Last week, ALEPH Executive Director SooJi Min-Maranda attended the first Jewish Women’s Forum at the White House – hosted by the 2nd Gentleman Doug Emhoff. You can read article about the event here.

Here are SooJi’s thoughts about the forum:

When I told my Korean mother that I was becoming Jewish 23 years ago, she didn’t understand what that meant. I didn’t use the word conversion as she had limited knowledge of English. She knew that there were Jewish people and had internalized familiar antisemitic tropes about Jews being rich, well-educated, and powerful. But that was about it.

I don’t think my mother’s lack of knowledge or experience about Judaism is all that unique. Judaism, for good reason, has most often been practiced behind closed doors of our homes and behind closed (and often guarded) doors of our shuls. So many of the messages that were delivered at the first-ever Jewish Women’s Forum at the White House on March 9 made sense to me as someone who is used to living on the periphery of mainstream Jewish life and can also pass as non-Jewish, which has its own costs.

We need to live our Judaism out loud and proud. According to one of the speakers, so many Jews across the country express their Judaism with their heads down and shoulders hunched. While never forgetting our past, we should let our faith illuminate our paths.

We need to respond to antisemitism—both overt and covert—at all times. And the response shouldn’t be just to identify as a Jewish person. That just gives the offender an opportunity to make an individual exception. The response should be based on exposing the prejudice, full stop.

We need to turn towards and celebrate the joys of Judaism. This is an easy one for me as the organization I lead, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, is focused on an enlivened and joyous expression of Judaism. That means leaning not only into texts but incorporating movement, chant and mysticism.

We need to have the courage to express the full extent of our Judaism. What a delight to hear several speakers switch back and forth from English to Hebrew, quoting their favorite texts from the Torah and the Talmud. How often does that happen at a White House meeting? Another high-ranking senior White House official fully leans into her Orthodox practices, responding to and caring for the national cyber security of our nation while still going completely offline for the 25 hours of Shabbat.

The more we can safely share our faith with those around us, the more we can help demystify and clarify what it means to live, be, and do Jewish. We clearly are stronger together.

SooJi Min-Maranda on the White House Steps for the Jewish Women's Forum