Affirming The Dignity & Value of Women In The Bible & Patrons of The Queen Esther Project.
By: Lisa Pandone Benson
For as long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with Biblical history. Particularly, the stories of heroic women of the Bible. The Bible richly affirms the dignity and value of women. Their qualities such as victors, leaders, heroines are the courage, strength we should imbue, and teach to our daughters. There names are synonymous with strength and valor: Hagar, Tamar, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Esther, Ruth, Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Leah. Of all of the heroines, two stand out preeminent to all others: Miriam and Esther.
Miriam, the sister of Aaron and Moses (two of the great Israelite figures in the Bible), is herself a noble figure. Miriam has some sober lessons to teach us. The first we see Miriam she is a protective, capable and brave sister of baby Moses. It must have been wonderful for Miriam to know that she set her brother into the reeds of the Nile to be fetched and ultimately saved. The story is one of faith, and hope. The story of Miriam is one of great strength and fortitude as she would meet Moses again when Moses received the Ten Commandments, and when he parted the Red Sea. You can say that it was Miriam who is responsible for Moses's life, and it was Miriam who became a leader of the women of the Israelites.
That being said, and even though my mother's name is Miriam, it was not Miriam I named my foundation after. It was the Queen of all Queen's, the mystical Biblical figure of the exile of the Jewish people in Persia that I gravitated to: Queen Esther.
Her beauty only surpassed by her courage, her courage witnessed in her cunning skills as a negotiator to thwart a plot to kill all Jews in exile in Persia. Her story is the basis of the Jewish holiday, Purim, which is celebrated on the date of the story for when Haman's order was to go into effect. Beautiful, obedient, this beauty who saved the Jewish people in Persia became the Queen of Persia, the Jewish Queen of Persia.
A 19th-century depiction of Esther (born Hadassah), the queen of Ahasuerus and the heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther.Credit...Fine Art Images/Heritage Images, via Getty Images
It was important to me to name my foundation after a female heroine of great biblical proportion. It was Esther that resonated, and Esther it remains. Although, the next foundation, or project focused on women, solely, will be named after Miriam.
The Queen Esther Project glorifies, and commemorates, Esther’s initiativeness, courage, and wisdom saving the lives of the Jewish people.
In this sense, Esther is the first biblical figure, male or female, to engage in statesmanship. Previous heroes — Moses and Elijah, Samuel and Deborah — are prophets who are guided and guarded by the Divine, but Esther operates on instinct, reflecting a mastery of realpolitik. As Isaiah Berlin wrote in his essay “On Political Judgment,” great leaders practice affairs of state not as a science but an art; they are, more akin to orchestra conductors than chemists. Facing a crisis, they “grasp the unique combination of characteristics that constitute this particular situation — this and no other.” Esther is the first scriptural figure to embody this description, emerging as a woman for all seasons, a hero celebrated year after year.
During the years of 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, The Queen Esther Project was responsible for the delivery of 205 AM radio broadcasts, heard around the world, fulfilling the mission to educate on genocide and tyranny. While embarking on those years, it was clear that terrorism was threatening Israel, and the remnants of al Qaeda were competing for prominence in Syria. Therefore, I felt compelled to name my newly formed foundation, "The Queen Esther Project." The name resonated, it served us well in all we did, and all we continue to do. It felt right then, and it continues to feel right now. Queen Esther saved the Jewish people in Persia, and with her now, I/we would save the world from genocial maniacs, and those who would be dictators and tyrannical.
Our accomplishments have been many. We have helped rescue Congolese Christian from the Streets of Phoenix; refugees who ran out of money, couldn't speak English and had difficulty assimilating into American life.
Dr. Dina Shacknai volunteering and providing urgent needs to Phoenix refugees.
The Queen Esther Project provided aid to the Yazidi refugee community in Arizona; women and children held captive by ISIS in Iraq . The atrocities witnessed by these courageous women would never be known if not for the brave testimonies. I honor all of the Yazidi women held for five or more years by the Islamic State - savages in every sense of the world.
Today, we are focused on Kenya and aiding the women and children whose lives were uprooted by floods, torrential rain, locusts, and landslides. It is our mission to continue our mission to alleviate human suffering. We thank those who have been by our side, those who serve as advisors and as donors. For these compassionate people make the work of The Queen Esther Project possible.
Lisa E. Pandone Benson
CEO, The Queen Esther Project.org