Good Morning and Welcome.  I’m so happy to see everyone here.  We are members of a vibrant section of the National Council of Jewish Women.  As you know, NCJW is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideas into action.  Inspired by Jewish values, we strive for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families, and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.  We advocate, participate, and educate. Throughout the year, our various events serve as testimony to our core beliefs.

I’d like to take a quick history trip with you to review what NCJW has accomplished since its inception. I can only present the merest of highlights here out of respect for the time I have to speak, but please listen for the similarities to the work we do today.

In 1893, Hannah G. Solomon was asked to organize the participation of Jewish women in the Chicago World’s Fair. By the end of the Fair, Hannah and the accompanying delegate body of women had founded the National Council of Jewish Women, changing forever the role of Jewish women and the nature of volunteerism.

  • During the decade 1900 – 1910, NCJW helped form the Port and Dock Department to help find homes and jobs for new immigrants.
  • Beginning in 1910, NCJW worked tirelessly for attaining women’s suffrage with the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment.
  • 1930 – 1950: We began our coalition work.  Two examples: The first nationwide Council on Aging was formed for senior citizens; also the German-Jewish children’s aid society was developed with coalition partners, with the goal of rescuing children from Nazi oppression.
  • 1950 – 1960: NCJW launches the “Freedom Campaign” to protect civil liberties.  We also developed a Meals on Wheels program in key states across the country, becoming the 1st national Jewish organization to join this initiative.
  • 1960 – 1970: We promoted voter education and registration following the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
  • 1970 – 1980: We celebrated our work on reproductive justice through the Roe v Wade decision to protect women’s reproductive rights.
  • 1980 – 1990: NCJW published Domestic Violence – An NCJW Response.
  • 1990 – 2000: Registered, educated, and mobilized thousands of voters nationwide with Promote the Vote.
  • 2000 – 2009: We expanded the Israel Granting Program to include NCJW’s Empowerment Initiative.

Of course, those are only a few of the multitude of initiatives to which NCJW has been involved. Today, after 124 years, NCJW remains distinct among organizations — courageous, compassionate, powerful, and, above all, pioneering.

But as you know, organizations are  changing to keep pace with events and attitudes in the 21st century.  In response to the new demands, NCJW has adopted five goals that I’d like to briefly share with you this morning:

  1. Mobilize progressive Jewish women to impact policy and support programs on priority issues, and align education, advocacy and community service projects.
  1. Redesign NCJW’s organizational structures (to address the diversity of sections across the country) and create the vision to ensure the viability of NCJW.
  1. Redevelop NCJW’s revenue model.
  1. Redevelop NCJW’s marketing and communications through brand identity, a strong communication plan, and utilizing technology to support our infrastructure.
  1. Enhance the effectiveness of NCJW’s Board of Directors.

In the next several months, we will learn more specifics about these laudable goals.  They will help guide our efforts, not only nationally but also locally, and will make us an even stronger organization. My challenge and commitment to all of us is to continue our work in the difficult environment of 2017 and beyond.  I would like to share the inspiring words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel, a leading Jewish theologian of the 20th Century.  He said, “What we need is the involvement of everyone of us as individuals.  What we need is a restlessness, a constant awareness of the monstrosity of injustice.  What we need is moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.”  Words that are as true today as when he said them.  I am certain that working together, we can influence our world in a positive direction and I look forward to the ensuing year as we work together for the benefit of others.  Thank you.