Op-Ed Project

Bring your voice to the Jewish public square

Every week in synagogues around the world, Jews gather to make meaning from the five books of Moses, whose stories and lessons are dominated by men. The same goes for the Torah, Talmud, and Halacha. Several millenia of theology, history, and culture promote the image of men as stewards and speakers of Jewish wisdom.

Thousands of years later, the same image holds in the Jewish community and in larger society. Opinion pages of newspapers and online media are dominated 85% by men. The same goes for TED talks and other venues for “big ideas.”

Too often, women’s opinions are sidelined. Or women stand in the wings, waiting to be invited to the major debates of our time. What would happen if we called on all the available wisdom? Wouldn’t our community and our world be better off? Women account for more than 50% of the Jewish community, so we have an amazing opportunity to invest in their talents and benefit from their assets.

Leverage your expertise and make your voice heard

AWP’s partnership with the Op-Ed Project and Rabbis without Borders is moving women toward a tipping point in the Jewish public square. The Op-Ed Project, founded by Echoing Green Fellow Katie Orenstein, “increases the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world.”

Katie Orenstein teaches women to own and expand their scope of expertise. For example, as a trained folklorist and journalist, Katie’s specialty was the story of Little Red Riding Hood. While writing her first book, she stretched that expertise to include the global folklore of women and girls and from that vantage point, came to appreciate her unique grasp of feminist thought worldwide. Which led to a more sophisticated and successful book.

What is your area of expertise? And how can you go beyond the specifics to connect that circle to your other skills and gifts? Trainings by the Op-Ed Project will teach you the underlying theory around women’s expertise and why we are duty-bound to contribute our ideas and wisdom. You also will learn how to write a short, compelling opinion piece.

Take the leap – before you’re ready

You don’t need any training to take the first step. Consider this scenario. You’re at a meeting or conference where one man after another speaks while the women hang back, wondering if what they have to say is different or groundbreaking. Familiar? Be bold. Step up to the mike. Share a useful viewpoint or ask a question that moves the discussion along. Or encourage the woman colleague next to you, who always comes up with the best ideas – after the meeting.

Let’s say you feel strongly about an issue. Or you’re asked to join a panel of experts. Or invited to deliver a short speech. Do you say “No – not enough time to write that perfect thought piece? Not enough expertise to sit on the panel? Not enough knowledge to deliver that speech? Many women avoid submitting their work or taking their place on the dais until conditions are just right or the draft is completely polished. Don’t fall into this trap! Resist the pull of the perfect. Enlist a colleague to co-author an op-ed or help you prepare public remarks. Take the leap!

AWP and Rabbis without Borders host an annual op ed training for women leaders in Jewish life.  The next training is on April 11-12, 2016. Contact Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu at rsirbu@clal.org for more information.