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president's message

Message for Rosh Hashanah 2017

As the Jewish world begins  New Year 5778 I send all ICJW affiliate organisations and ICJW members a message of thanks for their participation in making the world a better place during 5777. 

Outstanding work was contributed to Jewish and local communities by ICJW women in the past year.  NGO representation to global organisations was consistent and meaningful, maintaining the good name of the International Council of Jewish Women. 

I wish you and your families and communities SHANA TOVA, a happy and healthy 5778 and well  over the Fast. 

CSW61 - Reporting from the un commission on the status of women event in new york

Last week, in company with several ICJW women, I attended CSW61 NGO meetings in New York - the annual  Commission on the Status of Women.  

Thousands of NGO delegates, the majority of them women, dedicated many hours daily to attending side events and parallel events in and around the United Nations building. As usual the choice of which meeting to attend was difficult, the myriad issues of global women's organisations compelling.  

Disappointingly, the first side event in which ICJW was involved was lost in the cancellation of every CSW session scheduled for Tuesday March 14 - the snowstorm day when 18" snow descended on New York.  This session entitled ' ACHIEVING WOMEN'S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT and Why 30% Women Representation is Important' could not be rescheduled.  

The following day ICJW NY UN Representative Rita Fishman was involved in setting up the session:  ' HUMAN TRAFFICKING and LABOUR: Accessorising Our Lives at the Cost of Others .' I found this full of  factual, sometimes surprising information on the place trafficked people, mostly women, play in trade. P ublic companies and financial institutions need to be aware and responsible for their actions. ICJW renews  its commitment to Stop the TRAFFIK , Fair Trade and other agencies which work to upgrade the safety of workers,   particularly women and children.   Rita's report on this informative session is attached .  

On the next day ICJW in partnership with UNICEF and Together for Girls sponsored the session entitled:  'IT STARTS WITH SAFETY - Adding Girls to the Global Agenda . ' This was one of the best events I have ever attended – the panel was mind- blowing in its speeches and discussion.  Madeleine Brecher's report on this session can be found here.  

Extra CSW sessions I attended included   ' Changing needs for Empowerment of Women in the Context of Climate Change' and 'Transformative Politics and Women's Leadership ' sponsored by the International  Council of Women and the Korean National Council of Women.   For further information see the CSW61 Outcome Document

March for women's rights!

As March unfolds there are some important dates for the world’s women and a special date for Jewish women. ICJW is launching a campaign to raise awareness of these important dates with the slogan #MarchForWomen. If you have a Twitter account, please ‘Follow’ the ICJW account and retweet our messages using the hashtag #MarchForWomen. Let’s raise awareness of all the campaigns that go on year-round to make life better for women.

International Women’s Day falls annually on March 8. This year’s campaign theme is BE BOLD FOR CHANGE – an excellent theme, in my opinion. International Council of Jewish Women has surely enacted this phrase throughout its century- long history. But how unfortunate it is that women still need such a phrase, confirming as it does that women continue to need many improving changes in their lives.

And how about the push to women to be BOLD? Does that suggest that over centuries and through the decades of our own lives, women have been weak? We certainly know that that is not so! Please do celebrate International Women’s Day, attend events in both the general and the Jewish community.  Send us reports on your affiliate’s activities with photos for ICJW publicity.

International Agunah Day , observed on the Fast of Esther, this year falls on Thursday March 9, 2017. In 1990 the Fast of Esther was chosen as the most suitable date by the International Coalition for Agunah Rights.

Agunah Day is observed around the Jewish world by those who consider this an important issue – and that certainly includes ICJW: we have been active for decades in support of women unable to obtain the get. Again, please inform us and send photos of your observance of this date.

The coincidence of adjoining dates for these two most important observances for women gives a push to all of us in International Council of Jewish Women: we need to become more aware of the place of women in today’s world.

ICJW Objectives include “To encourage each Affiliate to work for the improvement of the social, economic and legal status of all women under Jewish and civil law”.                                                                        
March 2017 seems to be the ideal month in which to reassess gender balance and opportunities for women in your own country and your community, and become proactive in upgrading these.

From March 13-26 the Commission on the Status of Women 61 will be held at the UN in New York.   Nine ICJW members will participate in this large event, Madeleine Brecher is particularly busy as Co-Chair of the CSW61 Forum Reception.

ICJW is very pleased to be involved with three Parallel Events during the first week of CSW. Our five capable UN NY NGO Representatives have worked hard to set up these events with other organisations. For your interest, and so you can recommend to women attending CSW61, these events are listed below.



Thursday March 16 : IT STARTS WITH SAFETY: ADDING GIRLS TO THE GLOBAL AGENDA.  Sponsored by ICJW (Representatives Fran Butensky and Madeleine Brecher), UNICEF USA, Together For Girls.

Meantime in Geneva, our ICJW UN NGO representatives, are extremely busy attending sessions of the month- long Human Rights Council . Both Leonie de Picciotto and Mary Liling have been long-term ICJW representatives in Geneva, where three lengthy Human Rights Councils are held annually.

While March is so important for women worldwide we should also recognise that HRC Annual Day on the Rights of the Child is on Monday 6 March.


Human Rights Day was established in 1948 during a period of reflection and rebuilding of global values. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly stated that all people must be treated equally, that each human being must be recognised and valued. The broad range of rights put forward in this declaration serves as a common standard for all peoples and all nations.

For decades International Council of Jewish Women has worked in the international arena as the voice of Jewish women. As a non - government organisation at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Vienna, and at UNESCO in Paris, ICJW has upheld the principles of human rights, particularly the rights of women.

Each year Human Rights Day closes the 16 day period of activism against gender based violence; this begins on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The juxtaposition of these UN dates speaks to the insecurity of many women in our world today.


I was invited to attend the Interim Meeting of the Union of Jewish Women of South Africa in Durban from March 13 -15, midway through the term of their National Board. I spent two days before and after the Durban meeting in Johannesburg, visiting projects and meeting members of UJW and the Jewish community.
A warm thank you to UJW President Lynne Raphaely and to Durban Interim Meeting organiser Linda Nathan for UJW hospitality and also for the opportunity to speak in some detail about the work of ICJW to different audiences, a live broadcast from Chai FM and also a general radio station Radio Today. The Johannesburg Jewish paper Jewish Report interviewed me about ICJW  (SEE BELOW). As always, ICJW's aim is to broaden the community's, as well as the affiliate's, knowledge about ICJW and its influence both nationally and internationally. 
ICJW had a strong presence in both Johannesburg and Durban, I had the pleasure of spending time with all our eight ICJW Executive members from South Africa. Particularly pleasing was the fact that three ICJW Executive members received high honours from their organisation at the Interim Meeting: Mina Sable was awarded Honorary Life President of the Union of Jewish Women, Myra Goldenbaum Honorary Life Vice President and Jenny Kahn, Honorary Life Member. Mazeltov to each of these capable women who work for both UJW and ICJW. Also awarded an Honorary Life Vice President was Linda Nathan who was the organiser of the UJW Interim Meeting.
ICJW's South African affiliate is a strong and dedicated team in all six cities in which it operates. A large and varied program including some outstanding specialist speakers made the Interim a meeting to remember for the dozens of UJW members attending.
The UJW Interim Meeting was held in the Durban Holocaust Centre, which I had the opportunity of touring with the chief guide after the final day of the meeting. The Centre also houses a kosher cafe which is run by longterm UJW member Judy Druck, mother of Linda Nathan, Durban conference organiser. Needless to say,  the kosher catering for the meeting was excellent.
I was most impressed with the projects conducted by the Union of Jewish Women in each of its branches in South Africa. There were full reports on video film from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria, each demonstrating the care and concern for both the African community and those in need in the Jewish community. An amazing array of projects were described, many of them assisted by funding from benefactors, with the work carried out by paid employees and supervised by UJW members. I hope that UJW sections will send photos and information to ICJW e- LINKs committee so we can all read about them.

In Johannesburg I had the opportunity to visit several UJW projects, each of which was impressive and indicative of the tikkun olam ideals of the organisation.  

In the extremely poor township of Alexandra I visited the feeding program in a church hall and met the employed African women who prepare huge saucepans of hot food serving needy people of all ages, spooning meals into plastic containers for them to take home to their families. In the same building, an after-school care classroom is set up to both care for and teach local youngsters who otherwise would wander the streets. UJW employs some dedicated Africans to oversee these projects.

A wonderful program was the Self-Empowerment Sewing School at Beit Emanuel, where I met several Africans enrolled in a free course sponsored by UJW Johannesburg. For a period of three months, Monday to Friday, women and men are trained by a teacher employed by UJW, and can then enter the workforce with a secure skill.

My final appointment was at UJW Johannesburg House where I enjoyed the weekly Friendship Club Luncheon, a happy gathering of fifty or more elderly Jewish women and men served a three course meal in a restaurant- like room. Live music by a singer / saxophonist made this a lively experience.

On my final day I had lunch and a good chat with Ray Wolder who had been unable to attend the Durban meeting. I also met with Rabbi Julia Margolis and spoke about our mutual interest in Jewish women in leadership roles, and about interfaith work.

My thanks go to all UJW members and their Jewish communities for their warm-hearted  welcome and hospitality to me as the representative of ICJW.


On March 8, 2016 there will be worldwide activities marking the most important date in the calendar for women globally. 
Women’s Day was initiated in various countries in the early years of C20. From 1914, International Women’s Day on March 8 has been observed worldwide as a focus for action on women’s rights and gender balance. 
The theme of International Women’s Day 2016 is PLEDGE FOR PARITY. 
Within the Jewish world this theme can be applied to age-old issues for which organisations like ICJW have been advocating through the decades. Ongoing problems of Jewish divorce, the dilemma of agunot and the wish to upgrade the status of Jewish women within our faith have long occupied ICJW.  
On a global stage, Women’s Rights remain a dominant issue in international fora, including the NGO organisations within which our ICJW representatives work. Let’s use our combined power to remind the world and the Jewish world that women can and do achieve great results when they work together. 
Join ICJW women all over the world in observing this UN Day on Tuesday March 8!


I recently returned from visits to ICJW affiliate organisations in Mexico and Cuba. ICJW’s Latin American Regional Conference was held in Mexico City in October. The conference theme " The   Challenge for Jewish Women in C21"   engendered excellent sessions including ‘ Ethnicity , religion, class and gender: the experience of Jewish women in M éxico’,     ‘P ersonality and women's behaviour’ and an inspiring session featuring a panel of Mexican Jewish women entrepreneurs.

ICJW members from twelve countries attended the conference, which was hosted by ICJW’s affiliate organisation Voluntarias Judeo Mexicanas. The dozens of VJMmembers, dressed in their trademark red blazers, provided a warm welcome to all guests, including members of the twenty two Mexican Jewish women’s organisations which sustain the community. Highlights were a guided visit to the remarkable Memory and Tolerance Museum and an opportunity to  enjoy the dancing of Anajnu Veatem, the outstanding young Israeli Mexican dance group. 
Di Hirsh OAM, ICJW Chair of Interfaith, Intercultural travelled with me to visit the Cuban ICJW affiliate Asociacon Femenina de Cuba in Havana. This organisation was founded in 1926 and flourishes in its support work for the Cuban Jewish community.  The small Jewish community maintains three synagogues despite lack of a permanent rabbi. The  community gave a welcoming luncheon at the Beth Shalom Temple and  introduced us to the longterm community president Adela Dworin and visiting Rabbi Samuel Szteinhendler from Costa Rica.

The Cuban Jewish community comprises many converts to Judaism and  proudly conducts a Cheder for eighty children each week. A surprising fact is the large wedding ceremony conducted every few years in which Rabbi  Szteinhendler marries over twenty couples in a single evening, in this way helping to maintain and grow the Jewish community.   
ICJW has affiliate organisations in thirty six countries, comprising about one hundred different  Jewish women’s organisations globally. I will visit two more ICJW Latin American affiliate organisations, Panama and Colombia, in May 2016.