Some of the rabbis spoke the words of women who had shared their personal stories of abortion on social media.
Hundreds of people gathered in an outdoor tent at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield on Wednesday, June 29, for the “Abortion Is a Jewish Value” rally organized by the National Council of Jewish Women.
Near the entrance to the tent, a sign read: “Abortion bans are against our religion.” Attendees were asked to sign petitions to put on the ballot a proposal protecting reproductive rights in Michigan. As they walked by, Edie Rubin and Sharon Leider of NCJW handed each person a piece of black paper square.
“We are here because abortion is health care,” Rubin said. “And not only that, a woman’s right to choose her health care for her own life and how it affects her and her family shouldn’t be based on religion, especially someone else’s religion. It shouldn’t be based on bias. It should be something that is between her, her family and her doctor.”
Linda Levy, state policy advocate for the Michigan chapter of NCJW, told attendees, “We are here because of sadness. But what you should not feel is defeated. Because what has happened is the fight for reproductive rights has changed. It has gone from the national fight to a state fight.”
Several clergy members were at the rally, including Rabbi Asher Lopatin, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council /American Jewish Committee; Rabbi Blair Nosanwisch, director of spiritual care at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Rabbi Marla Hornsten of Temple Israel; and Rabbi Megan Brudney and Cantor Rachel Gottlieb Kalmowitz, both from Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township.
From the state, some of the rabbis spoke the words of women who had shared their personal stories of abortion on social media. Others spoke out about how banning abortion violates the Jewish faith and traditions.
Judaism allows women the right to make the decision of whether to carry a baby to term, Lopatin said. He noted that although there are disagreements about abortion in Judaism, “we live in a country where it is illegal to establish a religion” and abortion restrictions are ”imposing a religion” upon women.
“And any decision by any court or by any statehouse across this country that says that the woman does not have that right (to choose) violates the Jewish religion,” Lopatin added.
“We live in a country where it is illegal to establish a religion,” Rabbi Asher Lopatin said at rally tonight for abortion rights at largest synagogue in Michigan. pic.twitter.com/rAge8b6Jvc
— Niraj Warikoo (@nwarikoo) June 30, 2022
A Symbol of Grief
During the event, the rabbis on stage held up a piece of black cloth. The crowd was asked to hold up the squares of black cloth they’d been given when they walked in.
“Will each of you join us in this moment of grief and tear the square of paper you have been given?” Nosanwisch said. “Take a breath in. And tear.
“Something has been torn,” she continued. “It’s something deeper and more powerful than Roe v. Wade. Deeper and more powerful than the Supreme Court, than politics, than right or left. “Something basic and true is being lost, and that is where we as Jews must turn to the few truths that are eternal.”
Everyone then tore their black squares as a symbol and custom of Jewish mourning.
“Life and death are bound up in one another. There is no living without choosing. There is no life without choice,” Nosanwisch said.
Susan Gertner, executive director of the NCJW Michigan, said, “We are happy to be with everyone here, but we are sad that we have to be here. It is amazing how many people have come out in support, which is wonderful. We need this.”
Near the end of the rally, Cantor Gottlieb Kalmowitz, led the crowd in singing: “Stand up for our mothers, stand up for each other.”
Hundreds of Jews rally tonight for abortion rights at Michigan’s largest synagogue, Temple Israel. “Stand up for our mothers, stand up for each other,” they sing. pic.twitter.com/1ugKmrdguq
— Niraj Warikoo (@nwarikoo) June 30, 2022
Yevgeniya Gazman is the founder of YGazm Art. She is an artist, photographer, designer, writer and proud member of the Metro Detroit Jewish community.