This month, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) celebrates 130 years of activism, organizing, and service to others.
By Susan Gordon and Stacey Hader Epstein, NCJW Atlanta Section Co-presidents
Once again, it is that time of year when our shadows grow a bit longer, the air gets a little cooler (please, G-d!), and we anticipate the distinctive plea of the shofar: a sound that straightens our spines, awakens our ears, and draws us near.
This month, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) celebrates 130 years of activism, organizing, and service to others. Two years following the establishment of the national organization, our Atlanta section opened its doors in 1895. Our original mission—to promote the welfare of women, children, and families in our community—has only become more imperative with time.
TEKIAH. We hear the summons and take note of its deep resonance—and its call to notice the world around us. As we’ve done since our founding, we hear the call of the strangers, the new refugee families to our community. We provide warm welcomes with much-needed items, and we support those refugee women who are starting their own businesses.
We hear the desperate call of women in need of reproductive health care and abortion access. We advocate for reproductive justice and provide support and compassion with our post-abortion comfort care kits to those making the difficult decisions. We provide menstrual products to homeless women and teens hidden throughout our community. We teach teens about reproductive health, guiding them and their peers through their own health choices. We are emboldened by the 50+ Atlanta area clergy who signed NCJW’s Rabbis for Repro pledge to use their voices to teach the Jewish value of reproductive freedom.
SHEVARIM. We listen to the fragmented call, reminding us of the breaks in our world and of attempts to fracture our democracy. We advocate for a qualified, non-biased judiciary as well as for free and fair elections, particularly among those in our underserved communities. And especially now, as we approach the brink of another monumental election. Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue is our call to action.
The shofar blasts beckon us to support our children and help them thrive. We tutor children in Title 1 schools through our Atlanta Jewish Coalition for Literacy program and provide backpacks and school supplies for those in need. We advocate for an end to banning books, trusting overall that parents make the best choices for their children. We support lobbying efforts on behalf of maternal and child healthcare in our state. And we turn fractures into sparks of joy for area children through our Mother’s Day Jewelry Pop-Up Shops in Title 1 schools.
TERUAH. The rapid, staccato sounds resonate with us as we work towards a kinder world. We hear the hunger calls from too many in our community, so we help provide food for our homeless and nearly homeless neighbors. We educate ourselves and our community on issues that should not be divisive in our society: the scourge of antisemitism, the logical reasoning for gun safety legislation, and the power of loving those in the LGBTQ+ community.
TEKIAH GEDOLAH. The long, breathy final call of the shofar reminds us that its effort is not for the faint of heart. NCJW’s decades-long call to action continues with strength, forbearance, and compassion. It is no surprise that our national organization and Atlanta Section were both founded on the cusp of the Jewish new year—a time of introspection, of renewal, and of making our world a better place for others.