National Council of Jewish Women strives for social justice, turns progressive ideals into action


Karie Luc is in Northbrook with Julie Newman of the National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore Section.

As membership and programming director for the National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore Section in Wilmette, Julie Newman is used to putting others first.

This includes her dog, Gizmo, a plush pup of a cockapoo who accompanied Newman to the interview on a crisp, fresh air day at Northbrook Village Green Park. There, Newman spoke of family, fellowship and the NCJW, a national organization.

“It’s a progressive advocacy group,” said Newman, as Gizmo seemed content resting on the grass. “Our mission is to improve the lives of children, women and families by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.”

The NCJW offers many programs with an advocacy goal. The three priorities this year are immigration reform, gun violence prevention/legislation and reproductive justice.

“We are involved in trying to end human trafficking, a big national initiative this year as well,” Newman said. “It is a horrendous, worldwide issue.”

Affordable, accessible health care is another priority, including independent and fair judiciary practices.

“It’s a phenomenal group of people, and we’re all just working toward the same causes and issues that we feel are important,” Newman said.

Volunteerism is a big piece. All ages are encouraged to participate where appropriate. Children entering the bar/bat mitzvah age are welcome to volunteer their time and/or select NCJW missives as mitzvah projects.

“They’re really just at the beginning of their journey,” said Newman, of the coming of age years. “It’s really the idea of helping others.”

“A big message in Judaism is ‘Tukkum Olan,’ which is repairing the world, and it’s just about performing mitzvah and helping others,” Newman said.

Newman and her husband, Brent, have one son, Daniel.

Teens are encouraged to volunteer at the organization’s Encore & More thrift shop at 1107 Central Ave. in Wilmette.

“Teens could absolutely help merchandise in the shop,” Newman said. “We always need help so that would be a great project.”

A Highland Park childcare facility might appeal to teens that enjoy working with children.

In October, the organization holds an annual project, which literally touches the hands of parents and children in crisis, called Luggage for Freedom Pack and Delivery Day.

“We pack and deliver backpacks and luggage to mothers and children filled with necessities to start out their new lives upon leaving domestic violence shelters,” Newman said.

As a mitzvah project, this domestic shelter initiative has year-round need. Suitcases and backpacks always need new linens, toiletries, school supplies and other preferred items appealing to children and parents.

Placing an empty backpack or small suitcase in the center of a table at a bar or bat mitzvah celebration would be a stunning centerpiece, said Newman.

“People who are leaving these shelters really have just gone through unbelievable trauma,” said Newman. “We hope that having them leave with a suitcase, in lieu of a plastic bag, with their belongings gives them a sense of dignity.”

“So that would be a great project for a bar or bat mitzvah child and their family to participate in or to donate,” she continued. “It’s the idea that you could transform people’s lives.”

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