Last week Barbra Streisand visited Israel. The excitement her presence creates cannot be understated. If she was only the greatest performer in a generation that would be enough of a reason to wait in line to hear her, but we all know that Barbra is much more than a world class singing voice. She is also one of the most important voices of conscience for issues of social justice. When she supports a cause it is wise to take notice, and we are so proud that she supports us.
While receiving an honorary doctorate at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Barbra spoke truth to power. In front of the president of Israel and many other government officials and dignitaries she expressed her shock and horror over the state of gender equality and civil liberties in Israel. She specifically mentioned the Israel Religious Action’s struggle against gender segregation on buses and the illegal silencing of women on the public airwaves and in public events where Orthodox men are in attendance. She also expressed support for making the Western Wall a more inclusive place and to ending the violence that has been perpetrated against women trying to legally pray there.
We assume that just because she is famous, speaking her mind is easy. But the reality is that standing up for what you believe in is never easy. Her comments are nothing short of courageous. Too often Jews in Israel and abroad are afraid to speak out against issues that are holding back Israel’s march towards equal rights for all its citizens. Unless the entire Jewish word and its supporters for pluralism also have the courage to speak truth to power we will never see change.
We applaud Barbra Streisand for her unwavering support for Israel and for her desire to see Israel stay true to its founding principles of equality for all.
Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center.
Image from barbrastreisand.com; Alexi Rosenfeld, AJR Photography.