Rev Leah Hart-Landsberg
Recently, the UUWF conducted a survey of UU women around the country, asking them to prioritize the gender justice issues that most engage them: reproductive and economic justice, domestic violence and the impact of climate change. Additionally, we asked respondents to name ministers (of all genders) who are doing exemplary work in this arena. We will be featuring their stories in the coming months.
This month we interviewed Rev Leah Hart-Landsberg, associate minister of the Fox Valley UU Fellowship in Appleton Wisconsin.
Rev. Leah Hart-Landsberg serves the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as the associate minister. She grew up in a Jewish and Unitarian Universalist family and has been a child, member, lay leader, staff member and minister at UU congregations in Oregon, Washington, California, New Jersey and Florida. She received her degree from Starr King School for the Ministry, a UU graduate theological school. She co-edited the Skinner House book Jewish Voices in Unitarian Universalism and is a past president of UUs for Jewish Awareness. Leah and her spouse Amy have four children and various pets.
When told she had been named as a praiseworthy minister on behalf of women and girls, Leah said “I can respond with gratitude. I do live my life as a feminist and expect that it would infiltrate my ministry.”
How does she define feminism? “It is the simply the idea that women are people,” she says. In a practical sense, she observes, “it means behaving as if gender matters, responding to and being inspired by this.” Being female at birth and continuing to identify as such calls her to see both her gendered reality and other realities, noticing the places that gender does and does not intersect with other aspects of identity.
To say we are post-gender in how women are viewed and treated, is foolish, she believes. If she could design her symbolic tombstone, Leah describes the hope for her legacy as having “paid attention to whose voice, whose body is de-centralized, made invisible.”
As a minister in a large UU congregation, Leah notes the importance of her presence in the pulpit and as worship leader, not just in what she preaches about, whether feminism or Black Lives Matter, but also in the conscious “integration of sources and voices that are not just male, white, heterosexual and Christian.”
Ministers over-focus on the pulpit, she observes. There are other opportunities to recognize and remedy whose participation is in the center and who is pushed out to the edges. For example, her pastoral care team intentionally recognizes the cost of being or perceiving oneself as being on the outside, a feminist principle.
She does not see herself as being able to “personally embody every important fight for visibility. And ministers should be real about that. But I try to be very real and visible in the struggles that I do have, like being a public professional woman in a culture that wants my silence instead of my voice.”
“I hope that others—whether they have similar or different struggle than my own — can see that and feel invited to fight their fight. These connections, and how we model and invite others, are an important part of feminism for me.”