Created in the Image of God: Women’s League Reacts to Issues

Public Policy Chair DR. MARILYN LISHNOFF WIND outlines some current issues on the Women’s League agenda

by Dr. Marilyn Lishnoff Wind

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Our tradition tells us that we are created in the image of God. It tells us that we must take care of widows, children, and the poor. Caring for the sick is of utmost importance. Israel and Jerusalem are vital to our lives as Jews.

Over the past several months, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism has been reinforcing our commitment to those truths and has spoken out on different topics in different ways. First, we look at Women’s League resolutions, which have a firm basis in Jewish law and tradition, and take stands consonant with them. Given the realities of today’s world, Women’s League often is asked to become involved in rapidly changing issues. In many cases, we have a very short time to make a decision about whether or not to become involved, take a stand, or sign onto a statement. Whenever possible, we urge members to make their voices heard to local and congressional representatives.

Last year we signed onto an amicus brief with the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations in a complex Supreme Court case in which an American born in Jerusalem is suing to have the place of birth on his passport listed as Jerusalem, Israel, rather than just Jerusalem, as mandated by a law passed by Congress. However, the Court is interested in whether the legislative branch of government had a right to make such a requirement or whether that kind of decision should be reserved for the executive branch.

We also signed a letter to Congress in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and allowing federal benefits to flow to same sex couples who have been married lawfully in states that recognize these unions. Last summer, at the first hearing on the DOMA since 1996, we were asked to publicize the range of support for the Respect for Marriage Act.

The National Defense Authorization Act, presented by Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, would allow the Department of Defense to provide coverage of abortion for women who have been raped or are victims of incest. This option is not available now to women in uniform or the families of men in uniform. Women’s League joined a letter of support initiated by the Religious Action Center.

With the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Women’s League supported the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This legislation, introduced in November with bipartisan support, will continue proven effective programs. Since the act first passed in 1994, more victims reported domestic violence, and nonfatal violence against women by intimate partners decreased by 63 percent. The law provides for a coordinated community approach, which not only saves lives but has saved $12.6 billion in averted costs in its first six years.

Women still earn only a fraction of a dollar for every dollar a man earns. To begin to rectify some of that inequality, we have signed letters by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Employment Task Force and the Paycheck Fairness Coalition for input on a data collection tool that will generate data on compensation of women in the work force. We also signed onto letters to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs on a proposed new data collection tool that would generate data on potential problems of compensation discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors.

As these and other important issues arise, we will continue to work with our partners, keep our members informed, and speak out as we are required to by Jewish tradition.

Dr. Marilyn Lishnoff Wind is Women’s League chair of public policy and United Synagogue’s vice president for youth services and education. A member of Kol Shalom in North Bethesda, Maryland, she is one of five laypeople on the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.