NCJW : The NCJW Insider

It's Time for New York to End Regressive Taxes on Menstrual Necessities

By Gina Horowitz, former president of NCJW Greater Rochester and a retired high school English teacher.

As recently as June 2015 Canada repealed its goods and services tax (GST) on feminine hygiene products. Parliament unanimously approved a motion to exclude “sanitary napkins, tampons, sanitary belts, menstrual cups or other similar products from GST.”

And for good reason. Sanitary napkins and tampons are not luxuries; they are necessities. It is not possible to conduct a normal life without them. For low income women and women experiencing homelessness, the situation can be dire. Without affordable access, women sometimes keep a tampon in use for too many hours, which can trigger toxic shock syndrome. Food pantries, shelters and emergency service organizations do not stock sanitary napkins and tampons, so must depend on donations, an unreliable and inefficient system.

Here in the United States, neither the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nor the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allows the purchase of menstrual necessities. In addition, flexible spending accounts, common in many employer benefit programs, do not extend to the purchase of pads or tampons, although they do cover pregnancy tests, condoms and yeast infection products.

Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania do not tax pads and tampons. New York State does.

In May 2015 New York State Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal (D-NY) introduced a bill, A7555, which, if passed, would eliminate taxes on pads and tampons in New York State. NCJW Greater Rochester Section strongly supports this bill and encourages all New York sections to lend their support by speaking with their representatives and writing them letters of support. More than 10 million New York women of menstruating age (10-54) would benefit from not being taxed on these monthly necessities. Furthermore, according to research conducted by Ms. Rosenthal’s office, neither New Jersey nor Pennsylvania has experienced budget shortfalls that have not been made up for by other state income.

NCJW Greater Rochester Section began this work two years ago when we learned that some low-income and women experiencing homelessness in our state could not afford tampons and sanitary pads. We decided to address the problem and formed the P.A.D. Project — Providing Access and Dignity to women during their menstrual cycle.

In addition to our advocacy, the P.A.D. Project is approaching this unsettling problem through philanthropy. Both a small grant and funds from our budget have allowed us to purchase enough pads and tampons to hold “kit” parties at women’s shelters, emergency service centers, schools and other related agencies. At these parties, participants assemble kits containing pads, tampons, disposal bags, (donated by our generous corporate sponsor, The Scensible Source Company), candy and helpful contact information. We are also working with groups that want to underwrite and hold kit parties on their own and donate the kits to one of many organizations in need.

Passage of Bill A7555 is an important stepping stone towards reaching the goal of access and dignity for all women during their menstrual cycle and we hope that the great state of New York will soon join its neighbors in eliminating tax on menstrual necessities.

Echoes of History in Today's Crisis

By Faith Fried, NCJW Legislative Associate

The past two weeks have been a roller coaster ride. Last week, the advocacy goals for Syrian refugee resettlement were “more people” and “more money.” This week, the political landscape totally changed, and the fight shifted to simply accepting any refugees at all.

The catalyst of this change was, of course, the terrorist attacks in Lebanon and Paris. I don’t have cable, so last Friday night was spent constantly refreshing BBC on my phone while the situation seemed to get worse.. Even today, as events continue to unfold, the violence is hard to believe and impossible to comprehend.

As the news and political cycles began on the East Coast on Monday, it became clear that the narrative around refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq had changed. A very real and understandable fear of similar violence in our own country manifested itself in a number of ways: declarations that refugees were no longer welcome, legislation that would essentially halt refugee programs, and a general feeling that we in the US weren’t equipped to handle that threat. There was worse rhetoric too — statements that were blatantly Islamaphobic, anti-Arab, or anti-immigrant. Suggestions of interning refugees, or even people from Syria already in the country, were floated on social media and in the news.

As someone who grew up keenly aware of the voyage of the SS St Louis (a family friend managed to survive the ship and what came after), I couldn’t help but wonder — was this what it felt like to be in America in 1939 when that ship sailed by? Did my grandparents feel as helpless and angry as I feel today, listening to elected officials — people with actual power to make policy — talk about men, women, and children fleeing violence like they didn’t matter, or are terrorists themselves? I asked my grandmother this very question, and she rightfully pointed out that the comparison is imperfect. But I can’t help but feel that there’s truth to my emotion.

Being an American in a post-9/11 world is inherently risky. The values we cherish draw hatred and attract violence by those who hate. There are some days I can shrug off yet another suspicious package on my block, and some days I just can’t. But to me, being a progressive, Jewish, American woman requires putting these values into action. The millions of people fleeing for their lives need help – our help — and closing our hearts and our borders does not work for me as a response.

The story will continue to evolve. As I write this, I am not sure what Congress will introduce tomorrow, which Governors might announce that their doors, too, are closed, or even what could happen in the world or here at home that could once again change everything. But in the meantime, I draw strength from the work and support of NCJW members, sections, and SPAs around the country, and I am inspired and guided by the work of our partners in the faith and refugee communities, like HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and Church World Service, who do this work every day. Together we are strong and our voices will lift up those who cannot speak for themselves.

Domestic Violence: A Jewish Woman's Twin Cities Journey

Domestic Violence: A Jewish Woman’s Twin Cities Journey


Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, providing an opportunity to address this serious and difficult conversational topic.

The Jewish community is no more immune from this ugly reality than it is from mental health issues, addiction, cancer or the flu. As a member of the Jewish community, I feel compelled to share my personal experience.

Our Jewish community is inter-connected, strong philanthropically and socially engaged in the service of “tikkum olam.” The Jewish community is commanding and vocal when the injustices are outside of our community or in opposition to our community. What we do less skillfully is in recognizing and addressing domestic violence existing within our own Jewish sphere, where the faces and people are familiar and known to us. When both the perpetrator and victim are people we know, whose paths frequently cross our own, the black and white distinctions of perpetrator and victim become blurred or likely unrecognizable.

I am indistinguishable from any of the middle to upper-middle class mothers that you see in a normal week. I am a main-stream Jewish woman in the Twin Cities who attends a main-stream synagogue. My children have attended formal Jewish education. I am well-educated and my family of origin was absent any domestic violence or chemical abuse.

My marriage became physically abusive nearing a decade after our relationship began. The abuse became severe with observable injuries, broken bones and medical visits for “accidents.” Only one friend gently challenged the “accident” version of my repeatedly mangled face.

My ex-spouse is a well-educated, intelligent, successful career man who can be charming on demand. He does not fit the abuser stereotype of say, a two-time loser, drug abuser/drunk, in a sweaty sleeveless t-shirt. No, when my batterer kicked me while on the ground until several ribs snapped, he was completely sober and wearing a tie.

I also did not fit neatly into the victim stereotype of a cowering ball of submissiveness. Domestic violence does not only darken the door of the meek. I did not stay because I was a weak person. Despite ongoing psychological, physical and emotional abuse, I thought I was being strong in keeping the family together and trying to shield the children. Yet, it was no more within my control than his fists, kicks, and verbal insults. Threatening to take my children away from me was an overt intimidation tactic and a powerful incentive to stay. We all rationalize our choices.

Welcome to the face of white-collar domestic abuse – my world; one that is inadvertently shaming and isolating and in the Jewish community it identifies me and others as statistical anomalies. This is because no one expects or suspects that domestic abuse occurs in the homes of their peers and friends, let alone of their Jewish peers and friends.

I found out that my spouse wanted a divorce when he had me removed from our home without my children, clothing or my car. All of my credit cards had been canceled and cash accounts depleted. An officer brought me to Tubman, a Minneapolis women’s overnight shelter. I did not sleep that night. I did not cry. I was in shock. I thought that my spouse was showing me who was “boss” in an aggressive way to ensure my compliance and obedience. I would have done exactly that had he allowed me to return to my children. But, he did not allow me to return.

I was left without money or resources. Fortunately, my family arrived and provided the funds for an apartment. For the next 6 months I slept on the floor of my empty apartment adorned only with 2 photos and a free laptop that the apartment complex provided as a bonus for signing the lease. In the interim, I obtained clothing from another shelter and still have a few items that serve as a reminder of how I benefited from the generosity of strangers.

Those were very dark days for me and the children. I was not provided access to my children for months and then after that only a few hours a week for the next 9 months until we finally had a custody court date to establish a normal parenting time schedule.

Our rabbi reached out very early on in the process. Although well-meaning and kind, the intensity and complexity of the situation left the rabbi ill-equipped. I was referred to a Jewish organization. I needed legal representation, transportation and clothing. At that time they were not positioned to help.

Almost as painful to me was my perception of the Jewish community’s inaction or dismissive reaction to the abuse, especially when I felt that it was clearly observable. Most victims do not want pity, but rather understanding, compassion, and to be believed. Studies find that the emotionally abusive acts are more devastating and long-lasting for the victim than the physical violence. By in large, emotional and psychological abuse are the most difficult forms of abuse to comprehend.

How could have someone helped me when I did not even know what I needed or what resources were available? A private conversation saying “I’m concerned & even though I might be wrong, I want to be helpful. Here are some local resources that can help, if you need it. I’m here if you need help or want to talk. You are not alone.” Isolation is the most consequential tool the abuser has at their disposal. There is an obvious awkwardness to reaching out.

Afterwards, the most distressing statements made by acquaintances, family and friends alike and how I internalized them, were:


  1. It’s hard to believe that he would do that; he seems so nice. (He warned me that no one would believe me.)
  2. Why didn’t you just leave? (It’s your own fault the abuse continued; you are complicit with your own abuse.)
  3. Why is he so angry with you? (You must have provoked such a dramatic reaction.)
  4. Things will calm down when he has a girlfriend/wife. (It did not and they too often become victims themselves, or unwitting emissaries of the abuser.)
  5. I’m not going to take sides; I want to support the children. (I’d prefer not to hear disconcerting details; I’d prefer to pretend that I don’t know.)
  6. The courts will fix everything. (Simply, a fallacy.)


Violent assaults continued after the divorce. Following a felony arrest and assault charge that left me with significant injuries, his ability to pay tremendous legal fees and with a team of attorneys, he avoided prosecution; something that had he been poor or black may not have been afforded him.

What does an abusive man or woman look like? It is naïve to believe that one can intuit deep seeded problems intentionally wrapped in a shroud of respectability and secrecy.

If one now asks why I just did not leave, you’re missing the point. If I knew everything that would happen subsequently, to this day, I might very well have elected to return to that ugly place. Truthfully, it likely would have been less painful to endure his blows.

I have since been involved in several women’s groups; groups for domestic violence survivors and for mothers dealing with custody nightmares in the ugly shadow of domestic violence. These shared experiences have been incredibly valuable to me. I learned that I am not alone. My situation is not unique. There are others like me.

To my surprise, I’ve encountered a number of Jewish women in these groups!! They have been faced with similar perceptions of stigma that led me to seek and find support outside of our Jewish community. They, like me, still struggle with continuing to keep the discomforting secrets of our abusers with challenges in our community around openness. The truth is that some in the community want us to keep quiet; it is an uncomfortable topic that some want to avoid, altogether. This is especially true when the perpetrator is affluent or well-liked within our close-knit community. Astonishingly, it has appeared to me that the comfort of others has often taken precedence.

Equally surprising was that several non-Jewish women in these groups had received meaningful support from different Jewish organizations; making me simultaneously proud & confused by the mixed-messages.

Following the Jewish High Holidays, I am reminded of the phrases “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh,” “all Jews are responsible for one another” and Leviticus’ “do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”

In Judaism, these phrases are the basis, for collective responsibility. There is an obligation not to stand by on the sidelines. Even greater, it implies an obligation on all Jews to ensure that others have basic needs met of food, clothing, and shelter; not allowing one to turn a blind eye.

  • With respect to domestic violence within the Jewish community, I leave the reader to contemplate the following:
  • What is my individual responsibility if I see or know about domestic violence?
  • What is the clergy’s responsibility (complicated further if the victim and the perpetrator are both congregants)?
    • What is the Jewish community’s moral responsibility?
  • Is it acceptable to remain “parve” or neutral?
  • How should we approach or discuss this topic with those affected? Should we?
  • Should we, as a community, discuss why this topic is so uncomfortable?


“It is not upon you to finish the work, but you are not free to ignore it.” (Mishna, Ethics, 2:21)

“In the end what will hurt most is not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


If you need a better understanding of what domestic abuse is (because it comes in many forms; physical, emotional and financial) or if you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is, here are some resources that may be helpful. You are not alone!


If you are in immediate danger, please call 911

Search to find domestic violence programs in your area

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence:

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.





More Entries