NCJW : The NCJW Insider

Standing Up For Equal Pay

I have seen the photo of President Kennedy signing the Equal Pay Act of 1963, surrounded by women leaders, many times during my years at NCJW. After all, NCJW’s President Pearl Willen stood behind him no doubt feeling the excitement of the moment and pride in the fact that NCJW had earned its place at the President’s side that historic day.

That’s a bit how I felt this morning at the White House as I stood with a group of women leaders from partner organizations, beaming behind President Obama as he signed two Executive Orders advancing the cause of equal pay for equal work. The first bars retaliation by federal contractors if people disclose their salaries. The second establishes new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race.

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Birth Control and Religious Freedom: Not My Boss's Business

by Rebecca Krevat, NCJW Field Outreach Associate

I can’t remember the last time I woke up at 3am for anything. But last Tuesday, I was awake before the sun came up to take a five-hour bus ride to Washington, DC, for the Rally for Birth Control Access. That same day the Supreme Court heard two cases dealing with religious objections to covering certain types of birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I felt that it was my duty to stand up for my beliefs at the rally – not only as a supporter of access to healthcare for all and a supporter of reproductive justice, but especially as a Jew.

What made the rally special was the diversity of groups represented – religious groups, LGBT rights groups, workers’ rights groups – all banding together to say that we will not let our bosses dictate when we’d like to start a family, let alone any of our other healthcare decisions. It felt so good to chant “pro-faith, pro-birth control” and “pro-family, pro-birth control” in the face of our opponents who claim the values of “faith” and “family” as their own. I was proud to stand with my NCJW co-workers and activists from other religious groups, such as Catholics for Choice, to say that we will not stand idly by while corporations try to come between us, our doctors, and our faith leaders. As we stood in the snow outside the Supreme Court, we couldn’t feel our hands and feet, but my co-workers and I proudly held up our NCJW “a faith in the future, a belief in action” rally signs. We chanted alongside our coalition partners and literally raised ourselves up onto each other’s shoulders to block the violent and offensive signs of counter-protesters claiming their own faith to be more important than ours.

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(Vegetarian) Chicken Soup for My Jewish Feminist Soul

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.

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Taking the Leap – But Protecting Your Health

One of my cousins is quite the adventurer. He skis, rides a motorcycle, and climbs the highest hill for that one great photograph. And as befits the profile of a bold, energetic type, last year he left his job at a big company to join a college friend in starting a new business.

Amy Cotton as Healthcare website for Purim
Amy as the Healthcare.gov
website for Purim

His tech start-up is still getting on its feet, as he and his business partner seek investors and travel to trade shows to shop their product. While it is an exciting time, he knows he has taken on some risk. As these two optimistic entrepreneurs pour their hearts and creativity into making their company successful, there was one thing my cousin knew was too great to risk: his health. Or to be more exact, going without health insurance. Like many workers who find themselves “job locked” (stuck in jobs they’d rather quit but stay for the benefits), it was scary that leaving his job meant also losing his insurance. And since he was older than 26 he couldn’t go back on his parent’s plan, a protection that his younger peers  now have under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But thanks to the health insurance marketplace, my cousin was able to take this leap knowing he had options to get covered.

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A Social Justice Seder: Remembering Elissa Froman

“This haggadah is lovingly dedicated to Elissa Froman z”l, whose passion, compassion, and limitless talent helped [Jews United for Justice (JUFJ)] become the organization we are today.” 

I read these words as I took my seat at the JUFJ Labor Seder last weekend, an event that recounts the ancient story of Passover with themes of modern labor struggles. March 22 marked the one-year anniversary (in the secular calendar) of the passing of our dear friend and NCJW colleague Elissa Froman. Elissa was a JUFJ volunteer and honoree, and for her all too short career, skillfully managed NCJW’s civil and labor rights portfolio. Her 29 years touched and inspired me and thousands who now also share her commitment to justice and action, within and beyond the NCJW community.

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Fasting for My Neighbors

By Ann Millman, NCJW Long Beach Section President

Ann Millman

Although I am a fairly observant Jew, I’ve never before observed the Fast of Esther. The occasion never resonated with me as a religious event. However, this year is different. This year, the National Council of Jewish Women has given new meaning to this fast, turning it into a symbolic event to bring attention to discrimination, to the serious need for comprehensive immigration reform.

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Why I'm Fasting with Jewish Women

by Madeline Shepherd, NCJW Legislative Associate

As a progressive advocate, my job requires a fundamental commitment to optimism and the belief that groups of people can change the world to make it better. This is true of my work to implement workplace policies that better support low-income and single-parent families, oppose bullying and harassment of LGBT students in our schools, and protect voting rights across the country as the basis of our democracy. For the past twelve months, this has been especially true of my work as part of the legislative team at the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) to achieve comprehensive, just, and humane immigration reform that reflects the values we hold highest as Americans and as an active faith community.

As part of the We Belong Together campaign, which coalesces women’s organizations around a platform for immigration reform that in particular consider women, children, and families, NCJW is leading a day-long fast for Jewish women and our allies around the country – almost 250 registrants from 33 states including the District of Columbia, at the time of this writing. This fast is part of an ongoing effort by many advocacy groups to bring attention to the urgency of immigration reform in the face of ongoing congressional inaction and a White House administration that feigns blamelessness while hundreds of families are torn apart daily by unnecessary deportations.

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The Fast That I Desire

by Rabbi Seth M. Limmer
Reprinted from the Congregation B’nai Israel blog, chadesh yameinu 

Rabbi Seth LimmerOur world has not been perfect for quite a long time.

In every age, our people have struggled to act in ways that can bring our world as-it-is ever closer to the world we know needs to be. Two thousand years ago, when facing ravaging drought, plaguing disease, or devastating pestilence, our ancestors would abstain from food and drink. We read of their reasoning in the Talmud: a fast day is decreed to petition God for compassion and the removal of calamity.[1] The hope of old was that the community’s choice to deprive itself of basic necessities would arouse Divine Compassion, and change the future for the better.

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The Threat to Voting Rights 2014

by Linda Geller-Schwartz, Palm Beach Section VP of Public Affairs

Standing in the audience at the opening-night reception of a voting rights conference, I felt a profound sense of NCJW’s place in history. I had the honor of representing NCJW at this national event in Washington, DC, “Moving Voting Rights Forward,” organized by the Leadership Conference Education Fund.  Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) transfixed the crowd, transporting us back to that day on the bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, when state troops violently attacked 600 Freedom Marchers.  Every listener could feel their determination, fear and, then, the elation that came with the passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) — the most important piece of civil rights legislation in US history. Yet, almost 50 years later, Congressman Lewis stood before us at the reception, warning that voting rights are once again gravely threatened and that it was time for a new “coalition of conscience” to defend the hard-won gains for which he and others had stood on the bridge in Selma.

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Health Insurance--Because Mom Says it's Good for You

by Claire Lipschultz, NCJW State Policy Advocate 

Moms, it’s time to “nudge.”  You may have given up expecting phone calls from your adult children, having just become comfortable with sending emails as a replacement, only to now find yourself communicating with them via text message.  Whatever the communication mode of the day, you will roll with it to stay in touch with your darlings. So today’s text message to your adult children needs to be, IF U R NOT INSURED, ENROLL NOW #ObamaCare #GetCovered.

I am the mother of two twenty-something young men.  Like many mothers I have been at the helm of the health care decisions in the family.  I interviewed pediatricians to choose the perfect doctor for their formative years, I made their well care and sick care appointments, and felt a little sad when I had to transition them away from their
“baby doctor” when they were 17.  Away at college they received reminders from me to get flu vaccinations and to get that lingering cough checked out.  When they were home on vacations, I was back into scheduling mode for doctor checkups. My role as health care decider was not unique. According to the Labor Department, moms make 80 percent of the healthcare spending decisions for their families. My latest advice session was helping my newly-employed son choose among his employer’s health insurance options. Thanks to provisions of the Affordable Care Act already in place, children can stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26 years old, so he still had coverage while job hunting.

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