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NATIONAL PARENTS' DAY FORUM: Lessons from a Jewish feminist family

July 28, 2009 posted by Julie and Scott Zeilinger*

My family’s feminism is rooted deeply in our Jewish heritage. As Jews, my family has been used to being misunderstood and the victims of prejudice. The adversity my family has had to deal with in the past as minorities in the face of ignorance has made us sensitive to the power dynamics that exist in certain circles of society. In order to cope with such ignorance, my family along with many other Jews ingrained a philosophy of independence into our culture. My family, both generations past and present, believe that one must create justice where none exists.

My parents raised me to be empathetic, and to value learning about my own culture along with the cultures of others. They taught me that in order to heal the world you must add peace. They taught me that just because somebody hates you because they don’t understand you doesn’t mean you have the right to hate them – it just gives you an opportunity to teach them. And they also taught me that nobody is going to fight your battles for you.

Truly, for my family, feminism was a natural extension of our Jewish-based beliefs. Just like women, Jews have a long history of adversity. Just like women, Jews have had to face cultures ignorant to any sense of justice or equality. Just like women, Jews have had to learn to become increasingly independent, and have had to learn how to fight for their rights.  As a Jewish family, feminism just made sense, and fit into all the other lessons my parents taught me.

Feminism was seamlessly integrated into the way I was raised. The history of my family only helped them to further understand why the fight for equality is necessary. We understand why we need equality because our history is based in being unequal to those around us.

I don’t remember my parents really using the word “feminism” very often, or telling me they were feminists or that I should be a feminist. It was much more basic than that, much more understood. There was no need to reiterate the fact because it didn’t need to be proven. Of course we are feminists. How could we not be?

*Julie Zeilinger is the founder and editor of the fbomb, a blog for teenage feminists. Scott Zeilinger is her proud feminist father.

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