Looking Back on 2023
January 19, 2024
By Erica Solomon Collins, Executive Director
2023 was quite a year for NCJW Minnesota! Here are just a few of many highlights. Also, be sure to check out the fantastic videos (linked below), featuring me and two of our current board members, Terri Lindenbaum and Carrie Fink.
Our tireless advocates achieved several wins during the last legislative session, advancing menstrual equity, reproductive freedom, and gun violence prevention across the state.
Firstly, we saw the passage of a tremendously impactful Education Policy and Finance bill that includes funding for menstrual hygiene products to be provided by schools to all students in grades 4-12. This effort toward ending period poverty in our state has been a five-year labor of love, from the beginning led and inspired by student activists who showed up to testify at committee hearings, interviewed with journalists, and pioneered changemaking pilot programs and advocacy groups at their schools.
Secondly, through the work of the MN Reproductive Freedom Caucus and advocacy led by the UnRestrict MN coalition, we have made progress toward keeping Minnesota as a place where pregnant people can safely exercise their fundamental right to abortion. The early-in-session passage of the PRO Act, recognizing this fundamental right, was monumental, but just the beginning. The continued leadership of our UnRestrict coalition partners and the legislative Repro Freedom caucus helped bring the ideals behind the PRO Act to life by passing legislation to lift unconstitutional restrictions, protect against out-of-state anti-abortion attacks and end funding to crisis pregnancy centers.
Thirdly, our gun safety advocacy leads, working closely with a powerhouse of partners like Protect Minnesota, Mothers Against Community Gun Violence, and Moms Demand Action, shepherded through a public safety bill that includes common sense gun safety provisions like expanded background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and support for communities to stay safe and heal.
Throughout 2023, NCJW Minnesota’s volunteers gave generously of their time, energy, and passion in direct service to improve the lives of women, children, and families in our community.
The Books to Borrow program, meanwhile, received 1,600 books from donations, book drives, and in-store purchases, restocked its 3 libraries with 1,240 books, and gave out approximately 165 books at pop-up events in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Additionally, the program held a highly productive convening of NCJW volunteers and staff to begin envisioning the future of the program in May of 2023, followed by four volunteer-led pop-up events at Neighborhood House’s Francis Basket Food Market at Sibley Manor Apartments and two in partnership with Project for Pride in Living.
The Rapid Response Fund may be one of NCJW’s less visible programs, but it is also one of our most impactful! Through this program, we distribute emergency funds to St. Paul and Minneapolis Public Schools families experiencing homelessness and high mobility. In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, we distributed a total of more than $16,000 to 32 families to cover costs such as security deposits, rent, and student fees.
The Rapid Response Fund also supports a free student clothing closet, which we have piloted and staffed with volunteers, at Camden (formerly Patrick Henry) High School in Minneapolis. The Clothing Closet has proven so popular that it expanded into a bigger space (with the help of our volunteers) in August, and it has been serving dozens of students every week this school year.
In 2023 we celebrated 130 years of NCJW, and still going strong!
Over 150 of our advocates, partners, and past and present leaders gathered together for “Shared Table, Shared, Stories” in May. Hosted by chef and entrepreneur Imani Jackson of Chopped and Served, this was our first in-person fundraising event since 2019.
On the leadership development front, we held three webinars to educate and energize our amazing advocates. In “Abortion 101,” we got a refresher on abortion access and reproductive health from a Nurse Practitioner with extensive experience as both a provider and a researcher. Then, at “Courts 101,” we heard from Kathy Bonnifield, Senior Program Officer at the Piper Fund, on the judicial appointments process and fair courts advocacy. Finally, Julie Berman led an advocacy training session on changing Minnesota insurance laws to mandate coverage for infertility treatments.
Additionally, we kicked off a year-long, community informed strategic planning process—receiving a grant from the Pat and Tom Grossman Transformational Fund of the MN Jewish Community Foundation, partnering with Aurora Consulting, and hosting a community visioning session to gather input from our network.