Portrait of a Character – Leah Benson
In The Light, I needed a Rabbi character. Because women have fairly recently been admitted to the Rabbinate in all Jewish sects except for Orthodox (and it is highly doubtful that even the most competent Orthodox Jew would go into space during the Star Trek: Enterprise era), I decided on a female Rabbi.
I also felt that Starfleet would select someone relatively young to fulfill this role, as they would be hoping for someone to stick around for a while and that person would also need to be someone not easily shocked by things like asking to pray over a dying alien or even something as incredible as a Xindi Reptilian potentially asking to convert to Judaism.
Friendly, approachable and consoling, Rabbi Benson is not only an expert on Judaism, she’s also something of a counselor. For Ethan Shapiro, Andrew Miller, Josh Rosen and Karin Bernstein, the Rabbi may stand in as a parent when difficult decisions need to be made. She is someone they can turn to if they are grieving, or unsure of things, thereby allowing Captain Archer and Doctor Phlox more breathing room.
In Bread, it’s revealed that they married (thereby predicting that gay marriage will be legal in the United Federation of Planets). Their long-term, loving relationship is sorely tested when Diana becomes gravely ill.
Leah’s only known relationship in the Mirror Universe is with Leonora Digiorno. As ruthless as anyone else in the mirror, Leah is not a woman of God. Instead, she is a pilot, and is meant to be somewhat similar to Melissa Madden, who the Mirror Norri never meets.
The image is brief but indelible, in Fortune, when Leah murders Norri for the most selfish and trivial of reasons. Nasty, brutal and efficient, Leah steals the meager possessions she can carry and leaves Norri’s broken body without looking back.
“When Starfleet was established, this question was decided, as Talmudic scholars determined that there could be occasions when Kaddish would have to be said but a Jew would be, perhaps alone, or with no means of communicating with other Jews. So, you can pray with a quorum, a minyan partly composed of Jews who are linked via communications – such as we are linked right now. Or you can enlist the help of non-Jewish friends for this specific purpose. Either way will work.”
Leah is about as different as anyone can be when you compare her Prime and Mirror Universe counterparts. I wanted her to be that way, whereas Doug and Jay are, for example, a lot closer. Leah represents just how different the two sides of the coin truly can be, and how a few changes in someone’s life can turn them from a gentle, caring person to a ruthless, cold-blooded monster.