NCJW Austin is so proud of its members and supporters for the community effort in setting up an apartment for a refugee family. The family arrived just last week! Thank you to everyone who participated!
NCJW Austin was so proud to be a part of ADL No Place For Hate today. Austin.adl.org/noplaceforhate/ Fighting hatred and encouraging diversity- thank you ADL!!
NCJW filled the house at Temple Beth Shalom, over 80 attendees to hear the remarkable Shannon Sedwick of Esther’s Follies. Thanks to Eileen Ladd for coordinating program and to our presidium for throwing a big, fun party!
If you have an interest in mentoring a deserving young person, you should read about the latest NCJW volunteer opportunity. No experience needed!!
Our September luncheon featured Chiquita Board, Program Services Coordinator of Dream Come True Foundation (DCTF), one of our new service projects. It is a locally based non-profit dedicated to working with high-potential individuals to support their move from poverty to success by helping them get the tools they need. Becoming an “achiever” with this program is a competitive process. Once selected, DCTF provides individualized, wrap-around support so each person can reach their educational and then career goals. For more information about DCTF, go to http://www.dctf-austin.org
Those who attended the luncheon donated back-to-school supplies for Dream Achievers and were excited to hear Ms. Board’s enthusiastic presentation about the work of DCTF and the opportunities for NCJW members to support this important work. Ms. Board shared DCTF’s need for volunteers willing to serve as mentors for their “achievers”. Mentors are a critical aspect of their program, providing these young people with a go-to person to identify resources and help with problem solving. DCTF provides a training session and their staff provide ongoing support for mentors at all times. The mentor role is expected to require a few hours per month of volunteer time. No special experience is needed. DCTF encourages couples to mentor together and they will be exploring the possibility of friends serving as mentors together as well. At present, the ability of DCTF to serve more people is limited by their need of a larger pool of potential mentors, so this is an important way that we can help. For additional information about being a mentor, click on the “Get Involved” section of the DCTF website or email Chiquita Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in attending a special mentor training session for NCJW members, contact NCJW. We will compile a list of interested members and coordinate a training session in the next few months.
A few photos from the April Sookie’s Storytime. As you can see, we were able to get some ducklings from Callahan’s. Special kudos to Anthony who hysterically read Kiss Goodnight (in character as a Vincent Price look-alike) to one of our super star readers. The kid was on cloud nine. Thanks also to Cyral and Marsha who played with abandon and to Cecilia Hogan, Lifeworks Program Services Coordinator, who took these photos. Unfortunately, she is not permitted to take photos of the children, but rest assured that they were super excited!
The next Sookie’s Storytime will be Thursday, May 7th.
On June 19, Nancy Kaufman, National Council of Jewish Women CEO, visited Austin. Kaufman’s visit began with a tour of the LBJ Library, where she commented that many of LBJ’s signature issues and achievements still have to be fought to be preserved, such as voting rights, education, health care and ensuring a safety net for low-income families. NCJW is actively continuing these fights.
She also toured the State Capitol, seeing firsthand where a year earlier, many Austin Section of NCJW women spoke out against Senate Bill 5, which included more restrictive reproductive healthcare regulations, including abortion, for Texas. Kaufman explained that NCJW members and supporters around the country were following these historic events on Twitter in real time.
Kaufman’s last engagement in Austin was an evening reception and informal presentation to discuss NCJW’s agenda. Kaufman spoke about the organization’s new campaigns to be launched this fall focusing on sex trafficking and reproductive justice.
Both these issues are front and center in Texas but they are nothing new to the advocates and volunteers of NCJW. In the early 1900’s, NCJW volunteers met Jewish immigrant women at Ellis Island to ensure they did not fall into the hands of traffickers. And women having control over their bodies has long been an NCJW rallying cry since the organization was supportive of Margaret Sanger’s efforts promoting birth control in the 1910s and 1920s.
New and longtime members who met with Kaufman discussed NCJW’s continuing work on gun violence prevention, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights and gender equality in Israel. They discussed the organization’s invitations to the White House, where NCJW leaders met with President Obama on access to health care and contraceptive coverage.
Event attendees learned that in many instances, NCJW is the only Jewish organization at the table with collaborative partners, such as Planned Parenthood, or at rotunda events at Capitol Hill with members of Congress.
Kaufman was one of only three women of 20 Jewish leaders in a meeting in the West Wing with President Obama just prior to his trip to Israel. And while she was in Texas, NCJW president Debbie Hoffman was one of 14 people who attended an Oval Office meeting with President Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
The dialogue with Kaufman also included the challenges that all membership organizations face. Ideas were considered for adapting messages and promoting simpler ways to advocate on issues when women are stretched for time.
Many attendees at the events with Kaufman came away with an appreciation of the uniqueness of NCJW as a faith-based organization, putting ideas into action in the United States and Israel on a wide range of issues. Many group members felt inspired by Kaufman as they began planning for their biennial Day on the Hill, where they will take their message to the Texas Legislature in February 2015.
Kaufman is well known in the nonprofit and public sectors as an advocate on social justice and human services.
She was recently named one of the top 14 people of faith to watch in 2014 by the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative of the Center for American Progress. She has been listed multiple times on The Forward’s “Forward 50” annual list of the country’s most influential American Jewish Leaders.
Prior to joining NCJW as CEO three years ago, Kaufman served as executive director of the JewishCommunity Relations Council of Boston for 20 years, where she led the social justice, Israel advocacy and governmental affairs agendas for Boston’s Jewish Federation.
She has also held positions related to health and human services delivery in state and local government and in the nonprofit sector. She worked for the Dukakis administration in various capacities relating to health and human services and welfare in Massachusetts.
Kaufman is well known to Jewish Federations across the country for her strong stance and active roles on a range of social justice issues, which made her a natural fit to take the helm at NCJW.
But as she told members of the Austin group who gathered with her for a day of discussion and socializing, she accepted the job only after she learned of the breadth of NCJW’s work in Israel. She was amazed to discover that the group’s programs and mission in Israel mirror its work in the United States.
NCJW focuses on a range of issues including gender equality, human trafficking, gay rights, and economic justice in Israeli society. NCJW’s Israel office and its director, based in Jerusalem, oversees funding and advocacy efforts and is active on NCJW’s behalf in international coalitions on issues of concern to NCJW.
By Ellen Sable and Susan Pintchovski
In 2013, the National Council of Jewish Women celebrates its 120th year. For most of that time, NCJW members have been working toward gaining and ensuring reproductive rights for women.
NCJW was an early supporter of Margaret Sanger’s work, passing a 1931 resolution in favor of women’s access to confidential family planning services. So it is no surprise that many NCJW Austin Section members, feeling inspired by their Jewish values, took an active role in opposing the omnibus bills drastically restricting access to abortion in Texas.
For many of these women, it’s a passion that will not wane.
In June and July, many NCJW members spent hours in hearing and overflow rooms waiting to testify during the first and second special sessions. The bill ultimately passed, but not without a fight.
Susan Pintchovski, NCJW state policy advocacy co-chair from Austin, was able to give oral testimony in committee hearing. Pintchovski spoke at 2:30 a.m.
Hundreds of others, after hours of waiting, some traveling long distances to get to Austin, never heard their names called.
NCJW women joined with thousands of others at the Capitol to witness the Senate and House floor debates as NCJW Continues History of Reproductive Rights Support well as the historic and remarkable filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis.
My own testimony was one of many that the senator singled out to read during her filibuster because I was not called to deliver it at the public hearing.
In part it reads, “As a person of faith, as a Jew, I am dismayed that some religious views are not being taken into account and respected as this bill aims to make it more and more difficult for a woman to have access to abortion care. My faith is clear on the issue. My Jewish values state that every woman has a right to self-determination. And Judaism views the well-being of the mother as paramount, placing the highest value on existing life.”
Many NCJW Austin members, showed their passion at the Stand With Texas Women rally held July 1 at the Capitol experienced the true spirit of democracy in action.
Lisa Saslavsky said, “I have been to many marches and rallies in D.C., and this felt much more personal and emotional. Seeing so many people in the capitol was exhilarating.”
Pintchovski said, “As members of the Jewish community and the Austin Section of NCJW bore witness to Senator Davis’ poise and endurance as she spoke out for us all, we also excitedly sensed a new balance of power in Texas’s future, one that promotes and protects every woman’s right to reproductive choice.”
Lisa Humphrey said her experience was “really empowering and amazing.”
For me, it truly felt that the Capitol belonged to the people of Texas.
Months prior to her newfound national and international fame, NCJW honored Senator Davis in February 2013 at the group’s biennial Day on the Hill event during the regular legislative session.
Davis was presented with the Woman Who Dared Award for her work during the 2011 Session to prevent cuts to education that ultimately occurred during the special session that year.
NCJW, a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action, has been at the forefront of social change for 120 years.
Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.
The Austin Section, inspired by Jewish values, remains committed to standing on the front lines to secure women’s health and reproductive choices, including the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion care.
By Ellen Sable