In what’s likely an all-time first for a Jewish women’s organization, Project Kesher, which brings Jewish and feminist connections to women in the Former Soviet Union and beyond, decided to honor Monica Lewinsky with the Kol Isha award at their 30th anniversary gala in April.
Lewinsky’s current anti-bullying activism resonates deeply with the work of Project Kesher, Karyn Gershon, the organization’s executive director, told Lilith. Lewinsky may appear at first an unlikely honoree; more than 20 years ago she was vilified as a thoughtless White House intern who could have brought down Bill Clinton’s presidency. Now, her TED talk on “The Price of Shame” has been viewed 13 million times. Her narrative is especially important right now, and she has re-emerged as an activist and advocate with the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. This year many women react along the lines of “I was dismissive of her at the time. And now I am ashamed.”
In 2018, Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair, “Isolation is such a powerful tool to the subjugator…. One of the most inspiring aspects of this newly energized movement is the sheer number of women who have spoken up in support of one another.”
Gershon, describing on the Lilith Blog the relevance of Monica Lewinsky’s work, quoted Vlada Nedak, Project Kesher leader from Kriviy Rih, Ukraine: “Women are inhibited by shame, whether it is discussing our periods, breast cancer, postpartum depression, or gender violence. We have to reclaim our voices if we are going to make change.”