Rabbi explains why fat activism is necessary in Jewish spaces – Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

Posted By on August 5, 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Rabbi Minna Brombergs work addressing weight stigma in Jewish communal spaces took her to a lot of synagogues. She was often bewildered when organizers provided her a chair that was too small. Getting people to acknowledge her body and their discomfort with it is one reason she founded Fat Torah a year ago.

Because people are so uncomfortable with fat bodies, they dont see my needs but it should be obvious, she said. They can see my body but dont give me the right chair. Its literally a consciousness-raising need. People dont think about fat peoples needs.

In her webinar Whats Jewish about Fat Activism? sponsored by Valley Beit Midrash on Aug. 5, Bromberg will talk about how Jewish professionals can help to confront and diminish weight stigma using Jewish sacred texts and tradition.

Bromberg explained that the most basic text on this issue says that all humans are created in the divine image, which includes our bodies. This concept is elaborated in conversations in Talmud and Sanhedrin about every human having value and the importance of uniqueness.

Bromberg has been involved in fat activism since she was a teenager in the 1990s. And after her ordination 11 years ago, she has been able to combine two big parts of her life. Its necessary work, too people still dont react rationally to her body, she said. And she knows shes not alone.

My own activism for most of the last 20 years or so has been showing up in my own body in public and not being afraid or ashamed to do that, she said.

And that includes in Jewish spaces.

Physical accessibility in synagogues is a longstanding problem, especially for the largest people, she said.

Shes happy to highlight synagogues that make an effort to accommodate larger people. It could be something as simple as providing chairs without confining arms. And then ensuring chairs like this are not claimed first by people who dont need them.

This is the kind of thing that caught Edith Coxs eye when she first read Brombergs blog.

I was really excited because I had been thinking for a long time that fat activism is a social justice issue, but I never made the Jewish connection, she said.

Cox is a longtime supporter of VBM and appreciates its focus on social justice, but she didnt think fat activism was on its radar. She was a bit surprised that Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, VBMs president and dean, was open to the idea. I thought I might have to do some convincing but he was on board right away, Cox said.

Cox is excited about the possibility of expanding minds when it comes to how people perceive bodies, including their own, and getting them to see things from a new and Torah perspective.

All bodies are good bodies, but another way to say that is were all images of God, Cox said, reiterating Brombergs work. The body is sacred in Judaism so its not appropriate to hate your body or denigrate your body. We should all be OK in our skin.

Yanklowitz, too, said Brombergs work aligned very deeply with VBMs vision and mission to expand the Torahs reach to new pressing moral issues and in engaging new, diverse, often marginalized Jewish populations. Hes eager to see what type of conversations and learning possibilities evolve from this event.

Bromberg admires VBMs work on inclusion and said that part of her organizations goal is to ensure that weight stigma belongs on this kind of agenda.

It impacts people, especially women, of all sizes, who spend so much time and money trying to police their bodies to be a shape they were never meant to be, she said.

In order to educate people about weight stigma, she said its important to have a loving relationship with her own body, which is something she can model to others. In a world that tells me I dont belong, its a radical act to love and accept my body, she said.

But self-love cant protect her from discrimination, and thats one reason this work is important and ongoing, she said. JN

To register for the Aug. 5 webinar at 12 p.m., go to valleybeitmidrash.org

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Rabbi explains why fat activism is necessary in Jewish spaces - Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

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