Introducing: The NCJW MN Stories Blog

by Erica Solomon, Executive Director 

December 8, 2022

Welcome to the brand new NCJW Minnesota blog! Our hope is that this will be a forum for us to share updates, news, and action opportunities, and also for you, our NCJW Minnesota advocates, to share your own stories. I thought I’d kick us off by sharing a bit more about what this organization means to me, and why, after six years as a volunteer, Board member, and committee leader, I was so thrilled to join the staff as executive director this past June. 

My NCJW story begins in the long-ago days of early 2016 (I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it really does feel like it was another world back then, right?!). After spending the majority of my life in St. Paul and its suburbs, I’d packed up my covered wagon for the move to Minneapolis and a job at JFCS. I was at a big transitional point in my life and career, and was eager to get more involved with the Jewish community in ways that resonated with me as an adult (because, in so many ways, I just wasn’t the person I was in my “star in the USY musical” days anymore). 

NCJW was going through its own changes as well–it was right around this time that the separate St. Paul and Minneapolis sections merged into the singular NCJW Minnesota that we know today. The expanded reach of the section, its mission to develop new leaders, and the well-timed suggestion of a colleague who was an NCJW Board member at the time all converged into my landing in “Women Leading Change,” a cohort that convened monthly to learn about the organization, build skills, and get fired up about the power of collective change-making. 

In those six months of Women Leading Change, I got a taste for what I consider the three boldface headers of my NCJW story–themes that continued to grow with me as I moved on to other engagement opportunities with the organization, and move me daily as I continue the work in this newest role…

If you’d asked me, before I stepped into that first NCJW event in 2016, what “advocacy” meant, I honestly might have drawn a blank. Like so many folks, I always thought about policy and government as something that happens to individuals and communities. NCJW showed me that we the people, when we work together and stand up for our beliefs, truly have the power to make change for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. For the first time in my life I was contacting my representatives, lobbying in St. Paul and Washington D.C., and empowered with the knowledge that I have a voice and all kinds of ways to raise it (besides, you know, the aforementioned showtunes). Never have I felt more empowered than when I had the opportunity to co-lead Minnesota’s delegation to NCJW’s Washington Institute in 2019–talking with federal legislators about what matters to me, and feeling heard in the most meaningful way I ever have. 

Aside from the powerful learnings, there was another big takeaway from that first jump into NCJW…this was a place with history and big l’dor v’dor energy. Yes, I suppose that goes without saying for an organization founded in 1893. But here was a space with a broader range of age representation than my then-25-year-old brain could conceive of. Sitting next to me learning the ins and outs of changemaking were women in just about every stage of life from 20s to late 80s…and I think there was at least one baby who tagged along too! I also learned that my great-aunt and namesake, Elaine Simon, served as a past President of NCJW Minneapolis. Fast forward to getting my mom involved in NCJW (yes, we’re one of the rare cases in which the daughter was the influencer and not the other way around), and having the opportunity to connect with her in a whole new way as fellow Board members and allied advocates. 

At my first NCJW Washington Institute in 2019, where I lobbied at the nation’s capital alongside my mom and several other NCJW Minnesota advocates.

Living my Judaism
To steal a quote from one of our Board members’ reflecting on her involvement with NCJW: “It’s where I Jewish.” Growing up, I had a certain set of ideas of what it meant to be Jewish–attending synagogue, marking traditional holidays and life cycle events, going to Jewish summer camp, etc. Of course, many of these things are still important to how I live my Judaism today, but what NCJW introduced into the mix was the potential of more actively living out the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedek, tzedek tirdof (justice, justice you shall pursue) through social action. The fact that I can connect deeply to my faith through advocacy, and the unique voice I have showing up as Jewish in Interfaith and non-faith-based coalition spaces, even further increases that feeling of empowerment…bringing us full circle back to boldface header #1. 

I hope that learning more about what NCJW has meant to me inspires you to share your own story…or at least to return to this new blog for more. Check back regularly for updates and reach out to if you have ideas for topics you’d like to see, or if you’d like to contribute a blog post of your own.