by Nancy Ratzan, NCJW Immediate Past President, and
Robin Leeds, NCJW Board Director
On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, we saw the curtains pulled back on voting in South Florida, once again exposing a labyrinth of inter-tangled and ever-expanding voting challenges. Though Florida’s voting experience has been anemic since 2000, I don’t think any of us expected South Florida’s election experience to be the ‘perfect storm’ this year.
Our story actually began months ago. We wanted to engage in NCJW’s national Promote the Vote, Protect the Vote 2012 Initiative, and support NCJW’s collaboration with The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, which coordinates the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection project. After excellent training, great resources, connecting with a network of trained legal and non-legal field volunteers and staff, we were excited to accept our assignment to staff the Broward County Command Center with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Election Protection Project on Election Day.
by Nancy Ratzan, NCJW Immediate Past President, and
By Anoush Bagdoyan, NCJW Senior Manager of Communications
On Sunday, October 28, when I evacuated from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, Election Day was still nine days away. There was some talk of what effect the storm would have on voting, but the possibility of any havoc seemed like a long shot at the time.
Yesterday morning at work, the day before the election, was a different story. We were discussing the final stages of NCJW’s Promote the Vote, Protect the Vote efforts and how we would be engaging the greater NCJW community, including staff, to share their voting experiences. I blurted out, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to vote.”
by Gayle Kent, NCJW Communications Intern, Summer 2012
This coming election will be the first presidential election in which I can vote — in 2008 I was still 17. I registered to vote when I turned 18 and voted in the 2010 election, but I have never been so excited for an election as I am this year! Come November 6, I’m planning to go into the voting booth prior to my Science Fiction and Religion course. Yet, as a young person, I know that on election day far too many of my peers will not even bother to make the effort.
On the one hand, in my little “liberal arts bubble,” I can look around and safely say that most of my college friends will be voting. Generally, it’s a pretty active campus. I also go to school in a swing state, so there is no opportunity for the “my vote won’t matter anyway” apathy. But now that I’m home for the summer, I realize I don’t know if the friends I’ve known since childhood will be voting. In fact, we never discuss it. But we should.
by Arezu Kaywanfar
During my internship with NCJW, a rally in support of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) stands out in my mind as an event that further ignited my passion for women’s empowerment.
NCJW has long supported VAWA and continues to work for passage of this bill that protects all victims of domestic and sexual assault. Though the House passed its version of VAWA in May, that bill contains dangerous provisions that would actually be harmful to women and their families. NCJW supports the Senate’s version of VAWA, which would streamline programs to increase effectiveness and provide critical improvements to respond to unmet needs within communities. The Senate version also strengthens protections for those experiencing violence at the hands of a same-sex partner, as well as for immigrants and Native American women. In short, it’s a much better bill!
This time of year, it’s impossible to avoid the wall-to-wall displays of colorful Easter candy, including Peeps of every color (those sugar coated marshmallow chicks and bunnies). I can’t look at Peeps without smiling, recalling one of my mentors, an actor and teacher at a theater near where I grew up who nearly lived on sweets. Peeps were among her favorites. She was cheerful and comforting and played a big role in supporting my emerging self-confidence and drive for social justice work.
When I went home to attend her funeral in 2009, the sense of loss I felt was compounded by the tragedy that surrounded her death. She had delayed seeking health care when she first thought something was wrong, because it was just too expensive. Though she was a unique spirit, it turned out that my mentor couldn’t buck some troubling trends — that women are more likely than men to forgo needed health care, including preventive care, due to cost; that women report more difficulty paying medical bills than men; and that women are more likely than men to be underinsured. It also turned out that she was right when she suspected something was wrong. But, since she couldn’t afford care, she ignored the signs of colon cancer, which took her life in just about a year. She was only 46 years old.
by Emily Alfano, senior manager of government relations
Nearly two years ago, the National Council of Jewish Women launched Higher Ground, a campaign to end domestic violence by promoting women’s economic security. Higher Ground is an expression of NCJW’s unshakable commitment to ensuring that no woman ever has to choose between personal safety and financial stability. Now it’s time for Congress to again demonstrate its commitment to the victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by passing the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act (S 1925).
When we launched the Higher Ground campaign we heard from an NCJW leader who shared her experiences with domestic violence while she was volunteering at an abortion clinic: “One of the questions I had to ask when meeting with incoming patients was, ‘Are you in an abusive relationship?’ I was shocked that so many women answered yes, and outraged that in my more than 22 years of talking with women about unintended pregnancies, the prevalence of violence only seemed to increase. One woman, I remember, told me of how her boyfriend had been verbally abusive before she got pregnant. Now that she was pregnant, he now had become physically abusive. Her name was Michelle. She told me of how her boyfriend now punched her in the stomach repeatedly, and told her that she wasn’t worthy of being a mother, and that he would leave her if she didn’t get an abortion. When I asked why she stayed with a man who beat her, Michelle stated matter-of-factly that he paid the rent and that she would be out on the street if she left him.”
Stories like Michelle’s are still far too common.
This December, as I reflect on the successes and challenges of 2011, I cannot help but think about the millions of families who are facing the new year with apprehension. Instead of approaching January 1 with hopes for a fresh start, as many of us do, jobless workers who desperately want work but can’t find employment are standing at the edge of a cliff. Congressional inaction could be what sends these families and their children over the edge, plunging them into poverty.
Last year, unemployment insurance helped keep 3 million people from falling into poverty. However, if Congress doesn’t act before December 31, millions of unemployed workers will lose this critical lifeline. In January alone, 2 million workers will lose their federal unemployment benefits — more than 6 million will see their benefits disappear by the end of 2012.
When I was first deciding whether or not to use prescription birth control, my initial question was not, “What will my boss think about this?” Rather, my first thoughts were about how I would have an honest conversation with my doctor; how we would determine the best method to fit my life; and how to determine what services were covered by my insurance plan to figure out what I could afford.
I had a lot of decisions to make. I was lucky enough to be working at an institution that covered the pills on which I ultimately settled. The last thing I needed to think about was whether my office even allowed me the option to access this kind of basic preventive health care.