Some key numbers and facts to set the context:
-93% of American Jews believe that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances.
-That number includes 95% of Jewish Democrats and 77% of Jewish Republicans.
-Jews are the only religious group in America where a plurality agree that abortion should be legal in all cases.
-Abortion was not considered murder in the ancient Jewish tradition, and was in fact in required if the pregnancy would pose a risk to the woman.
In case you were living under a rock this past summer while the Iran debate was going on, Jews in America disagree on a lot of things. We even joke, "ask two Jews, get three opinions." But on this issue, there is a very clear consensus--American Jews are pro-choice.
So why did the Gordon Jewish Community Center in Nashville bow to extremist pressure and prevent Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee from holding their fundraiser there?
Here's the story:
Planned Parenthood of Middle & East Tennessee had agreed to rent space from the center for an Oct. 1 cocktail party fundraiser called Amuse-Bouche, which is French for "entertaining the mouth." The event includes a long list of prominent Nashvillians as either patrons or hosts, including Nashville Mayor-elect Megan Barry and her husband.
But Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle & East Tennessee, confirmed to The Tennessean that the Jewish Community Center informed him last week that it would not rent space as originally planned. Instead, Planned Parenthood has now found a different location for the fundraiser. The group has opted not to publicize the new venue.
Teague said community center officials told Planned Parenthood that several Catholic members of the Jewish Community Center had started to pressure the center to cancel the rental contract for the fundraiser.
"We're disappointed that they pulled out on such short notice," Teague said. "A huge number of our major donors are members of the JCC. They're very upset, obviously, that the community center did that with such short notice. We're disappointed that they didn't take a stronger stance. Basically, they've caved to a bunch of bullies."
I'm going to take a wild guess and say that they were likely also aware of plans by the whackjobs to protest the event
While I can understand wanting to be sensitive to the views of some of your members--this is a JEWISH center. That it accepts members of all religions (the JCC happens to be near one of the largest Catholic churches and schools in Nashville, which is why it has enough Catholic members to be significant) is immaterial. My family also belonged to the YMCA when I was a kid, but I'm guessing if I had protested them holding events that violated my beliefs (like making us start every Youth in Government event by praying to Jesus), I would have been told to go elsewhere. Only rightwing Christians believe they are oppressed by being asked to acknowledge that other religions exist.
This hurts because I effectively grew up in the Gordon Jewish Community Center (or just The J when I was a kid). It was a second home. I went to preschool there. I went to summer camp there. My BBYO chapter and my Girl Scout troop met there. It was my gym and my pool. And in a city that, even as it grows more progressive, is still known for its people being strongly and publicly religious, it was a refuge from the constant reminder that as Jews we were "different."
So if they're not going to stand for the beliefs of the Jewish community, then what the hell is the point?
I don't just identify as a feminist. I consider my legacy to be that of the Jewish feminists who have been on the forefront of the feminist and reproductive justice movement for decades.
For my Hebrew school confirmation when I was 16, I listed Emma Goldman as my Jewish hero--not just because as a punk kid I fancied myself an anarchist rabble-rouser too, but because she wasn't afraid to get arrested for distributing contraception at a time when no one discussed that openly.
My feminist legacy is that of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the unapologetically radical Jewish immigrant women who dared to demand to be treated as human beings. My legacy is that of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would not accept anything less than full equality. Perhaps the Jewish feminist tradition comes from the intersection of a history being treated as the "other" and a culture that encourages argument and debate, but that's the history I embrace.
American Jews are pro-choice. Jewish women have led the fight to make sure that choice means something. To bow to pressure from extremist liars who would let women die before they'd let them have full rights dishonors that history.
Don't let them get away with this. Join me in donating to Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee.