EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW SHALL NOT BE DENIED OR ABRIDGED BY THE UNITED STATES OR BY ANY STATE ON ACCOUNT OF SEX.
The deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment is June 30, 1982. The following states have not yet ratified the Amendment: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. Of these, three must do so before the deadline, or we will have to begin all over again the job of getting each of the fifty states to ratify.
It should be clear to us, as Jews and as women, why an antidiscrimination law such as this one must be written into the Constitution. ERA must pass not only because those who oppose it are evil and often aligned with anti-choice forces (as you will read in “The Jewish Stake in Abortion Rights”). ERA Must pass, and with the support of Jews, because it is right; ERA represents tzedek, justice, for women and for men.
All the arguments in favor of ERA have already been made. The text speaks for itself. Perhaps we should all do what one of our subscribers did to call people’s attention to the simplicity of the Amendment: she made a rubber stamp with the text of the Amendment on it, and she stamps the back of every bill, letter, invitation she mails out. The text, we repeat, speaks for itself.
To help the ERA become part of the United States Constitution, Jewish organizations need to do more than just pass resolutions supporting the Equal Rights Amendment.
First, Jewish organizations must refrain from sabotaging the ERA campaign. The fact that several national Jewish organizations have held conventions in unratified states makes a powerful statement. This year, the Council of Jewish Federations, the umbrella for Jewish fundraising and disbursing organizations across the continent, holds its annual convention, the “General Assembly,” in St. Louis. The presence of thousands of Jewish professional and lay leaders in Missouri says, “We don’t care that this is an unratified state.”
The argument is often made that these conventions are planned as many as six years in advance, and that the trade-off for meeting in an unratified state is that convention-goers have a chance to press for passage of ERA in ways that might have an impact on local politicians. But in states such as Georgia and Arizona, where national Jewish organizations have met and issued statements supporting ERA, their conventions simultaneously supported local business interests. Clearly, none of the pious statements and resolutions made in this context were as effective as a boycott would have been.
It doesn’t do much good now, with only months until the deadline for ratification, to declare that Jewish organizations must stop holding events in unratified states. A more useful approach might be to encourage local Jewish groups to ally themselves with pro-ERA organizations. Jewish women’s organizations should become indispensable participants in the last-minute drive to get the three more states needed for passage.
Two of the unratified states have very large Jewish populations—Illinois and Florida. Florida, with almost half a million Jews (5.1% of the state’s total population), and Illinois, with 266,400 Jews (2.4%), rank third and fifth in Jewish population in the country. If the Jewish communities in Miami and Chicago would make ERA a priority issue, and put time, energy and funds into a major pro-ERA campaign, perhaps they could make the crucial difference in these two states and thereby alter the course of U.S. history.
To all our readers in unratified states, an urgent call to action: contact the National Organization for Women (NOW) in your area to find out what actions they are planning. And press local Jewish groups to use their clout now. By next July it may be too late.
This issue of LILITH marks two new beginnings. As you can see from the table of contents, we are inaugurating the BIMA column, a whole page given over to our subscribers as a platform for their views.
The other beginning is a spin-off from LILITH’s invaluable resource listings. Since no quarterly can hope to report on all the organizations, meetings, books, films, lectures, current articles and interesting individuals that come to the magazine’s attention, we are consolidating these into the new LILITH NETWORKING NEWSLETTER. To find out how to get your copies, turn to the Classified section. The listings in Tsena-Rena and Kol Ishah will continue, of course, but the NETWORKING NEWSLETTER will provide you with up-to-date information bi-monthly, and help to connect you to other Jewish women activists around the country.
MAKING WOMANPOWER COUNT
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