Finding Your Esther Moment: A Conversation with Lori Palatnik


When was the last time you were faced with a risky situation and chose to stand up for what you believe in? In the story of Purim, Queen Esther has a chance to save the Jewish people. But if her plan goes awry, she may be put to death. She is filled with trepidation. Yet, with belief in G-d, support from her fellow Jews, and a carefully plotted plan, she finds the courage to stand up for her people.

According to Lori Palatnik, “Courage is finding your Esther moment.” In our conversation, Lori shares Judaism’s powerful lessons about feminism and courage, and how we can activate our inner strength, too.

What does feminism mean to you?

My mother taught me that true feminism is being respected for who you are, regardless of your gender, and not being objectified or limited in any way. While searching for a community that valued these ideals, I was disappointed to learn that academia only paid lip service to feminism and that the advertising industry — where I worked at the time — had a glass ceiling for women. I never expected to find feminism in the Jewish community. But I learned that Judaism’s stories illustrate the power of Jewish women to get the job done. Time and time again, women step in and make a difference.

What can Queen Esther teach us about feminism?

Through the hands of G-d, Esther was placed in the palace’s inner sanctum, beautifully positioned to save the Jewish people. Instead of being confrontational or threatening King Achashverosh — which can sometimes be a “male’s way” of handling a situation, she acted wisely and thoughtfully, leveraging her royal role and responsibilities to accomplish her goals. First, she invited the king to a party, setting the stage for him to meet with Haman. She also made the king think that all of her plans were his ideas. Ultimately, her clever and careful maneuvering led to the salvation of the Jewish people.

What are some ways that women have acted courageously in recent times?

During the rise of the #MeToo movement, we’ve seen women raise their voices and we’ve seen the world listen to them. These women have shown courage by effectively standing up for what they believe is right — even in the face of ridicule and embarrassment. Courage is tapping into a cause even though you may be afraid.

How can we channel our inner strength when faced with self-doubt or fear?

Look back and remember your Esther moments. Write them down. Talk about them. Doing this will give you the courage to take a stand again. Remind yourself that you didn’t exhibit strength because of luck or a coincidence. Instead, you showed courage because you were faced with a difficult situation and decided to step up. Courage is a muscle. The more we exercise it, the easier it is to tap into it.

How can we activate courage as a community and when is it the right time to do so?

Sometimes a situation requires the efforts of more than one person. If you feel that there’s an injustice in the community, there are probably others who feel the same way. Today, thanks to social media — and the click of a button, you can connect with those people and get together to make a difference. While one person needs to find the courage to take that first step, a group of people can accomplish so much more together. We’ve seen this in the #MeToo movement and in students’ recent rallies against guns. As each person shares her story, another person finds the courage to speak out, too — leading to a greater impact. 

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