A Bisl Torah

Rock the Boat

This past Wednesday, a personal dream came true. I met Andrea Zuckerman from the show, 90210. For several years, I would sit with my father and sister and then later my UCLA roommates and watch Brenda, Brandon, Dylan, Kelly, Donna, David, Steve and Andrea learn about high school, the ups and downs of adolescence, and how to transform friendships into family. Ask anyone close to me…I loved 90210 and even sneak in a rerun here and there.

Gabrielle Carteris, the woman that played Andrea, spoke at the American Jewish University Women’s luncheon. AJU honored Sinai Temple’s very own, Heidi Monkarsh.  But Gabrielle did not speak about her character or even the other actors on the show. She spoke about “Rocking the Boat.”

She explained that when she auditioned for the role, a role of a 16-year-old girl, Gabrielle herself was 29 years old. She read for the part and wasn’t asked to divulge her age. Months passed by and magazines began to interview the teen idols. And of course, the interviewers asked Gabrielle her age. She declined to answer. She understood that being almost 30 years old on a high school show would startle both the teen audience and shock the production team. Of course, her age was discovered and printed and Gabrielle faced the public, mortified and scared. And the reaction from her production team stays with her to this day. They said, “You are one lucky girl. Thank goodness, the show is doing well. Otherwise, you would be fired.” And all Gabrielle could remember, even though anger and fury compounded within, was, “Don’t rock the boat.”

For years, that was her mantra. Keep quiet, stay under the radar, don’t rock the boat. But at a point of crisis in her life, years after the show ended, she realized that the only way she would stay strong in this world was if…she did rock the boat. If she chose to voice her opinions. If she fought for other actors when ageism, sexism, and different forms of discrimination came their way. With these convictions, she became the president of the Screen Actors Guild union. And now, every day, with pride and joy, she rocks the boat.

In the Talmud in Masekhet Berakhot, it says, “Great is the promise in the future to women…as it is said, ‘Rise up, women at ease; hear My voice confident daughter, listen to what I say (Isaiah 32:9.)'” Although the text speaks about women in comparison to men and explains that this promise is contingent upon how a woman supports a man, I am choosing to read it out of context. I glean that within each of us is a divine voice asking us to rise to the occasion. That when we feel pushed down, dismissed, wronged or hurt, God does not want us to go silently into the night. God is asking us to use our voice…to be confident…to rise up.

In other words, quoting one of my favorite actresses on 90210, your time has come to “rock the boat.”

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