NCJW goes to Washington

NCJW goes to Washington

Ellen Jacobs will long remember the day President Barack Obama signed the health-care bill.

The Demarest resident – a national board member of the National Council of Jewish Women and a former president of the Bergen County section – was in Washington that day together with 25 other local women “to speak directly with our elected officials concerning issues of importance to women, children, and families, and to urge them to implement public policy that reflects our progressive ideals.”

The group was in D.C. for NCJW’s Washington Institute, the organization’s “premier public policy event,” said Jacobs, adding that with 400 members in attendance, “the energy was palpable. What a unique opportunity to speak with a collective voice, to share knowledge, and to plan for the future.”

At the NCJW national policy conference in March, Carole Benson of Englewood – representing the NCJW Bergen County Section – presented a grant of $2,500 to the Center for Women’s Justice in Israel. From left are Benson, vice president of the section, and Susan C. Levine, NCJW national board member and co-chair of the Israel Granting Program.

At the meeting, held late last month, the Bergen County section presented a $2,500 check to the Israel Center for Justice, “an empowerment program for at-risk women.”

“NCJW’s work in Israel directly mirrors the organization’s efforts to create progressive social change in the U.S,” said Jacobs, noting that the grant will help fund the Israeli group’s public interest litigation program.

“By filing strategic lawsuits, advocating creative approaches to Jewish law, and engaging media and policy-makers, the center promotes systemic solutions to the complex religious dilemmas that challenge the status of Jewish women,” she said.

According to the former section leader, NCJW has a long history of supporting Israeli ventures through its Israel Granting Program. Following decades of involvement in programs like the Research Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Women & Gender Studies Program at Tel Aviv University, the group entered a partnership three years ago with US/Israel Women to Women.

“NCJW members contribute to these efforts through grassroots networks, online campaigns, mission trips, and generous philanthropy,” said Jacobs, pointing out that grants are allocated in two categories: literacy programs designated for at-risk populations and development and empowerment programs for at-risk women.

This year’s Washington Institute presented “an opportunity for a close-up view of the operations and activities of various branches of the federal government, particularly as they relate to NCJW’s key issues,” she said, pointing out that the conclave explored four key issues: equal pay for women, paid sick days, and repeal of the global gag rule on abortion education and of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Among the speakers was Lilly Ledbetter, whose efforts on behalf of equal pay for women resulted in passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed into law by President Obama after his inauguration.

The final presentation of the event, said Jacobs, was the introduction of NCJW’s new campaign, “Higher Ground,” which works to address the issue of domestic violence. “It’s grounded in the knowledge that economic security is critical to women’s safety,” she said.

Jacobs pointed out that among other causes, the local NCJW group has been actively involved in environmental issues. On April 20, the Bergen County section sponsored an Earth Day panel discussion in Teaneck entitled “From Generation to Generation – Creating an Environmental Legacy.” Among the panelists were former Teaneck Mayor Jacqueline Kates, now community relations coordinator for Holy Name Medical Center, and the Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith.

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