In many ways, Judaism is a collective religion – one whose primary unit is not the individual, but rather the community. We need a minyan, a quorum of 10 people, before we pray. Many of our prayers are written in the first person plural “we,” rather than the singular “I.” Our narrative is one of the formation of a people – we are reminded every Passover to view ourselves as if we too were freed from slavery in Egypt.
Yet most people’s experience with religion is not necessarily communal, but rather personal. For many, religion is about belief, about faith, about God. About difficult times or moments of celebration – personal emotions.
What Judaism does – or has the potential to do – is unite the personal and the collective. It encourages us to rejoice with the happiness of a bride and groom. It commands us to support community members in mourning. It takes one person’s individual faith and contextualizes it within a broader group.
This framework is the idea behind the National Women’s Law Center’s new campaign “This is Personal.” With the tagline “Reproductive health decisions are personal. Keep them that way,” this effort helps bring to light the series of attacks on women’s choice and autonomy over their bodies taking place around the country. Like the RAC, “This is Personal” offers opportunities for people to write letters to the President or key legislators urging them to protect and respect a woman’s right and ability to make decisions about her own body and health. Yes, these issues are personal – and should remain that way. But it is the responsibility of the community to keep them that way, and to speak out on behalf of those who personal rights are being hindered.
Using our collective ideas to inform our personal decisions is not new to us as Jews. From issues ranging from domestic violence to abortion access for military women, we use our Jewish values to support our belief that women should be the ones making decisions about their bodies, and should not be constrained by legislative restrictions.
Click here to take action on this crucial issue!