by Ahuva Sunshine, NCJW Next Generation Scholarship Recipient
Attending the NCJW’s 46th National Convention was a much-needed healthy dose of (vegetarian) chicken soup for my Jewish feminist soul. In my post-college haze of moving from a campus to a large city, I left my supportive Jewish feminist community at the doorsteps of my university’s Hillel and in the grassy areas of the campus mall. I became focused on learning the contrived moves of the “young professionals” dance; networking with an extended hand (and if one is really ambitious, a business card), tangoing with job applications, and going freestyle at happy hour. I was going through the motions but realized something key was missing – something that would bring life and authenticity to my new routine. It was precisely at the NCJW Convention that I found the inspiration I so desperately needed to propel my journey as a Jewish feminist forward.
The caliber and dedication of the NCJW members impressed me most. Many of these women were baby boomers who came of age during the 1960’s feminist movement; they knew of a world without legal access to birth control and abortion, and they had been at the forefront of fighting for these fundamental rights. Today, these women are still at the forefront of this ongoing political battle. They are well–versed on the current state and national laws undermining reproductive justice and involved in conducting ongoing political campaigns and fundraising efforts to achieve greater access to reproductive healthcare for all. The NCJW Convention offered sessions titled “Talking About Abortion to Advance Reproductive Justice” and “Courts Matter: What is at Stake for Women” where experts in the field (who more often than not were NCJW members themselves) shared the most relevant information and political strategies utilized to create political change around the country. During these sessions some women spoke candidly about their own abortions, touching on tough issues such as affordability, stigma, and emotional turmoil. I have attended panels on reproductive healthcare before, but it was always treated as a distant political issue that doesn’t affect people we know. These brave NCJW women were able to break stereotypes and taboos, exemplifying the adage “the personal is political.”
These women were professionally and geographically diverse: they were bankers, lawyers, engineers, teachers, nonprofit professionals and doctors, and they hailed from states across the US such as California, Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and Maine. Despite the diversity, many of the women I conversed with expressed the same concern: is feminism dead? Where are all the youngsters? The tutorial session “Growing Your Online Reach – Strategies for Social Media Messaging,” answered this question and quelled some anxieties about the future of feminism. During this session, younger NCJW members, or new guard feminists, gave back to the old guard and taught about the online feminism that decks the virtual halls of the blogosphere and social media forums. The NCJW Women of Vision Award was presented to Anna Holmes, founder of Jezebel, a website that significantly augmented the online feminist presence. Holmes spoke about using the medium of pop-culture and snarky criticism to engage a new generation of digital feminists.
My three-day immersion into a tight-knit community dedicated to supporting and furthering so many progressive causes reminded me of how fulfilling and rewarding taking action within the context of a broader, supportive community with shared values truly is. I plan on staying in touch with the new friends, mentors, and role models I have met and establishing myself as an active member of the NCJW community.