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More than 500 Feminists Convene in Washington, D.C. to Advocate for Reproductive Rights, Voting Protections, Background Checks for Gun Purchases, Independent Judiciary
National Council of Jewish Women’s triannual Washington Institute brings together activists from across the country for trainings, workshops and lobbying on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 500 Jewish activists from across the country convened in Washington this week at the National Council of Jewish Women’s (NCJW) Washington Institute for three days of back-to-back trainings, panel discussions and meetings with members of Congress. Together, they advocated for access to reproductive health care by way of the EACH Woman Act, gun violence prevention, and a fair and independent judiciary.
The gathering, held once every three years to strengthen local activists’ organizing and lobbying skills, included workshops focused on workplace equity, gun violence prevention, voter engagement, protecting refugees and immigrants and LGBTQ rights. During a lobby day on Capitol Hill, advocates met with elected officials about the EACH Woman Act, Voting Rights Advancement Act, Background Checks Expansion Act and a number of judicial nominations.
Featured speakers included Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Alex Wind and Samantha Deitsch, Parkland shooting survivors and leaders of March for our Lives; and Heather Booth, the women’s rights activist who, before Roe v Wade, founded the underground abortion service JANE.
Sally Yates, former Deputy Attorney General, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the first female senator elected from North Dakota, received “Women Who Dared” awards. Cecile Richards, former Planned Parenthood president, was named as the “Social Action Awardee” for her tireless work protecting women’s access to reproductive healthcare.
“Washington Institute is a true testament to the power of women in the NCJW network. Throughout the year, in communities across the country, NCJW members march in the streets, contact lawmakers and turn out to the polls. This is our opportunity to come together to share our strategies, organizing tactics and experiences turning our progressive ideals into action to create lasting systematic change,” said Beatrice Kahn, president of the NCJW Board of Directors. “As Heidi Heitkamp said when accepting the Woman Who Dared award, the secret to moral and political courage is to know that, as women, we are ‘never alone.’ NCJW activists left the 2019 Washington Institute knowing exactly that.”
During the closing gala on Monday, April 9, NCJW members, supporters and partners honored NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman, who is ending her tenure with the organization this June. “I have been honored these past eight years to have my voice heard, not only by each of you, but by the women you represent in each of your communities. The work we are engaged in is truly holy and it takes courage, boldness and perseverance,” Kaufman remarked. “I look forward to watching and supporting this wonderful organization to as it continues to grow and thrive as we take on the challenges that lie ahead. May you go from strength to strength.”
In addition to U.S.-based activists, Washington Institute participants and panelists included a delegation of 17 women from Israel representing Palestinian, Ethiopian, Mizrahi, Russian, Haredi, and LGBTQ communities each of whom are working on issues of domestic violence, equal employment and equal pay, gender equality in political representation, peace and security and healthcare. The delegates were participants in a year-long project, “Connecting for Impact: Strengthening the Feminist Ecosystem in Israel,” spearheaded by NCJW and Tel Aviv University’s NCJW Women and Gender Studies Program with the support of the Mazer Family Fund of UJA- Federation of NY and the Rayah Fund of Pittsburgh.
Throughout Washington Institute, guests celebrated NCJW’s 125-year-history and its next chapter; this summer, Sheila Katz will join the organization as its new CEO.
“This year’s Washington Institute was an amazing example of the incredible change NCJW’s members have the power to create,” said Sheila Katz, who was named the new CEO last month. “Now more than ever, we need a Jewish feminist movement that begins with grassroots organizing and will move our country forward. I am so inspired by the hundreds of women I met at Washington Institute whose advocacy work is having a real and lasting impact in their local communities. I can’t wait to partner with them.”
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. 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. More information on Facebook and on Twitter at @NCJW.