At a havdalah service last weekend, Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg marked the loss of abortion access in the United States after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24.
Some 100 people sang niggunim (wordless melodies) under the stars and recited poems about how they would make abortion safe and legal again. Other participating congregations included Tikvat Israel, Kehilat Shalom and Kol Shalom, as well as the National Council for Jewish Women.
Rabbi Annie Lewis of Shaare Torah said when she heard the Supreme Court took away women’s constitutional protections for abortion she was “heartbroken, but not surprised.”
Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17) said she was “devastated and angry.”
Tikvat Israel Rabbi Marc Israel said he mourned the loss of safe abortions and said that he believed the Supreme Court would uphold Roe vs. Wade until the decision was leaked.
“For so long, we’ve depended — we’ve thought — that we could trust in our court to be that safeguard for us. That it would be there to protect our rights. And that, sadly, is among the things that we are mourning for today — that that is no longer the case,” Israel said.
He added that Jews should increase their faith in response. “I will maintain my faith. I will maintain my belief. I will continue working for that day when we should be able to see the world as it should be,” he said, referring to the 12th principle of Jewish faith by Maimonides.
Shaare Torah congregant Hannah Weisman took away another quote from the service: “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.”
“I feel like that’s where we’re headed,” Weisman said. “We are out to pick up our axes and we’re all going to slam down the doors.”
Participants mentioned several ways to improve the situation, but there was one common theme: help women in need of an abortion.
Said Kagan, “In Maryland, they have to be informed voters, and they have to be engaged and there’s so many different ways that we are going to be facing an influx of women from other states. And pro-choice people who want to help women get reproductive health care may need to offer their support in various ways.”
Weisman said she wants to take a different approach. “I think, firstly, I’m going to think. A lot of times, people will rush into making moves with good intention. But that ends up not being the necessarily the best right thing to do,” she said.
Shaare Torah congregant Rebecca Weisman said the service was “a wonderful way to be able to process my feelings. I’m always proud to be Jewish because I’m our community and our faith is pro-choice and always has been and has always loved women’s lives and women’s health.”
At the end of the service, congregants sang: “I have a voice, my voice is powerful, my voice will change the world.”