A Woman’s Place: Faith-Based Changemakers

On April 2, over 300 people packed the beautiful sanctuary of Congregation Dorshei Emet to listen to and learn from five extraordinary Canadian women who use their faith and religion as a platform for working towards social justice, equality and equal rights both within their communities and beyond.

While we knew that by putting these five women together on one stage could only result in a fascinating discussion, they individually and collectively exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Moderated by Mountain Lake PBS’s own Thom Hallock, they took us through their personal journeys, all full of challenges and obstacles. With passion and humour, the audience discovered the many ways women can be religious and leaders, and that the fact that these have traditionally been mutually exclusive must be a thing of the past.

In their own way, each of the panelists spoke of the importance of including women as equal partners at the decision making table, and how we have a ways to go to ensure that this becomes second nature.  “We do better when half our population is not consigned to the kitchen”, said Rabbi Dr. Lisa Grushcow.

All these women have a keen and passionate sense of social justice, and it was truly fascinating to hear how their paths towards being changemakers were both different and similar.  Dr. Catherine Richardson’s Métis heritage meant that she grew up seeing and experiencing discrimination on a daily basis.  “The worst thing about racism is that people are talking about your mother”.  Dr. Norma Joseph’s fight to help Jewish women seeking a divorce began when she realized that these women were not theoretical individuals in a research paper, and that “…Judaism doesn’t live somewhere up on a cloud”.

So how do the rest of us get from here to there?  Dr. Alaa Murabit explained how her religion taught her compassion and the importance of women playing an equal part in decision making.  Most important, Islam taught her that as a Muslim, she has a responsibility to act – not just within the mosque or within her community, but everywhere and all the time. “You can be a strong Christian, Jewish or Muslim woman – but you don’t have to necessarily be that only in your temple or mosque.  You can be that in front of the world.  And that can be what you teach the world about your faith”.

In the end, as Martin Luther King said, ‘the arc of the universe bends towards justice’.  However, it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that the arc bends in that direction.  Humans sometimes want it to veer in a different direction.  We need to work together to ensure that justice prevails.  As Rev. Diane Rollert pointed out: “We make assumptions about the other when we really don’t know the other.  [We must] speak out about intolerance in any form.”

Dr. Norma Joseph concluded with the following thought about Judaism, which clearly can be said about religion as understood by all the panelists: “I truly believe that Judaism has to be a place of tzedek tzedek tirdof, of justice, passionately pursued by everybody, for everybody, for Jews, for non-Jews, for everybody”.

All the panelists’ talks are available on the Mountain Lake PBS website

Watch A Woman’s Place panelists

In partnership with Congregation Dorshei EmetThanks to our sponsors:
Gold: Totem Accoustic; iSappori Catering; The Azrieli Foundation; Casa D’Italia
Bronze: RBC Dominion Securities and the Brian Bronfman Family Foundation