What The March In Washington Taught Me About My Religion

As I was marching in DC with at least half a million other women, I was filled with so many emotions; joy, pride, fear of being trampled, anger at the current state of the country and finally conflicted. I wasn't conflicted about the message that was so powerfully true for me that day and every other day- that women in this country are still not treated equally (the wage gap is not an alternate fact, it's just a fact), that women still bear the tremendous burden of bearing children with a paltry if any paid leave to rear them, that women are still being objectified and body shamed on the daily. These messages were clear to me and my reaction was the same as always- disappointment and anger.

As I was marching, I couldn't help thinking about how that Saturday in Washington DC differed from every other Saturday of my life. I realized I get the similar, disappointing message from the very place that's supposed to be my spiritual haven. I attend an Orthodox synagogue where every Saturday service repeats itself in the following way- a pageant of men getting honors and partaking in ritual while the women are seated separately as quiet spectators. Every other Saturday, I would've been seated behind a wooden and glass partition listening to men say the blessings, seeing men carry the Torah, watching men go up to the ark and open it's embroidered curtains revealing the Torah scrolls nestled in velvet , hearing men lead the prayers, watching men corral the congregation to partake in worship. And there I would be- observing quietly.

The stark contrast between these Saturdays was hard but important. It crystallized something for me at that moment I was marching down Independence Avenue shoulder to shoulder with powerfully loud and visible women.

My spiritual Saturdays are anything but. I leave defeated and sad. I can't be a spectator for the rest of my life. I can't silently watch the male pageantry anymore.

After spending 10 hours on my feet listening to female voices echoing all around me, mobilizing for justice- I realized I had already arrived at my temple. And I was able to participate equally and have my voice heard even among the din of 500,000 other women.

It's hard to leave all that is familiar but I know another temple awaits. One where women aren't marginalized and silent. One where we get a chance to be part of the worship in a meaningful way. Not in a separate room for women only. Because separate but equal is a myth. When you separate women and relegate them to an annexed area to worship it screams of segregation and condescension. It doesn't work for me. It's the Rosa Parks version of prayer and I rather not pray at all.

To be true to myself, I need to find a temple where I can actively participate and where I count. Anything else would be unexamined and unfulfilling for me.

Onward I march.