The National IWY (International Women’s Year) Conference, held November 19-21 in Houston, produced a strong affirmative vote for what has been called “the Women’s Agenda,” incorporating three major goals of feminists: support for the ERA, right to abortion, and civil rights for homosexuals.
Among the many meetings that preceded the Houston Conference were several which focused on the prospective role of Jewish women there. Initially, the meetings were convened by the Leadership Conference of National Jewish Women’s Organizations— an umbrella group—to discuss how Jewish delegates could prevent any anti-Israel resolution from reaching the floor.
The Jewish women’s organization leaders (both volunteer and professional) went on from a consideration of this problem to a discussion of what the IWY conference’s real purpose was. One of the participants expressed privately what a few women had tentatively suggested:
“If we were to follow the path laid out for us by the male Jewish leaders, we’d remain silent on women’s issues altogether. Many Jewish men want us in Houston only to defend Jewish interests. We must also identify as women and not let our role at the IWY Conference be determined by the men.”
A statement signed by the organizations and some individual Jewish feminists stressed a commitment to “moving American society toward an acceptance of women in full equality and in full participation in all aspects of our society.” This is the first time that Jewish women’s organizations joined together to put themselves on record in tavor of the Women’s Agenda.