November 13, 2020

Hello out there!
A new era in American history is dawning. A woman of color-- and her Jewish husband-- are moving into the vice president’s residence! (WOOHOO!!) VP-elect Harris shared the importance of this historic election in her acceptance speech: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” It’s not only little girls who see that—it’s all of us!  Soon after the election, my Facebook feed was filled with pictures of high heeled shoes and the caption, “Make sure to wear shoes, ladies. There’s glass everywhere.” A previously unreachable glass ceiling was shattered!

On the day after the winners were announced, this article was published in the New York Times: “Kamala Harris in a White Suit, Dressing for History.” It referred to the outfit she wore for her acceptance speech—a white pant suit and a white silky blouse with a big bow. The subtitle of the article says it all: “This wasn’t about fashion, it was about politics, past and future.” The article begins, “On Saturday night, when Kamala Harris stepped onto the stage and into history at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., she did so in full recognition of the weight of the moment, and in full acknowledgment of all who came before.” To stand proudly for the grand occasion, she wore “two garments that have been alternately fraught and celebrated symbols of women’s rights for decades.” The article explains the significance of her clothing that night. First, the pant suit as “a nod to the struggle to break the final glass ceiling, stretching from the suffragists through Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and the women of Congress… [and] now, finally, transformed into a beacon of achievement.” As for the so-called “pussy-bow blouse,” it was worn as part of Margaret Thatcher’s uniform, as well as by many women surrounded by men in ties. (For a Trump-era meaning attached to this style, I’ll let you read the full article here.)

We all present ourselves—intentionally or unintentionally-- by choosing an appearance that reveals something about our mindset and our goals. The appearance of the first female VP in our country’s history will be scrutinized. No doubt, “the details — the pearls, the pumps, the sneakers — will matter…” because our nation will be very curious to see how a woman plays the role of vice president. As we’ve already seen with her love of Converse sneakers, our new VP is planning to move swiftly, efficiently, and comfortably. I say, “good for her!” 

And while our new vice president-elect has decided what to wear throughout her pandemic-campaign, fashion—or lack thereof—has been a topic for all of us. What is fashion during a global pandemic? What rules apply or are suspended these days? Are there new fashion norms in an era of pandemic-chic? 

I particularly appreciated this recent article in the New York Times, titled, “Is This the End of the Manicure?” I will admit—but only to you—that I have wondered about this very issue: “As our socially distant way of life begins to feel normal, so, too, do naked nails.” How is this possible?? My toe nails had not seen the light of day for decades… until an international pandemic forced them into fresh air and direct sunlight. At the beginning of the pandemic, I worried about what might happen if people caught even a teensy weensy glimpse of my bare toe nails. But I decided that in the midst of an international catastrophe, I could be forgiven for their nudity. Eight months later, it is starting to feel rather new-normal. If you had told me back in March that my toe nails would not be polished… and that we’d have a woman vice president… I would never have believed you!

Shabbat shalom!
Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf

Kabbalat Shabbat
Friday, November 13, 6 pm

Rabbi Abby Phelps and Cantor Toby Glaser lead Friday night Shabbat services.
Torah Study
Saturday, November 14, 9:15 am

Rabbi Abby Phelps will lead a conversation on this week's Torah portion.
Update on COVID-19 Vaccines
Dr. Jeremy Rassen and Dr. Jonathan Graf
Monday, November 16, 5 pm

Join us for a discussion of the latest COVID-19 news on vaccines.
Dr. Jeremy Rassen trained as an epidemiologist and computer scientist, and is currently Chief Science Officer at Aetion, Inc., where he uses data to examine the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Our host, Dr. Jonathan Graf is a professor of medicine at UCSF and a practicing internist and rheumatologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General and UCSF Medical Centers.