Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, was at Rodef Shalom Congregation, Thursday, Oct. 11, to address NCJW Pittsburgh Section at its 2012 opening meeting. Her topic was, “The War on Women and Our Counter Attack,” hoping to mobilize constituents to “redouble” their efforts in grassroots activism.
“There is a lot at stake,” Kaufman said of this year’s election, referencing those who are “engaged in attacks on matters we thought were settled decades ago.”
Noting that NCJW fought hard so that reproductive health would be part of the Affordable Care Act, Kaufman stressed the importance of ensuring that employers be mandated to include it in their insurance coverage.
A woman’s ability to control her fertility and reproductive issues is “fundamental to her personal autonomy and social and economical well-being,” Kaufman said. “For Jews, it is a matter of religious liberty and the right to privacy.”
With campaigns such as Plan A, which works for universal access to contraception, and Voices for Reproductive Choices, which fights for basic reproductive rights at the state and federal level, NCJW has become a leading pro-choice Jewish organization.
In addition to working to maintain reproductive rights, Kaufman said it was incumbent upon Jewish women to be champions for those most vulnerable in our society.
“We’re at a perilous point in our country’s history,” Kaufman said. “Many of our government leaders seem to have lost their sense of moral obligation to those in need.”
Criticizing what she called the “preferential treatment in the tax code” of the rich, Kaufman stressed the importance of Jewish women joining with NCJW in support of such programs as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and ensuring that the debt dilemma is resolved without hurting Social Security and Medicare.
“We believe in a safety net,” Kaufman said, listing a higher minimum wage, programs addressing domestic violence, improving education and Pell grants among the matters supported by NCJW.
“The impact of all these programs is a ripple outward,” she said.
“We are making a difference in communities throughout the country in people’s lives,” she said, encouraging those in the audience to have conversations with their neighbors and co-workers to increase awareness and engagement.
“We as Jews do not accept the world as it is, but we envision it as it should be, and strive to make that vision a reality,” she said. “Let’s be an example to our children and grandchildren, showing them what a democracy is all about.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)