Remarks from 2023 Covenant Award Recipient, Rabbi Tamara Cohen

On November 8, 2023, Moving Traditions’ Chief Program Officer Rabbi Tamara Cohen was honored to receive the 2023 Covenant Award. At the celebration, she delivered these remarks.

Hineni, here I am, Tamara Rut bat Esther Rachel v’ Shachna Pinchas, Zichrono Livracha.  

Hineni, here I am, a Jewish feminist educator, nurtured by beloved mentors and community and passionately committed to transforming Jewish education by centering the experiences of Jewish women and girls, LGBTQ+ Jews and Jews of color.

My work is the weaving together of ancient and new, the grafting of tradition and innovation, the invitation to others to join me in sacred play and holy community building. I gather and create texts, ideas and rituals that have been rescued, excavated and revealed to us by Jewish feminist historians, theologians and scholars and I offer them to Jewish young people, their parents and educators, as keys, as pathways, as doors inviting our youth, especially those who feel on the margins, to come inside, to make themselves at home in Judaism, a richer, more multifaceted, more whole Judaism that with their presence and creativity, can and truly serve as a home for all of us in our diversity.

Jewish feminism starts by recognizing the vibrant Jewishness of women but it doesn’t end there. It challenges structural inequity, asks us to re-think our core assumptions, dares us to name what is sacred in ourselves and in every being we encounter with ancient and new language.

Jewish education grounded in feminism is a practice of hope. Born of necessity, loss, exclusion, oppression, revolution, it invites us all to hold complexity, to dream that more is possible, and to trust that we have and can create the tools we need, even for this intensely challenging moment.

We have practices of empathy and listening, midrash, ritual and Torah study. We know how to honor each other’s experiences and embrace each other’s questions, how to hold ourselves and others accountable, how to walk the path of teshuva, how to envision justice and enact compromise, how to cultivate the courage for the hard work of collaboration and connection across difference, how to praise and cry out to God using Her many names.

The Israelites in the desert are said to have been sustained by Miriam’s Well. Perhaps it was the same well that Hagar saw when God opened her eyes in her moment of despair. That ancient mythical well is what I want to help our youth see, drink from, and when needed, help us refill. It is a well of sustenance, healing and hope.

Jewish youth need us to walk with them into the pressing questions and challenges of our era as guides and as partners. They need us to be honest, brave, and moral cultivators of hope even as we take seriously the threats we face. They need us to see in them what they can’t always see in themselves or in one another.

Hineni, here I am. Filled with gratitude and ready to answer the ongoing call to teach, to lead, to widen the tent, to insist on a third way, to do justice, love goodness and walk humbly with God.