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Jewesses with Attitude

Jewish Women Advocates

Crossposted on JVoices

A few years ago, I read Devil in the White City, Erik Larson's non-fiction account of the history of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, complete with architecture, politics, and a murder mystery.  Good stuff.  But I didn't realize that the Chicago World's Fair was also the site, 115 years ago this week, of the first Jewish Women's Congress, which was part of the Fair's World Parliament of Religions.

Led by Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, who organized the event when the male organizers of the proposed Jewish Congress planned no meaningful part for women, the Women's event drew so many women that they had to elbow each other and step on one another's toes just to get through the hall to hear the speakers.  Ultimately, the delegates at the Women's Congress decided to form the National Council of Jewish Women, NCJW, which remains in existence today as an advocacy organization.

These days, membership in a Jewish women's organization seems sort of standard - between Hadassah, Jewish Women International and NCJW (a brief and incomplete list, I'm sure) you've got thousands of American women involved.  Not too shabby. 

I want to take this moment to highlight NCJW's current focus on women's health and reproductive rights.  Their 2-prong approach to the issue advocates for safe and legal abortions as well as "Plan A," a campaign for contraceptive access.  Now, I don't want to name names, but some people in this election season are not just anti-choice, but they are also pro-abstinence only education, which is the first strike against reproductive rights. 

NCJW is also fighting for equal rights for same-sex couples, a just and humane immigration policy, universal health care for children, and a livable minimum wage.  I'm so proud to have a strong Jewish female voice speaking out in Washington and across the country on issues that matter not just to the Jewish community, but to the entire nation. 

To find out more about the first Jewish Women's Congress, visit This Week in History.

To find out more about NCJW's advocacy work, visit their website.

How to cite this page

Rabinoff-Goldman, Lily. "Jewish Women Advocates." 4 September 2008. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/advocacy>.

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