NCJW : The NCJW Insider

The Human Face of Deportations

by Judy Eigenfeld, NCJW Ohio SPA

An art project celebrating 
undocumented immigrants. 

I rallied for Alberto Ramos Gallegos. Why?

I spent two hours on the highway to attend a demonstration in support of an undocumented worker, Alberto, a husband, father of three, and an Ohioan for 24 years. The demonstration was held to highlight the second time Alberto was held in detention this year, then awaiting deportation as a result of a simple traffic stop.  His family and his community supporters gathered to protest outside of the Federal Building in Erie, PA and passersby lent their encouragement. Albert’s lawyers and community organizers were inside, arguing in front of a judge and federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Inside The Supreme Court: The Hobby Lobby Decision

by David Blumberg, NCJW Washington, DC Office, Legislative Intern

David Blumberg, Legislative Intern

With blankets, snacks, a water bottle, and a change of clothes surrounding me, I was prepared to pull an all-nighter.  I went over 24 hours without sleep to be ready for something very important.  No, there was no test in the morning, but rather I was in line to get into the Supreme Court on June 30, the last day of the term.  The Justices were to rule on Harris v. Quinn, a case involving non-member union fees, and the now infamous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.


In My Home State, Texas, Voting Hurdles Hurt the Vulnerable

by Erin Brewer, NCJW Washington, DC Section, Legislative Intern

The state of Texas gives a very special birthday present to teenagers on the cusp of adulthood and civic participation—a mandatory trip to the department of public safety (DPS) to renew their driver license and obtain the ID necessary to vote. I turned 18 on a cold morning in November. Waking up at 6 am, I made my way to the DPS office in Plano, Texas where the line was already wrapped around the building before 7am.  I waited, bundled up in my high school lettermen jacket and a blanket, desperately clutching my cup of coffee while I waited for the building to open an hour later. By 9am I had made it inside, and by 10 I was headed home with a renewed driver license and a brand new voter registration card. In all, the errand lasted more than three hours.


Walking the Marble Halls: My Capitol Days

Wear comfortable shoes – that’s easily the best advice I got early on in my DC career. I’ve shared that advice with NCJW advocates nationwide – those marble halls can be hard on your feet! And believe me, we have collectively tread countless miles of marble halls over the years. Not just in the historic US Capitol – a building I have come to love and respect – but in stately capital buildings all over the country. Among my most vivid and cherished memories from my years with NCJW are those of tagging along with NCJW grassroots advocates as walked the marble (or linoleum) corridors, taking our issues to the seat of power in their states.

Texas Capitol DomeIn Tallahassee, Florida, the legislature sits in a towering building not far from the old capital building, now an historic landmark. What’s more impressive is that a noteworthy number of NCJW leaders – past SPAs (State Policy Advocates) and others – are now sitting in both chambers. Walking those halls behind the NCJW section advocates who go regularly to Tallahassee to meet with their elected representatives and listening to them make their case to NCJW members now in power is nothing less than a thrill! (Of course not every legislative visit there is as pleasant.)


Storytelling: The Best Kind of Advocacy

by Claire Lipschultz, NCJW Californa State Policy Advocate

Wearing our bright blue and green NCJW badges, we could be seen everywhere in the Sacramento Capitol, huddling outside legislators’  offices, giving testimony at hearings on our bills, and even attending the 40th annual legislator frog long distance jump contest at the Capitol’s steps. Sixty two NCJW advocates from across California came to Sacramento for NCJW Lobby Days in April 2014.  The overarching theme of the bills we chose was the growing inequities that arise from increasing poverty; particularly impacting women and children. We advocated in support of bills that focused on access to health care for undocumented persons, access to early childhood education, and access to financial assistance for newborns born into poor families.


It's Time to Shine A Light on Sex Trafficking

by Leslie Sternlieb, NCJW, Inc. board director and member of the New York Section

More than a year ago, I opened my eyes to the shadowy realm of sex trafficking when I attended the United Nations’ 57th Commission on the Status of Women, in New York. I found myself, among 6,000 women from around the world, grow increasingly alarmed during the panels and presentations that described the multiple forms of violence against women and girls, the theme for that year; chief among them was sex trafficking.


Like most people, I thought that sex trafficking happened “over there”—Southeast Asia, Africa, India, any undeveloped nation. And even though the scope is international—it’s a $32 billion industry, second only to the underground drug trade—this dark commerce happens across the United States, too. Traffickers typically prey on 12-14 year-old girls, no matter the race, national origin, socioeconomic standing or education. Anybody’s daughter or sister could be unexpectedly trapped, facing a life of daily indignities, violence and threats, with a limited chance for escape.

Sex trafficking robs victims of their freedom and their future. I have taken this as a call to action. And you can, too.

How will we do this? Just as I did: awareness, education, and, yes, action.


Getting the Word Out, Then and Now

This is the first of a series of blog posts from our departing Director of Washington Operations, Sammie Moshenberg.

Here’s how it worked back then: we picked up the phone and called the SPA (State Public Affairs chair – in those days) in each state, and she picked up the phone. I am fairly sure that most NCJW activists back in the 1980s had a phone tree diagram stuck on their refrigerators or folded neatly into their address books. It had to be handy because once the SPA got the call from the NCJW Washington office to “activate your phone tree,” she called two or three other people in her state who called two or three more who each called another two or three.

By nightfall, dozens of NCJW women would get the notification to call their member of Congress with a simple message. Maybe it was to tell them to vote against a bill to put prayer back in public schools or maybe it was to support funding for child care. Whatever the message, rest assured, it was delivered to members of Congress across the country through short, direct phone messages!


Lobbying With NCJW: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

By Mollie Traub, NCJW Greater Rochester Section 

I remember the abject terror I felt just before speaking with my first legislator in 1974, convinced that he/she might ask a question I couldn’t answer or that I might forget the points I was planning to make or that I would be tricked into agreeing with something I didn’t agree with. 

On my first NCJW lobbying trip to Albany in 1974 our issues were:

> opposition to direct and indirect aid to non-public schools,

> concern over deterioration of day care center programs, 

> concernover a moratorium on subsidies for low- and moderate-income housing programs,

> opposition to the proposal by then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to sentence drug pushers to mandatory life imprisonment,

>and  commendation for the governor for vetoing the legislators’ attempt to repeal the 1970 abortion law.

40 years later, the 26 women from NCJW sections all over New York State met in Albany to focus on one issue — the 10-point Women’s Equality Act. This bill has been languishing in the New York State Senate because the majority leader refuses to allow it to leave committee and come to the floor for a vote, in spite of its overwhelming support by voters in the state.  


The Hurdle of Contraception Access At Catholic Universities

by Roxanne Farkas, NCJW Communications Intern

Students at the Catholic Fordham University,  religious and secular, Catholic and Jewish, undergraduate and graduate, face a major dilemma when seeking access to birth control. Although Fordham is required to provide contraceptive coverage under the 2002 New York Women’s Health and Wellness Act, the university does not have to provide access to affordable contraception. On the most basic level this allows the levying  offines for undergraduate students caught with banned paraphernalia such as condoms in McMahon residence hall. And the issue becomes larger and more pressing when considered in the light of reduced access to birth control for both commuters and residential students.

Although Fordham is a Jesuit-affiliated university, it receives Bundy Aid, requiring that Fordham be independent from the Catholic Church. But in practice, the university walks a fine line. Currently Fordham health insurance, which costs around $2,400 per year, enables female students to have one “well woman exam” under the Affordable Care Act, but charges students a $100 deductible in order to visit any off-campus doctors—who would be more willing to prescribe birth control. In addition to these costs, students would be responsible for a prescription fee. Although students are supposed to be able to receive birth control prescriptions for health conditions, they are often turned away. The inability of Fordham health centers to distribute contraception creates a challenging gauntlet.


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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