Modern Day Esthers, Revisited

Last year, I posted an email I sent to OWU Hillel encouraging discussion of modern day Esthers.  Who are the women standing up to injustices in our world today?  Who are the women risking their reputations and even their lives to right the wrongs?  Preparing to write about Purim this year, I typed “Modern Day Esther” into my Google search bar.  Before you read on, try it.


Jan Lievens, The Feast of Esther, circa 1625–26, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 in., North Carolina Museum of Art

Surprised by what you found?  I was.  Somehow, I completely missed the Sarah Palin-Esther connection.  Beauty queen turned relgiously-motivated political leader.  Enough said, right?  I guess I never did this search last year since all the links are pretty much old news…

K. Bonami

The New York Times wrote about the connection shortly after Palin hit the national scene.  Apparently, after taking office as Governor of Alaska, Palin consulted her childhood pastor for advice.  “’She asked for a biblical example of people who were great leaders and what was the secret of their leadership,’ Mr. Riley said.”   The Times reported that Riley recommended she consult the story of Queen Esther.  As the picture above suggests, she took his advice.  Though some might argue the causes she champions.

So, before I go off on a political rant that would not necessarily become my role as Chaplain, I’ll let you all consider who might challenge Palin in the Battle of the Esthers?  Who are the Modern Day Esthers that inspire you?  Post your nominations as comments and let the Purim carnival games begin!

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2 Responses to “Modern Day Esthers, Revisited”

  1. Joseph Waldman Says:

    It’s a modest contribution here, but something I’ve always liked. After Daniel Pearl was killed, his family foundation put out a book entitled “I Am Jewish” (from his sadly famous final words), with a bunch of little reminiscences/testimonials from well-known Jews about just what being Jewish meant to them. Out of all of ’em, Sarah Silverman’s spoke the most to me. It was short, simple, and powerful:

    “Remember the guy who smashed all the idols in the idol store? His mother had a heart attack when she saw the mess, but I’m sure she bragged about it later. That’s us. That’s me. I am Jewish.”

    Terrorizing Terah may be Talmudic rather than Torah, but for me, that’s the essence of my Jewishness.

  2. owujew Says:

    A recommendation from Ruth Messinger, American Jewish World Service.

    From an email (2/26):

    “Purim is an iconic tale of how the powerless become powerful; a story of how one woman changes her people’s destiny with an act of courage.

    In the developing world, women are regularly the force behind bold communal change. Increasingly it is women who speak truth to power, stand up for human rights and organize to raise communities out of poverty.

    Yet too often, their efforts go unnoticed. Silently powerful, these modern-day Esthers seldom make news headlines, particularly in the aftermath of large-scale disasters like the earthquake in Haiti.

    Just hours after the earthquake hit, AJWS grantee Movimiento De Mujeres Dominico Haitiana (MUDHA), in collaboration with other AJWS grantees in the Dominican Republic, mobilized a series of relief caravans to bring urgently needed aid into Haiti. They set up field hospitals, distributed food and shelter, and focused on women’s health needs such as feminine hygiene products, undergarments and diapers that are often overlooked by providers of humanitarian aid.

    Please take a few minutes to watch a video ( documenting MUDHA’s response in Haiti, including an interview with Sonia Pierre, MUDHA’s formidable director and the visionary behind its extraordinary work.

    As we recount the Purim story this weekend, let us honor the modern-day heroines like Sonia working behind the scenes in Haiti and across the globe, so that their acts of power and courage will be amplified throughout the world.

    Ruth W. Messinger
    President, AJWS”

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