History was made on January 16th, 2019 as Muslim and Jewish women gathered together at the Minnesota State Capitol to build collective power through faith-based action and civic engagement. Muslim and Jewish Women of Minnesota (MJWMn), a coalition formed by Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment, Rabata, and National Council of Jewish Women - Minnesota (NCJW-MN), led this inaugural Muslim & Jewish Women’s Day at the Capitol.
Before meeting with our legislators, we rallied in the Rotunda, starting the day with shared prayer. Kaltun Karani and Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker read passages from the Qur’an and the Torah that both center sisterhood and female strength, bestowed to us in the womb and shared by all women. To see these distinguished women of faith honor their holy texts together was deeply moving and showed the similarities of mercy in both traditions.
We then welcomed Representative Kelly Morrison of District 33B to speak on the subject of menstrual equity, one of our legislative priorities. As a gynecologist and a mother, Rep. Morrison is a staunch supporter of a funded, mandated policy that provides public school students who menstruate with the products that they need. She shared her commitment to ensuring that menstruation does not continue to be a barrier to education in our state.
Our other legislative priorities — increasing the number of teachers of color and eliminating the statute of limitations for crimes of sexual violence — were introduced by Reviving Sisterhood Advocacy Director Asma Mohammed. An astoundingly small 4% of teachers serving our students in public schools are teachers of color. This lack of representation, Asma explained, is another barrier to education because it means that students of color cannot see themselves in and cannot relate to those leading their classrooms.
As a survivor of sexual violence, Asma has been fighting for the elimination of the statute of limitations since last year. Since one in four young women in our country experience sexual violence, chances are that each of us knows a survivor. Asma called on us to support them by advocating for forward-looking legislation that allows survivors to choose whether or not to report their perpetrators, instead of limiting their reporting time to between six and nine years after an assault.
Passionate and knowledgeable about these issues, our group was ready to get to work. But first, Asma fired us up with a call-and-response chant: “Whose house?” “Our house!” We were reclaiming this space and reminding ourselves that it belongs to the people — to us.
The remainder of the day was spent doing what we came to do: telling our legislators to support these three pieces of legislation. Muslim and Jewish women visited X representatives, Y Senators, and dropped off Z literature. Many were welcomed throughout the halls of the Capitol; others faced challenges and persevered.
We are grateful for those who took time out of their schedules to meet with us and listen to our shared priorities. We also thank our allies such as Moms Demand Action who showed up in solidarity. We look forward to continuing to advocate for menstrual equity, teacher diversity, and sexual violence reporting. After all, Muslim & Jewish Women’s Day at the Capitol was only the beginning — now, we will hold our legislators accountable.