Carly Pildis: Zionist Feminist Activist
Carly Pildis, 34, has for several years been a forceful writer on Twitter and in the Jewish media (including Opinion articles in the Forward), addressing anti-Semitism on the left and right, and fighting for progressive Jews who don’t want to hide their support for Israel’s existence. In 2019, as controversies about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism raged, Pildis became the second employee of Zioness, the Zionist-feminist advocacy group, and quickly went to work training newly-politicized Jewish women in how to advocate for issues like gun control, reproductive rights –- and Israel, too. “I don’t want people to feel afraid,” she told the Forward in October. Pildis is also an ambitious cook whose weekly #tweetyourshabbat posts make the mouth water.
Breakfast: Vegan Sausage or oatmeal on a weekday, bagels or pancakes on the weekend.
What’s the last thing you listened to on your phone? “The Peppa Pig Album.” It really helps keep my daughter happy in the car on the way to school. The last thing I listened to by myself was “Watch the Throne.” I am so happy Jay-Z is back on Spotify!
Earliest Jewish memory: Shabbat dinner with my family. My mom always went all out. All of our friends were welcome anytime; the door was always open. The food was delicious and she cooked enough for anyone who happened to drop by. Friends of mine who aren’t Jewish have told me it was a big part of their childhood as well. Heschel said it best, it’s not just Jews that have kept Shabbat — Shabbat has kept the Jews.
Hero: My Mother – Rabbi Ellen Pildis. She taught me so many important lessons. She taught me how to run a Jewish home, how to be strong when life knocks you down, how to go through it all with a modicum of grace. Most importantly, she taught me that Judaism was mine — it was all of ours, and no one could take it away from you.
When I was a kid, a teacher told me that homosexuality was a sin and I came home crying. I told my mom I didn’t want a Bat Mitzvah anymore. She took down a bundle of books and we walked through it piece by piece until I felt proud to be Jewish and confident our tradition supported LGTBQ rights. She knows that knowledge about who we are and what we believe is power — and that women need all the power we can get. She became a rabbi at 50, with three kids and a husband to take care of. I don’t know how she did that but it showed me we can be anything.
She taught me that life is long, and you can achieve everything you want to with hard work and the right timing. She taught me to break all the stupid societal expectations and build a Jewish life you love.and a career you love. She demands I make time to write. She is my hero and my inspiration. I want the same for my daughter.
2019 memory: I met Yossi Klein Halevi at the ADL Summit. When he told me he read my work regularly and enjoyed it, I completely lost my cool. I was so stunned and amazed. He took me for coffee and we talked about writing and about Zionism and about life. It was incredible. Transformational.
Favorite thing about being Jewish: Everything. More specifically I love being a Jewish woman. I love our history, our strength, and our ability to multitask. I love the holidays, the rituals, the songs, the way the Jewish calendar ensures that a holiday is never too far away. I am so excited to be raising a Jewish daughter and passing all of the beauty and all of the strength in Jewish womanhood on to her.
What app can you not live without? TWITTER! I love Jewish Twitter so so much. It has opened up so much opportunity for me and shown me endless support. Jewish Twitter also has taught me so much about different parts of our community I may have never known otherwise. People like Alex Zeldin teaching us about the challenges faced by FSU Jewish refugees, Peter Fox sharing his experience as a gay Jewish man, Tema Smith who challenges us on racial justice and interfaith acceptance, Rabbi Ruti Reagan who teaches us about disability rights.
I first connected with Zioness, which runs an amazing account, on Twitter. I commented on their very first post. There are so many Jewish accounts debating, arguing, sharing their experiences — it’s such a beautiful thing. The recipes are also amazing — and I love seeing how people who abhor each other’s politics come together to share a favorite pareve dessert that can be made in under 20 minutes on a busy Friday. Jewish twitter forever. Without it, I wouldn’t be here.
Weekend ritual: Shabbat dinner with my family. We don’t get much time together during the week, so sitting down to dinner, lighting candles, and eating a nice meal together is really really important. I also love the moment when the meal is done and my husband takes my daughter up to bed. I have a quiet glass of wine by myself and take a little break. I put my feet up and watch the Shabbat candle, knowing the week is done and I somehow got Shabbat dinner on the table!
Read more: Carly Pildis’s recent op-ed in the Forward about Trump, Israel and bigotry
Her 2019 essay in the Forward on the frustrations of Passover prep as a feminist
The Forward article on Zioness
Follow Carly Pildis on Twitter @carlypildis