Be Strong and Resolute by Judith Plaskow

January 29, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

At a crucial moment of leadership transition in the history of ancient Israel, the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan River without Moses at their head. As Moses passed on the mantle of authority to Joshua, he enjoined his successor and the assembled community, “Be strong and resolute” (Deuteronomy 31:8).  The challenges before the people were multiple and daunting, but Moses urged them not to be afraid or dismayed. His powerful words, which are repeated three times in Deuteronomy 31 (vv. 6, 7, 23), contain a bracing message for the new administration and new Congress as you confront multiple crises facing our divided nation.

Be strong and resolute! Act boldly and decisively to bring the pandemic under control. Do not be afraid to issue a federal mask mandate grounded in the scientific evidence for such an order. Take on as a federal responsibility the production and distribution of adequate PPE [personal protective equipment] for all persons and institutions that so desperately need it. See to the efficient, transparent, and equitable dissemination of the vaccine, prioritizing the needs of those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

…now is the time to channel Moses’ words and set a transformative agenda with boldness and resolution.

Be strong and resolute in addressing the profound social inequities revealed by the pandemic. Ensure that all Americans have access to decent and affordable healthcare. Pass HR40, which would establish a commission to study and develop reparations proposals so that the country can begin to address the entrenched nature of racial injustice and the prerequisites for systemic change. Acknowledge the ways jails and prisons have been ravaged by the virus and the needs of incarcerated people have been ignored. Respond by passing The People’s Justice Guarantee (HR702) which lays out a new vision of criminal justice.

Be strong and resolute in confronting the climate crisis and its relationship to the pandemic. Generously fund scientific efforts to understand the connection between human health and the health of the environment and wildlife populations. Introduce and support legislation to keep oil in the ground and to move toward a sustainable energy future. Commit to surpassing the goals agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement.

With these and so many other profound challenges facing the nation, now is the time to channel Moses’ words and set a transformative agenda with boldness and resolution.

Yours sincerely,

Judith Plaskow
Professor Emerita of Religious Studies
Manhattan College

Reprinted with permission of the author from Values and Voices.

Judith Plaskow, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, is a Jewish feminist theologian who has been teaching, writing, and speaking about Jewish feminism, feminist studies in religion, and sexuality for almost fifty years. She is author of the Jewish feminist classic, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective, and The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics 1972-2003. Her latest book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology (Fortress Press, 2016), co-authored with Carol P. Christ.

6 thoughts on “Be Strong and Resolute by Judith Plaskow”

  1. Great letter. I might have added: “And it is high time that the ERA be passed, that the Violence against Women Act be restored, that family leave for both parents of babies and childcare be mandated–as in other developed countries, and that laws be passed that ensure equal pay for work of the same value.”

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Gracias, for your good recommendations for Biden. You have hope that he will do what he should do. I don’t. I have little faith in a government that is controlled by outside forces through money or …? threats? One cannot know the machinations that exist below the level of the public eye.

    Considering the attrocities and abuses of gov’t. throughout the years, the racism, sexism, the wars (mass murder), the destruction of entire countries, the creation of the world refugee problems, the irresponsible allowance of the wrecking of our biosphere and the suicidal indifference to the climate crises , Now the intentional collapse of our economy and the censorship of the media against all counter ideas to the mainstream,

    I don’t see how anyone can trust or hope for good from the new administration. Remember the hope the world had with Obamba and how that turned out? When do we learn that it just doesn’t work, that we need to make systemic changes, nor just the changing of the guard again. It simply hasn’t worked and doesn’t work.

    I believe that it is clear we must restructure how we are governed from vertical to horizontal which is much more democratic, decentralized, more effective and efficient and virtually incorruptible. It would be the end of politicians and lobbyist and eliminate the possibility of billionaires and corporatocracies controlling government for their personal interests. Here is a 7 minute animation that I produced and made explaining this idea which everyone must know about as it is a much better option than hoping for the best from yet another administration:

    I am also working with a number of activists and experts to make a network of networks of the millions of groups, projects, and individuals working to make a more just, equitable, ethical, regenerative and ecological world with the tools for collaborating and organizing.

    Please help make the animation viral.


  3. I sign a lot of online petitions, all of them progressive or at least liberal. If your letter were one of those petitions, I’d sign it, too. Our leaders need to hear from us, and we all need to be strong and resolute, not just the heads of our government, but every employee of the government, every representative, every senator, and every one of us so that the U.S. can overcome the persistent fascism of the huge orange Tyranosaurus Rex that used to take up space in the White House. And, yes, I also agree with Carol’s additions. Bright blessings to us all for a new year and a new era of honesty in government. (Fingers crossed!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this wonderful letter to the new (not that new) leaders. This morning while reading your letter I thought about how, due to so many decades of injustices and not resolute administrations, we quit our right to demand action and commitment from the people we chose to lead us. We also quite our hope to see things changing for good and to see politicians being faithful to their campaign promises. But let’s not get tired, let’s keep demanding responses and actions from them, all of them, as Barabara said.


  5. Thanks, Judith, for this moral call to strength and resoluteness. If we have learned nothing else as a result of this pandemic, it’s that we are interconnected. And as a result, we can’t be free, until everybody else is. So…we women need to be strong and resolute in demanding passage of the ERA, the passage of the Violence against Women Act, equal pay for equal work, and family leave for both parents, as Carol said in her reply.


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