NCJW : The NCJW Insider

Reflecting on Jerusalem Pride Parade

By Samantha Pohl, NCJW Associate Director of Development

The week prior to my departure for a vacation in Israel, my colleagues and I at NCJW reacted in horror when we learned about the six individuals stabbed at the Jerusalem Pride Parade. We were especially shocked when one of the victims, Shira Banki, passed away.

Immediately, NCJW was in touch with Jerusalem Open House of Pride and Tolerance (JOH), which planned the march and is a 2015 grantee of our Israel Granting Program for their transgender community work. When the leadership at JOH expressed the need for emergency funding to support increased counseling for the members of their youth group who knew Shira and the others hurt in the attack, NCJW jumped into action. We issued a check for $5,000 to further enable them to provide the services necessary to help their community heal from the hate crime they experienced.

I volunteered to take some time out of my trip to visit with my colleagues at JOH and bring them the check personally. When I arrived in Jerusalem, the atmosphere felt heavy; the weight of what had happened at Pride was present in all parts of the city. And that feeling was most prevalent during my conversation with JOH’s Executive Director, Sarah Kala, and Director of Development, Tom Canning. I could see the exhaustion and pain on their faces. While most of the staff is only part time, they were all working around the clock to ensure the health, safety and well-being of those who access JOH’s services. Phones – cells and landlines – were ringing off the hook, reporters were stopping by for comments, and Sarah was intermittently interrupted with requests to review resumes for short-term social workers to join their staff to oversee groups dealing with the aftermath of the violence.

Though at 10:30 in the morning the space was empty, Sarah and Tom anticipated that the tiny offices would be packed with young adults coming together to process and grieve. Some might be laughing, crying or sitting in silence. In addition to clients, Sarah and Tom were also beginning to think about what services the staff need; all of them were present at the parade, saw the stabbings, and need to do their own healing. I expressed personally NCJW’s solidarity with JOH and the desire to forge ahead with our gender equality work in Israel.

My time at JOH was short – only about a half hour – but I gained a clear picture of how profoundly this community has been shaken by the stabbings. I left the offices feeling extremely sad. But I am also grateful for this experience. Though I wish it were under better circumstances, I am deeply appreciative to have seen with my own eyes the important community-building efforts NCJW is pursuing through its partner organizations in Israel to better the lives of LGBTQ individuals in Jerusalem and beyond.

So what exactly is a Belief?

By Debbie Hoffmann, NCJW President

So what exactly is a Belief? For Oprah Winfrey, it is a landmark seven-night documentary series exploring beliefs around the world and humankind’s ongoing search for meaning and connection. Through storytelling and visual imagery “Belief’ illuminates the best of faith and spiritual practices around the world that she hopes will bind us together as human beings. She believes that all faithful people, no matter what belief system, are all asking the same big questions: Who am I? Why am I here, Is there something out there, greater than I am?

We all know that the world is divided particularly around spiritual and religious lines. Jewish people have experienced this for centuries. Oprah designed the series to create an atmosphere of understanding and compassion, to tear down these walls.

The best way for Oprah to kick-start the conversation was to invite religious and community leaders from across the country to a special screening and dinner at her estate in Montecito, California. I was there along with fellow board member, Claire Lipschultz and men and women of all faiths to take part in a dialogue that we all hope continues and gains traction.

We started the evening with the screening at a theater in Santa Barbara and then were bussed to her home, where we were wined and dined in sumptuous fashion. She could not have been a more gracious host, passionate about her guests, her purpose and most importantly about why we were there that evening.

Putting the glamour of the evening aside, I have found myself wondering, how does this relate to Judaism and how does this program relate to NCJW? Judaism has no dogma, no formal set of beliefs that one must hold to be a Jew. In fact, in Judaism actions are more important than beliefs, although there is certainly a place for belief in Judaism. Judaism focuses on relationships, between mankind and God and between people.

What Oprah is striving for mirrors what we have been doing for over 100 years. Our work reflects our Jewish values and our call to action by reaching out and helping people of all faiths. For me, that is what NCJW is all about, our call to action to improve the quality of life for all women, children and families by striving for social and economic justice.

A Woman's Worth: Economic Security for Us and Our Families

By Lisa Crawford, Columbus Section President, NCJW

There will be a time in my lifetime when women will break through the paper ceiling. When I take out my wallet to pay for a Starbucks, I will see the face of a true woman pioneer on American currency. But, what will she be worth? Today, on average, a woman is paid only 78 cents compared to every dollar a man earns.

As I sat this summer at the Center for American Progress’s conference on Economic Security for Ohio Families, I learned the true facts about equal pay for equal work and how when advocates help women with their economic security they help families as a whole. Connie Schultz opened the meeting reminding us that Ohio is really five Ohios. As a snapshot of America, Ohio is urban and countryside, suburban and college town, Amish country and Uptown Funk. But along the white picket fences, Ohio is lagging behind the nation on the issues of pay gap and paid sick leave days. In Ohio 1.9 million people do not get paid sick leave, which is higher than the national average.

If you drive the rural state routes, you will pass those commemorative 1803 Ohio barns and fields and cows and silos. Silos—that stand alone and hold grain and corn and feed, but do they hold women’s issues as separate entities? The conference enforced that no, we cannot silo women because in fact, all of the issues are connected. Women need equal pay for their families. They need flex or fair scheduling because they are the “runners.” They run their kids to appointments, run home to care for their aging parents, run—skipping their own lunch hour, to take themselves to the doctor. They need quality, affordable childcare so they are not working a third of their day to pay for childcare.

As a faith-based organization, National Council of Jewish Women can do things to help. Partnerships are key. Writing an educational toolkit and giving specific trainings emphasizing faith, values, and social justice is a starting foundation. For example, we can focus our efforts on advocating for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress or the Healthy Families Act.

In reading polls, it seems like most Americans, Democrat, Republican, young, old, men, and women say they are for equal pay for equal work. Will women have pay equity by the time we see a woman’s face on the $10 bill?

So when I pay for my coffee with my $10 bill, will I be worth the full $10 or only $7.80—about the amount of change I would get back?

Journey for Justice

By Faith Fried, NCJW Legislative Associate

On Wednesday, September 16, I attended the NAACP’s Journey for Justice rally for voting rights on Capitol Hill with Robin Straus Furlong, President of the Greater Miami Section. The sky was blue, the air was crisp (unusual for DC in September!), and the atmosphere was charged with energy.

America’s Journey for Justice — a 1000-mile march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC — began on August 1. Activists walked for voting rights, criminal justice reform, jobs, and public education through the heat of the southern summer and arrived at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on September 15, when many of us were in the midst of celebrating Rosh Hashanah. While in services that day, I noticed commentary in my siddur from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel, who had marched from Selma to Montgomery with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When asked if he had found time to pray on the march, he famously responded, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” That line echoed through my mind on Wednesday morning.

Robin and I stood among more than 1000 people from civil rights, LGBT, Jewish, faith, labor, and environmental groups, all of whom came out to support those who marched and raise awareness of voting rights specifically. The tone of the group was warm and inviting – people clasped hands and arms, sung, supported each other, and perhaps most importantly for me, happily moved aside so vertically challenged individuals could take pictures. A slew of religious and civil rights leaders spoke, including NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks, whose statement that “hope is an existential necessity” was met with cheers, including my own.

Members of Congress also joined the rally, including Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Patrick Leahy, both sponsors of the Voting Rights Advancement Act in the House and Senate, which would protect the right to vote and end discriminatory voter laws that have a disproportionate impact on young voters, low income voters, and voters of color. Since the rally preceded a day of advocacy on the Hill, these speeches served to get activists fired up and ready to demand justice from their lawmakers.

With National Voter Registration Day on September 22, the Journey for Justice rally highlighted the grassroots work of registering people to vote – not glamorous, or easy, but of the utmost importance. I know great work is being done in our sections to promote & protect the right to vote, and I’m proud to be advocating for legislation here in DC that would do the same.


Jewish History Demands Solidarity with Reproductive Justice Movement

Leanne Gale

When the shofar blows this Rosh Hashanah, which moments will flash before my eyes? As my stomach churns on Yom Kippur, for what will I ask forgiveness? As women across the country continue to face an onslaught of anti-choice rhetoric and restrictions, my role in the struggle for reproductive justice will be heavy on my mind.

Earlier this year, I began work at the National Council of Jewish Women just as we were launching a reproductive justice initiative . In my quest to learn more, I attended a Trust Black Women event examining how black women have resisted reproductive oppression in the United States. Panelists spoke of slavery, rape, and sterilization. One woman spoke of being descended from sharecroppers. I remember fighting back tears; it was hard to bear witness to such violence, and confront so starkly my own privilege.

Since that evening, I have learned more about the reproductive justice movement. Developed by women of color in the mid 1990s, the reproductive justice framework expands beyond the “right to choose” and insists on combating the racial, economic, and cultural systems of oppression that intersect to limit reproductive freedom. It is rooted in basic human rights, including the right to full autonomy over our bodies, the right to have or not have children, the right to birth and parent our children with dignity, and the right to live and raise a family in a safe, healthy environment.

I have come to believe that Jewish history demands my solidarity with the reproductive justice movement.

As a Jewish woman in my early twenties, I was raised with the knowledge of past atrocities done to my people, including violent reproductive oppression. The Nazis targeted Jewish women, along with Roma women and other “undesirables,” for . In the ghettos and concentration camps, pregnant Jewish women were forced to submit to or be sent to the gas chambers. I am grateful for the wellbeing of my body, knowing what could have been.

Less often discussed is the fact that the United States also engaged in coercive sterilization, targeting black, Puerto Rican, and Native American women, as well as women with disabilities. And today, women of color, immigrant women, and young women bear the brunt of anti-abortion restrictions like the Hyde Amendment, a federal ban on abortion coverage that forces seeking abortions to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. On Yom Kippur, many congregations will read the Leviticus passage that commands, lo ta’amod al dam re’echa, do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. The blood of my history cries out to me; am I to remain silent?

Anti-choice rhetoric and legislation is also a form of deep religious oppression. When politicians maintain support of the Hyde Amendment, they impose one religious belief — about conception, abortion, and sexuality — on all of us. This violates the religious liberty of every individual and family affected. I grew up hearing stories of religious persecution, heeding the call to remain vigilant. Unfortunately, in the United States today, when it comes to intimate matters of our own bodies, religious liberty is a privilege. Am I to remain silent?

While carrying the memory of my communal history, I also acknowledge my relative privilege as a white-skinned, upper middle class, straight, cis-gender, able-bodied, citizen woman living in the United States. My private health insurance plan covers abortion and covered the IUD that protects me against unintended pregnancy. As the queer black feminist and poet Audre Lorde once said, “What woman is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face?” The reproductive justice movement offers a powerful path to understand how racism and other forms of oppression deny reproductive freedom, and an approach to combat these forces in our efforts to build a better world. As a woman of privilege, am I to remain silent?

Over the past year, I have seen many in the Jewish community engage questions of race with courage. Have Ashkenazi Jews taken on whiteness? How has the establishment Jewish community marginalized Jews of color , and what can be done? What is the Jewish role in the struggle for racial justice? In our journey to responsible social justice activism, we must add reproductive justice to the agenda.

As I pray in synagogue during the High Holidays, I’ll be thinking of the activists across the country mobilizing around the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act . This bold new federal bill would lift the Hyde Amendment and bar other attempts by politicians to deny abortion access to a woman just because she is poor. This is what reproductive justice could look like, encoded into law.

I’ll also be looking inward. I’ll remember the women on the Trust Black Women panel and examine my role in their oppression. I’ll wonder at the resilience of the Jewish women around me and mourn what it has meant for our bodies to be disposable. And I’ll look forward to the coming year, ready for the complexity of what it means to be a Jewish feminist in solidarity with the reproductive justice movement today.

Leanne Gale is the Grassroots Associate at the National Council of Jewish Women.

A message from New Orleans... Reflecting ten years after the levees failed

Author: NCJW Board Director Ina Davis

For over 120 years, community service has been our mission. But when the levees failed during Katrina, the National Council of Jewish Women Greater New Orleans (GNO) Section suddenly found itself in need of support. Our families had undergone devastation. Could we continue our mission while trying to rebuild our own lives? The answer: Yes! Our concerns adapted, and uniting through NCJW in service of a vulnerable city proved to pull our membership back together in our collective time of need.

Like everyone around us, NCJW GNO had to restore its foundation. Newly focused on progress and legislative action, we found our voice. We traveled to D.C. to educate federal lawmakers about the Gulf Coast’s needs, and to advocate for equal rights for all. Back home, we sponsored mayoral and candidate debates.

Aligned with zeal, our volunteers got back to work by stocking schools and childcare centers with libraries and toys, creating a safe place for children subjected to domestic violence, answering the calls to a myriad of consumers with problems too big to handle alone, and more.

With an enormous outreach effort to a scattered membership, the bluebook directory recovered and then never stopped growing. NCJW was back with spirit.

Our longest running program continues to subsidize Jewish college students in financial need and our newest program cultivates young leaders to take on the challenges of tomorrow. We have made great progress on legislative fronts. And on a more personal level, NCJW’s rebound is a reflection of my own post-Katrina struggle and pride.

Kudos to NCJW Greater New Orleans women and volunteers who change the world and our community for the better, through our programs, initiatives, and public policy issues.

May the next 10 years yield even greater accomplishments.

Cultivating Jewish Social Justice Leaders

By Simone Holzer, NCJW Legislative Intern

For two summers in high school, I participated in Camp Tel Yehudah’s (TY) youth leadership program. The culmination of this program is an advocacy trip to Washington, DC, in which we (the campers) choose a cause (our tikkun group), and then meet with the appropriate organizations to get further educated before spending a day on Capitol Hill advocating for the issue.

As a camper, my tikkun group was Israel Advocacy, and I was amazed that leaders in Washington wanted to hear from a group of Jewish high school students. When I returned to TY a few years later as a counselor, I led the group for Education Reform, and was even more amazed to be on the other side, watching the campers rise to the challenge of advocating for an issue they care about with federal lawmakers. These two experiences — both as a camper and as a counselor — helped me fully understand the importance of engaging Jewish youth to create powerful and substantive social change. And, I also learned that social justice work is a meaningful way for me to express and connect with my Judaism.

My worlds collided earlier this summer when I learned a group of TY campers were coming to NCJW’s Washington office to learn more about reproductive justice and pay equity. I knew many of these campers from my past two summers working at camp and was so moved to see and hear them discuss these important issues. I almost forgot they were high school students and not older! Like me, these campers have found an outlet for their Jewish values and identity in their advocacy — something right at the heart of everything we do at NCJW.

Interning at NCJW’s Washington office this summer has helped me understand the need for progressive Jewish voices in our communities as well as on the state and federal levels. I’ve seen the strength in numbers we can generate through coalitions and NCJW sections on issues such as reproductive justice, voting rights, judicial nominations, and ending domestic sex trafficking. Bringing a Jewish voice to a wide range of critical issues allows NCJW to join forces with other Jewish organizations to strengthen this voice, and to bring a unique Jewish perspective to other faith and secular coalitions. And when we amplify this progressive Jewish voice, we not only bolster our advocacy and impact on the issues, we also empower our communities.

While I did not expect to connect with TY this summer while interning at NCJW, it was indeed beshert. Thinking back to my summers at TY, I’m reminded of what I gained from my experiences there: my closest friends, a desire to make Judaism a part of my life, a sense of what it means to be part of a Jewish community, and the realization that we can strengthen our activism, our communities, and our personal connections to Judaism by engaging in progressive advocacy from a Jewish perspective. The passion for Jewish social justice work that brought me to NCJW this summer grew out of my time and experiences at TY, both as a camper and as a staff member, and I am thrilled that my experiences at NCJW this summer have strengthened my ability and resolve to be a Jewish advocate and ally.





The Voting Rights Act: Celebration and Reflection

By Faith Fried, NCJW Legislative Associate

In my first week as NCJW’s new Legislative Associate, I had the opportunity to attend an event at the White House for the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). NCJW was a key advocate for the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and in the intervening years has fought to protect these rights, so it was meaningful to be there with other progressive groups to celebrate this historic anniversary.

The event was scheduled to include speakers and two panels, and would kick off with a telecast of President Obama. Ten minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, I watched with curiosity as White House staffers rushed to replace a perfectly good podium with a different podium, arrange flags, and ensure that camera angles were perfect. Lo and behold, instead of a telecast address, President Obama himself came onstage with Representative John Lewis, hero of the civil rights movement, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman to serve in the role. The crowd, myself included, leapt to their feet and my mouth dropped open with surprise, where I believe it stayed for at least the duration of the opening remarks.

Rep. Lewis opened the event by reminding us that though 50 years was an important anniversary, it was just a short time ago in the history of our nation. As he spoke about his experiences, I was reminded that the leaders of the civil rights movement were young people who drew upon their internal reserves of courage, energy, determination, and justice to change the world around them. The link between this movement and other grassroots, youth-driven movements like #BlackLivesMatter was clear – we all have the innate ability to work for change, but we need to tap into that ability and connect with each other to effect change. Seeing Rep. Lewis speak was an incredible honor, and I thought a lot about how my grandparents, both champions of civil rights, would have loved sharing the room with me at that moment.

President Obama then took the podium to provide a call to action. The Voting Rights Act has been weakened by the courts, and state and local laws have been passed in the last two years (since the Shelby v. Holder decision gutting a critical component of the VRA) that make it harder for people to cast a ballot. These limitations erode our democracy, and place us further from our founding ideal of a government of the people, by the people. President Obama closed by giving his support for National Voter Registration Day on September 22, when groups around the country will mobilize to register voters.

President Obama, Rep. Lewis, Attorney General Lynch, and others at the event called for passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 (S 1659/HR 2867), which would protect the right to vote and end discriminatory voter laws that have a disproportionate impact on young voters, low income voters, and voters of color. So, at the end of first week that included an in-person presidential experience (not a typical week, I am told!), what have I learned?  I have learned how joyous it is celebrate the bravery and achievement that led, 50 years ago, to the passage of perhaps the most important legislation in our country’s modern history. I have also learned that voting rights continues to be challenged, and we must remain vigilant. I have learned that victories to overturn unfair voting laws, like the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on August 5th blocking the restrictive photo ID law in Texas, are bittersweet because they come too late for those who voted in elections prior to the decision. Finally, I have learned how much there is to learn – about the issues, about the amazing work of NCJW, and about being an advocate. 





Looking Ahead in the Fight for Justice and Equality

By Simone Holzer, NCJW Legislative Intern

As I walked up to the Supreme Court less than an hour after they announced their decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges favoring marriage equality, I was awed by the masses of people, sprinkled with rainbow flags and colorful posters. I found the entire scene overwhelming, a powerful mix of ecstatic and bittersweet energy.

Looking around, I noticed the demographics represented; while there was great diversity in age, the majority of the people there were white and seemingly upper-middle class. Taking note of this, I was reminded that while the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality is a huge win, the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, and equality for everyone in our country, is far from over.

We still have to work to not only protect and defend this newfound standard of dignity, equality, and societal legitimation of gay and lesbian couples, but to also extend these standards to all people and communities. While we are already seeing backlash against the freedom to marry specifically, particularly in conservative states, it is likely that there will continue to be discrimination against LGBT individuals and couples in related areas such as housing and employment, against which there is still no federal protection.  

As we consider marriage equality a civil rights win, we should also note that it comes at a time when our country is engaging in a renewed and necessary conversation about racism. In this light, we must take this opportunity to acknowledge the intersections of racist and heterosexist discrimination facing LGBT people of color. Studies have found that anti-LGBT laws disproportionately affect LGBT people of color, and especially undermine their financial security, leaving this population with higher rates of poverty compared to other demographics. Additionally, the lack of anti-discrimination laws in many states leave LGBT people of color particularly vulnerable within the education system, where bullying, harassment, and violence can create serious educational barriers, also impacting their future financial security. These disadvantages are inherently systematic-perpetuated by our state and federal laws-and leave LGBT people of color, as well as other marginalized groups, without the necessary protections to ensure their safety, dignity, and equality. This is why anti-discrimination laws are so crucial.


Graphic: Movement Advancement Project

As I think about all of the work ahead for those of us fighting for social justice, I’m also reminded of why I personally am drawn not just to nonprofits, but specifically to Jewish nonprofits. Across the country, conservative opponents of marriage equality are holding up “religious freedom” as a legitimate reason to deny civil equality and discriminate against LGBT people. In a time when so many religious voices are coming out against equality, we must lift up our Jewish and faith voices in favor of equality and justice, rather than using religion to discriminate. We must send the message that civil rights and religious freedom do not exist at odds with one another; in fact, they go hand in hand.

In lifting up our voices, we must remember that we are part of a much larger movement in the struggle for justice, which I strongly felt as we stood at the Supreme Court following the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Amid all of the expressions of emotion and excitement that I came across, the one that resonated with me the most was a poster with an adaptation of one of my favorite quotes: “The arc of history bends towards justice.” These fights for justice and equality are marathons, not sprints, and although we’ve won this race, we still have more to do to transcend LGBT and racial oppression.





New Voices: NCJW's Social Justice Thought Leaders Convening

By Leanne Gale and Rebecca Krevat, reprinted with permission from eJewish Philanthropy

As college students, we were the definition of plugged-in Jewish leaders; one of us created a Jewish feminist organization, and the other served as president of the Reform Jewish Community at her campus Hillel. We were also deeply committed to social justice, as Jews and as human beings. But neither of us were strangers to the growing distance between young people and the establishment Jewish community.

We’ve watched our communal leaders sponsor surveys and initiatives to engage young adults for as long as we can remember. This is why we were pleased to experience, through the National Council of Jewish Women, a moment in which we were genuinely engaged and our voices elevated. Instead of building a program “for” millennials, NCJW decided to make space for us to be heard.

Through the support of the Dobkin Family Foundation, NCJW gathered 37 women under 40, including ourselves, to participate in a convening last March in New York City to test the hypothesis that women in this bracket are interested in social justice from a Jewish (and gender) lens.

For the first time we were given the opportunity to meet young Jewish feminist thinkers and activists from across the country and develop our collective vision for progressive political action. None of us could recall a similar gathering in our lifetimes, and for many of us, it was validating to experience this community in-person.

We represented broad diversity of religious affiliation, geography, profession, education, race, LGBTQ identity, and social justice interest, and we were very excited at the prospect of sharing our experiences to help make NCJW and Jewish communal life generally more inclusive of our age group. Throughout the day, we explored our interest in social change from a Jewish lens, examined which issues we are most passionate about, and discussed how we identify as feminists. It became clear that we shared some key hopes and dreams:

Local, community-based organizing: We feel responsible to the communities in which we live, and we know we can have the greatest impact on a local level. From fighting abortion restrictions in Louisiana to combating voter disenfranchisement in Florida, we are drawn to grassroots organizing on the ground.

Time and talent, not treasure: Money is often a barrier to involvement. Young adults do not have the capacity to pay dues, donate generously, pay for travel to national meetings, or take time off during the day for our social justice work. How can the Jewish communal world make us feel valued for our passions and skills while we do not necessarily have the financial capacity to give?

Intersectionality: We are not interested in single-issue struggles; we are interested in how multiple forms of oppression, such as sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, racism, ableism, and others, are experienced together. We embrace an intersectional approach in our activism (acknowledging a debt to Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality” in the late 80s.)

Reproductive justice: When asked to identify the issues about which we care most passionately, the top two were reproductive justice and civil rights (Last on the list: advancing civil society in Israel, and tax reform.) And we’re moving beyond the basic legal “right to choose” toward a broader reproductive justice framework, developed by women of color – the right to have full autonomy over our bodies, to have or not have children, to birth and/or parent our children with dignity, and to live and/or raise a family in a safe, healthy environment.

Without the investment of young individuals, the organizations that the generations before us so boldly established will become unsustainable. Some might argue that it doesn’t matter, that we should have “out with the old, in with the new” attitude. But we see value in intergenerational activism, the sharing of wisdom, and the exchange of ideas. We see value in Jewish social justice organizations creating space to grapple with our history of anti-Semitism, our experience of privilege, and our struggle to work in solidarity.

Because our community has raised us to take the reins and ensure the continuity of Jewish life in all of its forms, we’re telling it like it is: for organizations that consider themselves progressive, it is time to progress.

Engaging us without condescending requires more than strategic thinking; it demands face-to-face conversations with Jewish young adults. At a major Jewish conference that one of us attended, a prominent and well respected leader bemoaned the fact that the next generation didn’t care about the future of the Jewish people, and that millennials were not living up to the standards of Jewish advocacy that his generation had set on Israel, Russian Jewry, and rebuilding communities in a post-Holocaust world. Ironically, listening to this leader speak were thousands of students active in Hillel programming and young professionals dedicated to the future of Jewish communal life.

We’re sure that most Jewish organizations would like to avoid this type of situation. Take this as a challenge and an opportunity. How can we listen to young people and honor their profound talents? How can we make space for young people to claim the power they so richly deserve in our communities? How can we allow our institutions to radically transform as we bring new voices to the table? Get in touch – we would love to talk.


Leanne Gale lives and works in Washington, DC as a Grassroots Associate with a focus on reproductive justice and sex trafficking for NCJW. She received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and served as New Israel Fund-Shatil Social Justice Fellow in Jerusalem.

Rebecca Krevat lives and works in New York City as a Community Engagement and Communications Associate for NCJW. She received a BA from the University of Maryland, and serves as an Advertising Manager for Know Your IX, a national survivor-run, student-driven campaign to end campus sexual violence.

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