Four years ago, I sat in a communal Shavuot learning program. I recall thinking to myself, what is the Torah that the Jewish people need right now? The answer became crystal clear: it is feminism.
The next year, I decided to experiment and organize an event called Feminism All Night. The vision was inspired by the Jewish holiday of Shavuot and brought feminist thinkers together to teach and learn communally about feminism. The success was overwhelming, with over 100+ attendees and over 12 sessions that had us staying until 4 AM.
Since then, I have been cultivating this project by designing immersive feminist communal learning experiences centered on Jewish holidays. We hosted Feminism All Day for the holiday of Sukkot and expanded our events from Oakland to various cities, including Boston and Tel Aviv. Our community has grown to over 1500 people!
This year we decided to bring our vision of feminist Jewish learning to Chanukah. On the 7th Night of Chanukah on Rosh Chodesh Tevet is the traditional celebration of Chag haBanot (Eid al-Banat in Arabic), a North African Jewish Festival of the Daughters. The holiday elevates women’s power–the strength, wisdom and resilience of women throughout the ages. Women, young and elderly, would gather for a celebration together to delight in sweets, sing prayers, dance, and give gifts to each other, particularly gold coins and jewelry.
The holiday is associated with legendary and midrashic traditions or literary and historical traditions, about bold, wise, courageous and determined women who saved their people with their resourcefulness, wisdom, courageous hearts and heroism, and changed historical circumstances in antiquity.
Chag haBanot elevates the heroism and resourcefulness of brave, bold and wise women, such as Queen Esther, Judith daughter of Merari, or Hannah [sometimes Miriam], daughter of Matityahu. In times of danger to their people, they gathered courage, devotion, strength and resourcefulness, and acted in extraordinary ways that are recorded in the chronicles and told by the women on The Festival of the Daughters.
Feminism All Night is committed to creating space for feminist learning and particularly uplifting Mizrahi traditions in the Jewish world. Our programming has centered Mizrahi feminist educators from the beginning. We love celebrating the sacred traditions and teachings of Mizrahi communities and bringing them forth to the wider community.
This year, on December 16th and 17th, we are hosting Illumination: A Chanukah Celebration of Devotional Arts and Embodied Prayer. Illumination is a collaboration between Hadar Cohen and Taya Mâ Shere. It is a partnership with Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute and is supported by Moishe House. The festival includes prayer, workshops and celebration. In honor of this celebration, we are featuring North African Jewish feminists–artists, teachers and spiritual leaders–on our Facebook and Instagram pages. Our programs are open to people of all genders and faiths and we invite you to join us–register here!
Some of our featured feminists include:
Sivan Tahel, a Moroccan activist and leader who was a lead organizer of Feminism All Night in Tel Aviv, January 2020, centered on Mizrahi Identity.
“Feminism is the mother of all struggles and everything connects to it. Feminism for me is solidarity, support networks of women, empowerment that is expressed in action, advancing other women and caring for their well-being, emotionally and financially. It is the ability to hear and listen to various strands of feminism, while respecting and embracing the diversity within the group of women. Feminism is the expansion of the feminist struggle with reference to power structures, ethnicity and status.”
Nellie Alimi, a Tunisian and Algerian French artist who is working to preserve the North African rituals and traditions that she grew up with. Her family celebrated Eid Al Banat, and she will be sharing more about her familial lineage celebration at our Artistic Showcase.
“Feminism for me, is about elevating other women, showing a different type of leadership, embracing our own selves, not trying to fit into the white male model, speaking out truth, educating the world about strong women leaders and their challenges.”
Daniela Labi, a Libyan feminist artist and community organizer. Daniela was one of the lead organizers for Feminism All Day 2019 in the Bay Area.
“To me, feminism means celebrating the true feminine power that lies within all of us. Feminism is the act of re-calibrating society so that we honor this power, lift it up, and use it to return to true alignment with g!d, the earth, and the universe. My mother was born and raised in Tripoli, Libya. She fled with her family in 1967, during the Six Day War, just months before she would’ve entered her last year of high school. For years, my ancestors lived in the deserts of Libya, and I feel the divine responsibility to capture their stories so that they are not lost to eurocentrism and whiteness.”
Hadar Cohen is a multimedia artist, educator and healer. She is the founder of Feminism All Night. To learn more about her work visit hadarcohen.me.