• Melissa Cowl

DONA Summit Not For Jewish Doulas

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

Rosh Hoshanah begins tonight as the first of the High Holy Days. For many of my Jewish Doula colleagues, the week ahead is full with family obligations, food (lots and lots of food), time for reflection, prayer and is then followed by Yom Kippur - the Holiest day in the Jewish calendar and known as the Day of Atonement.. To all of Doula friends and colleagues, I see you. I hear you. I wish you l'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi.


I have been a Doula with DONA International for more than 25 years and nothing surprised me more than the scheduling of their annual conference during this Holy Week. When the dates were announced, a number of trainers protested the dates and made the Board aware of the conflict and yet, strangely, the dates did not change. More than two weeks ago, I posted a note in the online DONA member discussion board to see if there were any other Doulas out there feeling as disheartened by this exclusion as I was. The post was removed within hours of posting. There has been no member discussion and no formal statement has been issued by the Board of Directors. Now, as Rosh Hoshanah is upon us, I am seeing and hearing the rumblings all over social media. Knowing that I am not the only one feeling badly about this has made me feel just a wee bit better.


For those who did not see my original post in the DONA Discussion Board, here it is again:

15 September 2019

Posted for my doula friends and colleagues RE: The DONA Summit

I’m having a hard time and I need to share with my fellow doulas.


As the summit draws closer, I’m seeing more email and discussion posts around it and while something didn’t sit well with me when the dates were announced, I’m now even more perplexed and triggered than I was earlier in the year when this was all announced.


This conference falls smack in the middle of the holiest week in the Jewish calendar. The dates effectively removes a whole community of doulas from attending. Early Board responses suggested they checked the dating with some Jewish members and the dates were fine - but they aren’t fine. These dates were never fine.


Midwifery Today canceled their conference in the USA due to an outcry of support for the LGBT community based on the conference venue. People were outraged and offended.


The image used in a blog piece earlier this year caused an uproar from the African American community and there was a lot of anger which brought about a formal statement an apology was released.


While I was initially shocked and disappointed by the chosen conference dates, I’m more shocked that as time draws closer to the summit no one is talking about prejudice or antisemitism. This whole event will move forward without any cultural awareness or sensitivity by our members. And how can there be any recovery? Someone mentions it at the conference? There is no one there to hear it. A statement or video response with an apology is not action. It is far too late for that. Does someone light the candles on a Friday night and say the prayer? That’s just wrong and culturally insensitive.


The Board chose the dates - the damage was done a long time ago now - but now the speakers and the members who are attending this event become culpable. Religious discrimination seems to have gone quite unnoticed by a lot of people. Where is the outrage and the anger? Are attending speakers and members now right on par with those that would have attended a conference at a venue that did not welcome an entire community. Any group left out, with or without awareness, is not right.


Religious antisemitism should never have been tolerated in the first place but now that it is weeks before this event, and considering racial and prejudicial occurrences earlier in the year, I am even more dismayed than I was when the dates were announced. I just had to speak my piece and post to see if there was even one other person feeling the way I am.

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