by Phyllis Snyder, NCJW President (2005-2008)
I have been attending NCJW Washington Institutes since the 1980’s. And, every one of them has been exhilarating, motivating, educational, and unique in its own way. I, like many NCJW advocates, speak out regularly and effectively through the online work of the NCJW Action Center. But during those few days of Washington Institute, I get to be where the center of the action is – in Washington, DC – hearing about the key topics of the day; learning from experts in the field; and doing my advocacy face-to-face with my legislators as we take “our issues” up to Capitol Hill.
I recall memorable Washington Institutes past: an evening vigil at the Soviet Embassy on behalf of Soviet Jewry; a legislative meeting with CT Representative Chris Murphy (now Senator Chris Murphy) hours after the US House of Representatives voted in favor of health care reform and how excited he was to share the moment with us; and having the opportunity to meet President Bill Clinton ahead of his keynote speech to us in 1998.
I was on the Hill to meet with long-serving Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. I also remember a Greater Danbury Section delegation meeting with then CT Representative John Rowland to advocate for a woman’s right to choose. Representative Rowland was not a supporter of reproductive rights, but this was one of our key issues and we spoke passionately to him about the problems facing women who were victims of rape or incest. He listened, thanked us for our input, and several days later voted in favor of an amendment that allowed government funds to cover abortions for victims of rape or incest.
Washington Institute is my chance, our chance, to come together in person and collectively tackle those issues that relate to our core agenda and priorities. They are the issues that show who we are – as individuals and as an organization. I’ve always been proud that these are the issues on which NCJW takes the lead, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us at this next one!