If there was a living example of an eishes chayil (woman of valor), it could be Amy Coney Barrett. She ticks every box for the qualifications of the woman your husband sings about every Friday night at the Shabbos table before Kiddush. Of course, her religious practices are l’havdil Catholic, but the balance of attributes is extraordinary. If you are watching FOX News, you can’t escape the countless commercials endorsing her appointment to the Supreme Court, especially the one of JFK speaking about religious persecution.
According to Wikipedia, which seems to be the only factual source of information these days, this woman’s accomplishments are too many to list in this article.
“Amy Coney Barrett (born Amy Vivian Coney, January 28, 1972) is an American attorney, jurist, and academic who serves as a circuit judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She married fellow Notre Dame Law School graduate Jesse M. Barrett, a partner at SouthBank Legal – LaDue Curran & Kuehn LLC in South Bend, Indiana. They live in South Bend and have seven children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti, one in 2005, and one after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Their youngest biological child has Down syndrome. Jesse’s aunt assisted with childcare in their home, beginning when the eldest was about one year old.
Barrett has been a lay pastoral women’s leader in the Christian parachurch community People of Praise, a self-described ecumenical “covenant community” founded in South Bend that is associated with the Catholic charismatic renewal movement but not formally affiliated with the Catholic Church.”
Did I mention that she is deemed the smartest student who ever graduated from Norte Dame Law School? Frankly, she makes me feel completely inadequate. I confess that the translation of Eishes Chayil makes me feel the same way.
Since having a career in fashion and marketing leaves me completely in the dark about Amy’s path of superwoman-hood, I knew that one of my dearest friends would be more knowledgeable. I called Sara Shulevitz Vorhand, Criminal Defense Attorney, former prosecutor, rebbetzin, wife, and Jewish activist, to ask her about POTUS’ selection for Supreme Court justice. Sara is currently heading the legal defense team for radio personality Heshy Tischler. She’s fighting his politically motivated recent arrest for inciting a riot in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
After all, Sara’s been named a Top Ten Criminal Attorney for more years than I can remember. Shuffling her Miami and New York City law offices, she is also an active rebbetzin in her husband’s shtiebel on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and on and on…
As I was sitting on my stationary bicycle, waiting for the endorphins to kick in, I asked her a few key questions.
Tobi: What are your thoughts about Judge Barrett?
Sara: Judge Barrett seems like she has almost a flawless life. She is exemplary in so many ways; it’s hard to imagine that there is anything wrong. I have heard from colleagues that she has a brilliant legal mind as well as being humble and thoughtful. Being a super wife and mom along with her legal career is almost like a superhero. The press can’t seem to dig up anything to attack other than her religious practices, which I find personally disturbing.
Tobi: Now, that we touched on the area of religious practice, here’s my next question, which intertwines your rebbetzin role and lawyer role. How difficult is it to separate the two?
Sara: I think the two go hand in hand, Torah law and secular law. In Parshas Yisro, the Courts for Justice were set up. It’s one of the first requirements in the Torah to set up courts of justice. The court system proposed by Yisro to Moshe Rabbeinu was similar in structure to our court system today. Our court systems are modeled after the Torah, from lower courts to higher courts. The holy Torah has a theme of pursuing justice, as it is written, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof.” Also, the Talmud says, “Dina d’malchusa dina,” the law in the land is the law. Secular and Torah law, per Jewish tradition, go hand in hand; therefore, there no contradiction at all.
Tobi: Is Judge Barrett a poster girl for an eishes chayil or a destructive force to feminism? Can you really do it all?
Sara: Feminism is a double-edged sword. It has benefited and harmed women at the same time. Torah-observant women have a different role than men do. “Kol k’vudah bas melech p’nimah,” which means that a woman’s role is internal, home based. However, modern times have given women great opportunities, as in the legal courts where women like Justice Ginsburg fought against inequality and gender discrimination. Many female attorneys graduated law school and suffered all types of hardships trying to fit into a boys’ club. Some had higher grades and qualifications than the men, like Justice Ginsburg who was Ivy League educated and could not get a job other than being a legal secretary. Women have broken so many barriers in every field. As a rebbetzin and shadchan, I also witness the double-edge sword: There is a shidduch crisis for many successful, highly qualified women. Their intelligence and accomplishments often work against them. I also counsel married couples struggling with the shift of traditional roles and how women’s independence can, chas v’shalom, lead to shalom bayis problems. In other words, the reality of women having it all is sometimes difficult and has its own challenges.
Tobi: In other words, you are saying that women really can’t juggle it all without sacrificing something?
Sara: The ideal “superwoman” is almost impossible to achieve. It seems as if Judge Barrett has gotten closer than most of us, and I highly respect her for it.
I could have talked to Sara for hours about this and never really come to any solid conclusion. Achieving the Eishes Chayil / Superwoman title seems like the golden ticket a woman constantly chases. I’m never going to resolve this one, but only so much to say: Thank G-d there are so many opportunities, careers, situations, and environments where women can strive to become their best selves. Amy Coney Barrett is living that right in front of our eyes. Bravo, girl!
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.