For the weekend of Chayei Sarah, Gates of Prayer in Metairie is welcoming two prominent women as speakers during Shabbat.
Amanda Berman is founder and director of Zioness, an organization that was formed to demonstrate that being progressive and being Zionist are not mutually exclusive. Sheri Wise survived a triple suicide bombing in Jerusalem, and speaks about turning anger into forgiveness, and finding goodness in the worst circumstances.
Berman will speak on Nov. 18, on “Zionism and the Progressive Movement Are Not At Odds.” There will be a dinner at 6 p.m. and the presentation at 6:30 p.m. Services will follow at 8 p.m.
With Jewish women and other pro-Israel activists shunned from some progressive movements, and national progressive leaders like Linda Sarsour insisting that a Zionist can’t be a feminist, for example, Zioness was formed to push back against the narrative. Zioness insists Zionism is a progressive value, as it is a movement for the liberation and national self-determination of the Jewish people in its indigenous homeland.
The group was formed in 2017 after Slutwalk Chicago, which protests rape culture, excluded anyone with a Star of David from its annual march, because it was a “nationalist symbol,” though Palestinian flags were permitted. The month before, the Chicago Dyke March kicked out women who were holding a rainbow flag with a Star of David.
Berman is a civil rights attorney who brought action against Kuwait Airways for discriminating against Israelis, and against San Diego State University for violating the rights of Jewish and Israeli students. She had previously practiced in the area of securities litigation.
Berman received Hadassah’s prestigious Myrtle Wreath Award, and was listed by the Algemeiner as one of the top “100 people positively contributing to Jewish life” in 2018.
Chloe Valdary, founder of the Theory of Enchantment and a New Orleans native, is board secretary for Zioness.
Currently, the closest chapters to the region are Houston, Nashville and Atlanta. There was a program in Baton Rouge in late 2020 to explore bringing Zioness to the community.
Wise will speak on Nov. 19 after the 10:30 a.m. Shabbat morning service. There will be a lunch at 11:45 a.m., and the presentation, “Born Lucky: How a Triple Suicide Bombing Changed My Life” will be at 12:15 p.m.
She was in Israel in 1997 for three weeks with Dental Volunteers for Israel, providing services to underprivileged children. On the last day, she went to lunch with friends on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. While switching seats with a friend to get out of the sun, the first two of three bombs went off, as Hamas suicide bombers detonated themselves. Five Israelis, three of them 14-year-old girls, were killed, and over 190 were wounded.
Wise had burns on 40 percent of her body, and nails embedded in the bombs impaled her leg to the table. She was in an Israeli hospital for two weeks, then went back to Canada for six months of treatment at burn clinics.
In 2004, she became involved with the Canadian Coaliton Against Terror, which worked for the 2012 passage of the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, allowing Canadians to seek damages against state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria.
For her efforts, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal of Honor.
Reservations are required by Nov. 14.