Happy Bicentvicentdecennovennial!

July 2, 2015

By Amy Sessler Powell

On July 4, our nation once again celebrates its birthday, but most Americans would have to stop and do the math to figure out how many candles to put on the cake. This birthday has no fancy name, no bicentennial or semiquincentennial, but birthday number 239 comes after a few weeks that may be worth noting for the ages.

Rarely has a short period of time been known for so many milestones for Jewish women and for all citizens in the realm of equality. While there is much work to be done, progress of any kind reminds us that change is possible.

Thirty years ago, the first female Conservative rabbi was ordained. It was a big deal, but it has become quite ho hum to us now. I remember a family friend in my own synagogue quitting when women were counted in the minyan in 1976. She recently showed me her beautiful new tallit and I kept my mouth shut. I'm glad to see that she's finally on board in her senior years.

Two years ago, the first group of female Orthodox rabbis received smicha from Yeshivat Maharat, but they did not take the title "rabbi" or "rabba." Now, the third class is changing that, taking these titles. Years from now, will this too be ho hum?

There is so much more recent news. The U.S. Treasury announced that a notable woman will be replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. They are accepting nominations on Twitter, using #TheNew10. We saw the U.S. Supreme Court approve same-sex marriage, uphold the Affordable Care Act and strike a blow to gerrymandering by allowing independent commissions to draw political maps. This bodes well for Congressional districts that truly represent their populations, a necessity for better legislation.

In the world of sports, Major League Baseball added the first female ever, Melissa Mayeux, a shortstop on the French U-18 junior national team to their international registration list, which means she will be eligible to be signed by a Major League club. Misty Copeland was named principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theater, making her the first African-American woman to do so in the company’s 75-year history. Our U.S. women's soccer team will face Japan on July 7 in the World Cup Final.

There is plenty of bad news, plenty of things that need work. Our black churches are burning in the south just as we finally are having an important national conversation about Confederate symbols. Too many people die from gun violence. But, the events of the past few weeks should remind us that grassroots work on issues often succeeds, gains momentum. Let us be inspired by progress to take on the difficult issues facing us.

So, America, Happy Bicentvicentdecennovennial! It's been a good year.

Amy PowellAmy Powell is the HBI communications director.