My second JWA article has been published! (Full disclosure, I’m a little late in posting this one. My apologies.) This is part of my Rising Voices Fellowship. You can read it here or go to the JWA website to see it.
“When you do something beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience is still asleep.” – John Lennon
This quote expresses everything I could ever want to say about Senator Sheila Finestone. She was an under-the-radar super hero. She wasn’t famous, and they don’t teach you about her in school, but Sheila Finestone is someone worth celebrating. Even though her contributions to society weren’t always noticed the way they should be, she never let the sun set on her sense of service.
Finestone was a human rights activist who used her role in Canada’s Parliament to better the lives of Canadian citizens. She was an activist from an early age, and much like my own friends, her friends were probably accustomed to hearing: “Sorry I can’t, I’m volunteering.” As she was fighting for better pension plans for women and children, Finestone realized that she could do more through federal politics. She became a senator in Parliament, and served for 18 years, until her retirement at age 75.
Much like Finestone, I had a realization that turned me to politics. I do a lot of work in my community to educate students about Title IX. This requires me to work with school boards and other local governing bodies. As I worked to establish this education program, I got a taste of what working in government is like. Through this experience, I realized that I want to use government as a vehicle to serve others, and to create lasting programs and laws that will benefit people.
I see a lot of similarities between myself and Finestone; namely, our shared passion to use government to improve the lives of women. She was a feminist and a key member of both Parliament and the Senate, and worked to pass many human rights-focused bills that helped women. She appeared on committees and consistently lobbied for the rights of women. When addressing Parliament after coming from a Royal Commission on the Status of Women meeting, she said,
“I appeared before the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. I appeared about child care. I appeared on the role of the volunteer in society, the needs of the volunteer and the need for recognition for unpaid work. The women here today gained many opportunities right back to the Lavalee case and right through the history of the development of equality and opportunity for women.”
When women talk about their own accomplishments, they’re perceived as bragging. This quote is important to me because it’s not something I am accustomed to: a woman unapologetically recounting her accomplishments.
Finestone was also a strong supporter of the state of Israel, and she took a lot of abuse for it. But Finestone stuck to her Jewish values and let them guide her; in fact, much of her activism is due to her deep-rooted faith. Like Finestone, my Judaism is a major source of my activism. I was taught, through Judaism, to give back in whatever ways I can, and that is what Finestone did too. It’s important to me to have this example of a strong female politician who found meaning and purpose for her work in Judaism, because it’s not something that young Jewish girls get to see a lot.
As a young Jewish girl, wanting to become a politician in a male-dominated climate can seem like an unachievable goal. I watch the news, and I feel defeated. But when I read about people like Senator Finestone, I feel empowered. She proves that it’s possible, and I feel like I have a duty to carry on her legacy. She was an activist for all people, and a feminist to the max. Finestone’s work inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing, in the hopes that one day human rights activists won’t be needed. And as long as people like Finestone keep fighting and working hard for a better future, this future is not too far off. She was dedicated to serving those around her and repairing the world with kindness and hard work. Finestone was a remarkable woman, and I strive to be even just a little bit like her. The world could use more Sheila Finestones, and I want to do everything I can to be one.