Still We Rise

By Glenn Northern, 73Forward Campaign Co-Director

Violence is not a solution.  It is the ultimate failure of imagination, yet we are surrounded by it. It is a tool used to terrorize people and strip them of their humanity and dignity. It robs people of their lives and autonomy, and signals to others who would step out of line that they, too, can meet the same demise. 

Whether it’s in Mariupol, where neighborhoods, maternity wards and universities are shelled, or Satilla Shores, being chased by a truck as you run through a neighborhood as a young black man, using violence, or its threat, to silence those with whom you disagree is heinous both for the lives it ends and the beginnings it prevents. Terror is intended to crush the spirit. Those who use or encourage such tools of violence are aware of their power.  They will not prevail.

Violence as a tool to quell and control the public is not new. This past month of February, Black History Month, nearly 20 HBCU’s received bomb threats. In January, congregants and the Rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas were held hostage by a gunman. Another Texas Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, was set aflame late last year. We can all recall the murders in Emanuel African Methodist Church in South Carolina in 2015, gunned down while praying in church. The examples are legion.

These are not the first threats our communities have experienced. Our histories as black people, as Jewish people, as women, as trans individuals are littered with stories of violence and threats of violence against us.  Yet we are still here.

Like Maya Angelou said, “Still I Rise.” No matter who we are, where we come from, or how we pray, we have more in common than what might divide us.  This is in fact a piece about perseverance.  The story of the Jewish people is a story of survival through the ages, despite the obstacles and prejudice. The story of blacks in America has similar contours of survival despite obstacles and prejudice.  

Violence has also been used to not just silence communities and religions, but also ideas. Like the right to abortion. Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 194 arsons, and over 13,500 incidents of violence and disruption that providers and patients at abortion clinics have endured.

Every year on March 10th, communities across the nation celebrate abortion providers in honor of Dr. David Gunn, an abortion provider in Pensacola, Florida who was brutally murdered in 1993. This year’s celebration comes less than a week after the Florida Senate callously and myopically passed a 15-week ban on abortion, a fact not lost on those of us who are fighting for justice.

During abortion provider appreciation day, NCJW Sections will join the Abortion Care Network, Liberate Abortion and other partners across the nation to express our immense gratitude to local abortion providers for their heroism.  These individuals provide compassionate care against challenging odds.

Through COVID, through state legislation designed to shut them down, through personal attacks and threats, abortion providers are the caring professionals who help people obtain an abortion amidst increasingly hostile conditions.

Still they rise.

On March 10th, we celebrate abortion providers and their perseverance in pursuit of helping those in need. 

The State of Our Union 2022

By Annelise Schader, Government Relations and Advocacy Intern  

Guided by Jewish values, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) has worked for social justice and to improve the lives of women, children, and families since 1893. For over 100 years, NCJW has looked to the State of the Union to see how the nation’s president will pursue justice for all.  

In his State of the Union address, President Biden laid out an agenda to tackle the challenges ahead and rebuild the American economy. He championed the successes of the American Rescue Plan, which invested in families and lowered child poverty. NCJW has long advocated for expanding the Child Tax Credit and implementing paid leave, which were both included in the American Rescue Plan, albeit temporarily. Also in line with NCJW’s work was President Biden’s call to Congress to protect voting rights and abortion access through strong legislation. The president referenced the urgent need to “preserve a woman’s right to choose.” While we wish the president had specifically said the word abortion, we are glad he recognized the need to protect access to essential health care amid the onslaught of attacks coming from state legislatures. The president also spoke of Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the nation’s highest court. NCJW strongly supports her nomination. Judge Jackson is a well-qualified jurist with a brilliant legal mind, and her nomination moves us one step closer to a more representative US Supreme Court. For these points in his address and more, NCJW applauds President Biden and his administration’s work for women, children, and families. But there is so much more to be done to truly address the issues impacting our mission. 

The pandemic set women back. According to the Center for American Progress, four times as many women dropped out of the labor force as men. One out of four women who did so said it was because there were no other child care options. A report published by Katica Roy, CEO of Pipeline Equity, found that the gender pay gap had increased by 5% over the last few years.  

Women, particularly women of color, continue to face daunting challenges. For instance, 16 million breadwinner moms support 28 million kids yet make only 66 cents to every dollar of what breadwinner dads make. Still, 19 states passed 108 restrictions on abortion access just in 2021, and 27 states have introduced over 250 bills to restrict voting, which would disproportionately impact low-income women of color if passed. Adding to the lack of representation is the fact that while 50% of the American population are women, they make up only 33% of the federal bench. That number is even smaller for people of color on the bench despite making up 43% of our population.  

We must continue our vital work to pass legislation, enforce policies, and provide opportunities that support women, children, and families. NCJW and our 200,000 advocates across the country will do this by advocating for policies that allow workers and their families to thrive; protect and expand access to abortion; strengthen and advance voting rights; and ensure fair, independent, qualified, and diverse judges on our federal courts. Grounded in the Jewish value to pursue justice, NCJW will continue to: 

  1. Invest in children and families. Extend the expanded Child Tax Credit and guarantee 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

  2. Protect and expand abortion rights and access. Pass the EACH Act and the Women’s Health Protection Act.

  3. Protect and expand voting rights. Pass the Freedom to Act: John R Lewis Act.

  4. Ensure our federal bench is filled with judges who are independent, fair, qualified, and representative of our country. Confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court and continue confirming qualified jurists to the lower federal courts. 

After 2021, Our Courts Look More Like Us Than Ever Before

For Our Courts to Work for All of Us, They Have to Look Like All of Us. 2021 Took Us a Few Steps in the Right Direction.


By Jody Rabhan

Women make up just over half the population of the United States, yet only 33 percent of the federal bench. Federal judges, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, serve in lifetime appointments and can determine our laws for generations, which means having federal judges who look like the communities they serve is important. Bringing diverse experiences and perspectives to the bench allows judges to make better-informed decisions, in addition to increasing public confidence in their rulings. As National Women’s Law Center noted, “The increased presence of women on the federal bench improves the quality of justice: women judges can bring an understanding of the impact of the law on the lives of women and girls to the bench, and enrich courts’ understanding of how best to realize the intended purpose and effect of the law that the courts are charged with applying.” Be they issues of sexual harassment, pay equity, abortion and more, a woman’s perspective can ensure “that rulings reflect a broader set of viewpoints, especially those that are traditionally overlooked, while acting as a check on a single dominant perspective.” More women on the federal bench can help ensure the judiciary acts with our interests, priorities, and values in mind.

As our federal courts were increasingly stacked under the last administration with mostly young, white, men, the current president pursued a different course in his first year in office — recognizing that different skills and experiences help improve the quality and depth of judicial decisions and access to justice.

One seismic shift for the better has been the confirmation of female judges. In just less than a year since President Biden took office, eighty percent of the judges confirmed are women, a staggering expansion of gender on the federal courts. Plus, of the 32 confirmed female federal judges, 21 of them are women of color — doubling the number of Black women on the circuit courts alone.

These women are unquestionably qualified, professionally and racially diverse, and powerhouses in their fields. Here are just some of the new women judges confirmed by the Senate in 2021:

Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, the first-ever former public defender on the Seventh Circuit and the only Black woman on the Seventh Circuit.

Judge Tiffany Cunningham, with a 20-year history of patent law and training as a chemical engineer, became the first Black judge on the Federal Circuit Court, which hears cases involving technology, science, and medicine.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former public defender and upon confirmation became the first Black woman to serve on a federal appeals court in ten years.

Judge Lucy Koh, the first Korean-American woman to serve as a federal appellate judge and only the third woman from the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community to serve on any circuit court. Now on the Ninth Circuit, Judge Koh worked in private practice, gaining expertise in patent, trade secret, and commercial civil litigation, and spent seven years working for the US Department of Justice prior to becoming a federal judge.

Judge Eunice Lee, the only judge on the Second Circuit with experience as a public defender and the second Black woman to ever serve on the Second Circuit.

Judge Myrna Pérez, a voting rights expert who is the first in her family to attend college. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Judge Pérez is the only Latina on the Second Circuit.

Judge Beth Robinson, the first openly lesbian judge to serve on a federal appellate court, has an extensive background in employment law, worker’s compensation, contract disputes, family law, and civil rights. Judge Robinson is also a pioneer in shaping the legislative and litigation strategy behind the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Judge Jennifer Sung, the first AAPI judge from Oregon on the Ninth Circuit and the third AAPI woman to ever serve on a US Court of Appeals, has the most experience working at a labor union of any sitting judge on the Ninth Circuit — a critical perspective as the circuit covers some of the highest unionization rates in the country.

Judge Veronica Rossman, an immigrant whose family fled Russia due to antisemitism and who has extensive experience as a public defender, now on the Tenth Circuit — a court that frequently hears religious discrimination and religious liberty cases.

Judge Holly Thomas, the second Black woman ever on the Ninth Circuit (and the first from California), who has spent the bulk of her career as a civil rights litigator working for both the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Civil Rights Division in the US Department of Justice.

This “greatest hits” of women judges is only the beginning of what this administration can achieve working in partnership with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL). They are exactly the types of judges desperately needed to transform our federal courts. For far too long, our courts have perpetuated inequality — judges are picked from the same pool of experience and often with the same educational backgrounds. Similar perspectives can include similar inherent biases that result in similar outcomes — hardly “equal justice under the law” as inscribed upon the US Supreme Court.

While the pace of confirmations and quality of the 40 federal judges confirmed to date is something to celebrate, the lack of federal judges representing historically underrepresented groups — including women — persists. It is on us to work with our senators to identify a diversity of candidates for the federal bench, and to hold them accountable to see that a rich tapestry of federal judges are confirmed as quickly as possible. For our courts to work for all of us, they have to look like all of us. Learn more about the federal courts and judicial nominees at

Stop the Delays: The Senate Must Pass 2021’s Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

By Christina Thomas

Living in a world against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic means we are now used to delays – delays in postal services, delays in grocery store restocks, and delayed events, such as the Olympics or school graduations, just to name a few. And while some things begin to get back on track, one key delay remains: a delay in the Senate passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021, otherwise known as VAWA.

While VAWA is typically reauthorized every five years, it has so far taken eight years (its last reauthorization was in 2013) for the most recent reauthorization to pass in the House (HR 1620, passed in March 2021) and it has not yet been introduced in Senate. As we continue to grapple with a pandemic that has brought with it economic and social instability, devastating losses, and uncertainty, VAWA cannot be delayed any longer. 

VAWA was first signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994. Its aim was to create and support comprehensive, cost-effective responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking and since its enactment, we have seen drastically improved federal, tribal, state, and local responses to these crimes. In fact, since VAWA’s passage in 1994, rates of domestic violence have decreased by 63 percent. Additionally, between 2014-2016, VAWA helped fund nearly 2 million shelter nights600,000 hotline callsvictim advocacy for almost 300,000 unique individuals, and legal services for almost 100,000 survivors.  These statistics show that VAWA works, yet these services remain in jeopardy of receiving the funding they need the longer the Senate delays passing a reauthorization bill. 

Without reauthorizing VAWA, not only will funding for life-saving services be in danger, but certain groups will lack sufficient protection from abusers and stalkers, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community, Native women, and women of color. 

When looking at domestic violence incidents that occur each year, Native women are victimized at higher rates than any other population in the United States. It has been estimated that 56 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native women will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes and a similar proportion will be subjected to domestic violence in their lifetimes. Under HR 1620, the jurisdiction of tribal authorities would be expanded to include non-Indians who commit a crime on tribal land, and funding is preserved for crucial services that can be used by members of indigenous communities who face domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking, key provisions that must be included in a Senate version of the bill. 

Communities of color are also disproportionately affected by intimate partner violence. According to a study by the National Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 9.5 percent of black women have experienced stalking and 41.2 percent have been physically abused by a partner in their lifetime. Additionally, based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), members of the Black/African/African American communities have the highest rates of intimate partner violence (4.7 per 1,000) when compared to Whites (3.9 per 1,000) and Hispanics (2.3 per 1,000). When passed by the House in March, HR 1620 addressed these alarming statistics by dedicating funding to the Culturally Specific Services Program and it is essential the Senate reauthorization does the same. 

We also know when firearms become involved in a domestic violence situation, things often turn deadly. In fact, domestic violence claims at least 2,000 lives each year and many of these homicides are committed with firearms. Frighteningly, almost 60 women are shot and killed each month by current or former intimate partners, and abusers with access to firearms are 5 times more likely to kill a partner than those without access. HR 1620 seeks to address this disparity by limiting access to firearms for those who have a history of committing intimate partner violence, a move that must also be made in a Senate version of the reauthorization to help save the lives of victims and survivors. 

While VAWA has been successful since its initial passage in 1994, rates of domestic violence in the United States still remain high with, on average 20 people per minute being affected by it. This equates to about 10 million individuals per year, with numbers being even higher for members of transgender and gender-queer communities. With sexual violence, such as harassment and sexual assault, remaining a pervasive problem, particularly on college campuses, in the military, and in the workplace, it’s time the Senate reauthorizes VAWA to ensure survivors have access to the lifesaving services they so desperately need. 

 Tell the Senate: Reauthorize VAWA

Hi SCOTUS, Reproductive Freedom is Religious Freedom

By Rabbi Asher Lopatin

It has been over two months since all eyes were glued on the state of Texas following the passage of SB 8, the restrictive six-week abortion ban. Since then, I feel like I am being transported to a different America — an America that just like 50 years ago does not allow Jews to practice their religion by banning access to essential reproductive health care, including abortions. 

Laws that restrict abortion access bars me from practicing my Judaism. In modern Orthodox tradition, the denomination of Judaism that I observe, our stance is clear. Abortion is not only permitted in Judaism but at times required if the life of the pregnant person is in danger.

“Danger” can be defined in multiple ways including both physical and mental health. The mental state of a pregnant person is as critical as physical health. If continuing a pregnancy is endangering someone’s mental health, that is also considered endangering their life. 

As a pulpit rabbi for over 25 years, I have had the privilege and responsibility to consult with couples on whether or not to abort their pregnancies. 

One couple who practiced Conservative Judaism had approached me after finding out that their Orthodox daughter was carrying a fetus that had Trisomy 18, a rare chromosomal condition associated with abnormalities in many parts of the body. Only up to 10% of patients live past the first year of life with this condition, and these children often have severe intellectual disabilities. After consulting with their doctor, the young couple were interested in speaking with an Orthodox rabbi to get their perspective. I, along with my colleagues, agreed wholeheartedly that it was the right thing to abort. 

Another couple who were expecting twins approached me at another time when the mother-to-be was dealing with some medical issues that only allowed one of her two fetuses to remain viable. I helped them make the impossible decision to save the stronger of the fetuses as the more viable future life. To this day, only I and the couple know about this decision. 

Both of the above examples involved deeply difficult, intimate decisions. Creating a family is one of the most central aspects of practicing Judaism. And although I will never be pregnant, as a father of four, I know it to be a sensitive, personal experience. And now in the state of Texas, these couples approaching me to have these conversations in the first place are considered illegal. 

Although the mental state of the mother or pregnant person has become much more understood within the Orthodox community over time, it is clear that the life of the pregnant person always takes precedent. 

I, along with several Orthodox colleagues, wholeheartedly support and embrace our tradition. And as an active participant in National Council of Jewish Women’s Rabbis for Repro campaign, I will continue to use my voice as a rabbi to teach, write and speak out about reproductive rights and Judaism in the United States and in the Jewish community, regardless of restrictive bans. 

Throughout America’s history, there have been instances that deterred Jews from freely practicing their religion. 100 years ago when Jewish refugees entered Ellis Island, it was quite difficult to observe the commandment to not work on the Sabbath. But now this abortion ban is the most serious violation I can think of in modern times. 

With more restrictions and bans being introduced in the states, along with the pending Supreme Court decisions both related to Texas’ ban and other bans across the country, I am questioning what comes next. 

I can’t imagine an America where I can’t practice my Judaism. 


Rabbi Asher Lopatin serves Kehillat Etz Chayim, an Open Orthodox synagogue in Oak Park and Huntington Woods, Michigan and is an active member of National Council of Jewish Women’s Rabbis for Repro campaign. 


Employers: Stop Ignoring Working Mothers

By Dana Gershon

Last month, three-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix announced that she will commit $200,000 in childcare costs for nine athletes who are mothers and competing in the 2021 Tokyo games. Her decision came after her own difficult experiences after giving birth — and unsupportive sponsors who denied maternity protections and pushed pay cuts, despite her clear prowess as a sprinter. The fact that top athletes, decorated Olympians, cannot access childcare and responsive maternity policies underscores a deeper problem within our society and how we undervalue mothers — especially Black mothers.

As a white woman, I come from a place of privilege. But as a working mother, I too, have struggled to afford the childcare I needed for my growing family, in spite of the fact that I am an attorney with access to better benefits than most women in the US. After having my first child, I received eight weeks of paid leave and took an additional three weeks unpaid. With my second child, I was able to take six months off, but only three of which were paid. And after giving birth to twins, with four children at home under age 6, I was forced to leave my job, as my childcare costs would have exceeded what I would have earned after taxes.

While some parents choose not to return to work after a new child, that should be a choice, not an economic necessity. Parents should have the flexibility to make decisions that work best for their family’s well-being without having to do financial gymnastics to ensure their children are well-cared for at the end of the day.

Paid parental leave of any kind is rare in the United States — one of the only countries to not mandate paid family leave. Only 21% of American workers get access to any paid family leave. This is especially true in low-income jobs. Part-time workers — who are more likely to be women of color, white women and Black and Latino men — do not even receive job-protected, unpaid leave in most of the US.

Having time off after the arrival of a new child is critical for the health and wellbeing of parents and children alike. Black women in the United States experience unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality — and are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white women. Ensuring paid leave is just one step in improving care and support for Black mothers — and all parents.

For a year, after my twins were born, I did not go back to work at all. Only with additional financial support from my family — something many others do not have access to — was I able to return to work.

During the pandemic, an overwhelming majority of jobs lost were held by women, particularly women of color. And because of unpaid, undervalued, and extraordinary care responsibilities due to children learning from home, even more, women were forced to leave their jobs.

According to a recent report, more than half (52%) of Latinas and almost half (44%) of Black women reported their unpaid care responsibilities would negatively impact the amount of paid labor they would be able to do.

Individual employers and organizations need to support working parents, and working mothers in particular. We also need federal policies that ensure all families have the flexibility and support they need. The expanded child tax credit in the most recent pandemic relief package is an important start, but we, as a country, must go further and make this tax credit a permanent relief for American families.

The families that would most benefit from this investment — low-income families and Black and Latino communities — are those that have been the most impacted by the pandemic.

Now is a critical moment to envision an economy that works for everyone; that means valuing mothers instead of neglecting them. Robust funding for childcare, a plan for paid leave, a permanent expansion of the child tax credit, investments in education, and support for workers are all essential for an economic recovery. We must reframe how we understand the care economy and value the work — largely done by women of color — to care for children, elders, and others in need of additional support. We have an opportunity to truly pursue gender and racial equity — and we cannot let it go to waste.

As we continue to witness the incredible athletic feats of Olympic athletes, we should remember the sacrifice too many of those mom-athletes have had to make to be there. For them — and for all the working moms — we should follow the lead of Allyson Felix. We should demand a better future with childcare investment, paid leave, and support for working families.

Dana Gershon is the president of National Council of Jewish Women and is an attorney with a private practice that specializes in employment law.