Women & Power: By Carla Goldstein
Our Time To Lead
The following is transcript of a speech given by Carla Goldstein at the Women & Power: Our Time to Lead Conference held at Omega Institute, September 24-26, 2010.
In every corner of the world, women are retelling the story of leadership! And that is a big part of what we will do this weekend together.
The concept of story will be flowing throughout the weekend. What stories we carry with us about ourselves as women, and what stories we carry about leadership and power.
My daughter is having her bat mitzvah next weekend. A bat mitzvah is an initiation ceremony in the Jewish tradition that marks the right of passage into adulthood when a girl turns 12 or 13. It signifies that she is ready to take on moral & religious responsibilities to the larger community.
When I say tradition – I use that word lightly because the bat mitzvah ceremony for girls is a relatively new phenomenon, beginning in 1922 by the Jewish reconstructionist movement in an effort to bring parity to the boys bar mitzvah ceremony.
One of the key aspects of the ceremony is for the bat mitzvah girl to read an assigned portion of the torah, usually in Hebrew, to her congregation during a Saturday service. The portion that is assigned depends on the date of the ceremony since Temple services are all based on weekly readings of the Torah from beginning to end every year.
As the fates would have it my daughter’s date falls when its time to read about the “creation story” of Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden. Not being a biblical scholar or having had a bat mitzvah myself, I was looking for a way to help her – and myself -- find real meaning in the process.
I got her to Google the phrase “creation story,” so that she could discover for herself that many other cultures have their own version of a creation story. We found dozens of accounts of about how the world began. Life coming from eggs, oceans, many gods, one god, a creatures vomit, breath, dreams, …. the variation on creation is quite expansive.
In addition to wanting her to see that there could be many different ways of explaining the world’s creation, I wanted her to know that any one of the stories is up for interpretation. According to the traditional interpretation Eve disobeyed God’s command to stay away from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and instead, she led Adam to eat an apple from the tree, which led them to being kicked out of the Garden of Eden, which led to the downfall of humanity!
This interpretation has been a time-honored justification for patriarchy, and is among other things an early story of women’s leadership! So, I wanted her to hear some additional interpretations.
The Adam & Eve story has also been interpreted to offer the view that eating from the Tree of Knowledge does not need to be seen an act of disobedience, but instead can be seen as representing a brave step forward toward becoming fully human.
To be brave enough to enter both the richness and mess of facing good and evil, and work, and sexuality and child-rearing. It has been offered by many biblical scholars that Eve’s picking the apple could be viewed as leading the way toward fully embracing our moral capacity.
In a book titled How Good Do We Have to Be, Rabbi Harold Kushner, suggests that instead of viewing the story of Adam and Eve as Paradise Lost, it can be viewed as Paradise Outgrown. I shared all this with my daughter hoping to impart this other possibility of interpretation.
And I am sharing it with you for a few reasons: First, to remind us that myths& storytelling goes deep into the collective and individual psyche. Imagine what it would be like if we were raised with a creation story that honored and affirmed woman for our capacity to face life’s moral complexities, rather than one that suggested we led humanity astray.
Second, in order to contemplate the guidance we might draw today from this alternative interpretation of the Adam and Eve Story. What might we be willing to do now as we face today’s challenges, if we knew our strength was our willingness to step into the unknown, to look deeply into the face of suffering, and joy, and sex, and death, and the whole mess of life?
Finally, I think it is useful to consider at the outset of this conference, what is it we have outgrown – as individuals and collectively? What old baggage, old paradigms, old ways of thinking, no longer fit and no longer serve?
What are the new ways that women & men are being called to grow so that we can further uplift, develop, and create more compassionate, and generative ways of living?
This weekend, we will be grappling with these questions, going on archeological digs, and creating new narratives of leadership that move us forward together.
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The above is a transcript of the speech delivered by Carla Goldstein at the Women and Power: Our Time to Lead Conference held at Omega Institute, September 24-26, 2010.
To order audio CDs from this event or to purchase recordings from past Women & Power conferences, please order online at www.eomega.org/omega/mediaworks, call 845.266.4444, ext. 317 or email [email protected].
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Carla Goldstein JD, is Omega Institute’s external affairs director and director of the Women’s Institute at Omega. Carla is an attorney with 20 years of experience in public interest advocacy and has worked extensively in city and state government on issues related to women’s rights, poverty, public health, and social justice. She has contributed to more than 100 city, state, and federal laws. Carla has appeared on local and national radio and television and makes public presentations to a wide range of audiences on issues related to women’s empowerment, activism, and spiritual activism. Carla serves on the Advisory Board of Feminist.com and was featured at the New York State Bar Association’s “Women on the Move: Successful Women in the Know.”
Before joining the Omega Institute, Carla was the vice president for public affairs at Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC), where she directed the agency’s advocacy and strategic communications work. She also served as the founding director of the PPNYC Action Fund, the political arm of PPNYC. Before joining PPNYC Carla worked for the speaker of the New York City Council, where she helped craft and advocate for the City Council’s state and federal legislative agendas. She joined the council after working as a public defender at the Legal Aid Society, where she represented clients in criminal proceedings. Before that, she worked for the speaker of the New York State Assembly as a policy analyst of human services issues. While in law school at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Carla was a cofounding editor-in-chief of the state’s first women’s law journal, which just celebrated its 12th year of publication, the Buffalo Women’s Journal. For her work with the journal, Carla won the Dale S. Margulis award, which recognizes the student who makes “the most significant contribution to the law school and the community.” She was also the First Place Winner of the Desmond Moot Court Competition.
For the past eight years, Carla was an adjunct professor at CUNY Queens College, where she taught a course called Law and Social Justice, which was designed to empower students to be effective advocates for progressive social change. As part of Omega’s core program, Carla teaches Intro to Omega Living Weekend, a workshop designed to introduce people to Omega’s distinctive holistic lifestyle and unique learning retreats.
Carla Goldstein is on the Advisory Board of Feminist.com.