to get close to her following our presentations, I imagine that the women assembled in the audience seldom get a chance to ask honest, penetrating questions of women who have married Jewish men and have decided to raise their children as Jews. And here she was, a Catholic woman from Minnesota, now living in Atlanta, teaching 1,000 Hadassah women about some of the ins and outs of raising Jewish children.
I couldn’t help but wish she could be so well-received in the many different communities represented by the assembled women. If only she and women like her were made to feel so welcome by the other institutions with which these women are affiliated, perhaps we could actually become the inclusive Jewish community we are working towards. Abi Auer is a hero. And the Hadassah women who came to listen knew it—that is why they gave her a standing ovation.