2022 Opening Event

Together Again!
featuring a performance
of Oh God, a Show About Abortion

Wide smiles and feelings of excitement filled the room on October 19 at our first in-person Opening Event in three years. NCJW/Essex members – many of long-standing and some new joiners – gathered at the Park Avenue Club to rekindle friendships, make new connections and be together again!
Always a leader in advocating for abortion rights, events of the past few months, including the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court, served as a fitting backdrop for the night’s program, once again made possible through the generous support of Ellen and Donald Legow. Our fantastic co-chairs, Jaimee Baumgarten and Sheri Trugman, and VP of Programming, Lori Gelman, created a fun, stimulating and meaningful evening. 
Following conversations and catching up over delicious food, delightful drinks – and a donut wall! – more than 200 attendees settled in to watch and listen. Jaimee welcomed everyone and called the meeting to order, sharing her joy in seeing everyone together and the relevance of the evening’s agenda. NCJW/Essex President Jennie Goldsmith Rothman then took the podium to highlight the activities, advocacy and momentum that fuel NCJW/Essex, and how we have a place for everyone. 
“Our ability to do what we do requires each member’s commitment and contribution. So, tonight I ask each of you to commit to being active in the work of NCJW/Essex in a way that works for you.”
Jennie Goldsmith Rothman
NCJW/Essex President
Jennie also set the stage for the main reason we came together: to hear a remarkable story. 
“It’s fitting because storytelling is deeply Jewish,” she added. “For centuries, our history and values have been shared and preserved by transmitting stories from one generation to the next, whether at synagogue or at home around the Seder table. We know this is a moment when abortion access is under siege, and it is more important than ever before to share our abortion stories.”
Special guest Shira Zemel, NCJW’s Abortion Access Campaign Co-Director, echoed Jennie’s remarks. “We need to say the word – abortion – and destigmatize it,” she said. She also thanked our section for our ongoing advocacy and reminded us how valuable it is to make our voices heard.
Then, on to the main event.

Introduced by Deborah Legow Schatz, Alison Leiby took the stage to perform her acclaimed one-woman show, Oh God, a Show About Abortion, which chronicles her own abortion story and so much more. Alison, an accomplished comedian, writer and producer, connected the ideas of bodily autonomy, the fundamental right to make choices about whether to become a mother and the challenges and pressures faced by women in our culture, with insight and humor.

Alison brought the audience with her on her journey from learning about sex and birth control in middle school, to an evolving relationship with her mother, to living a full and independent life in the arts, and ultimately, to navigating the path to her abortion, sharing hilarious and sometimes pointed examples of each step along the way.  
Throughout the show, one thing was clear through the laughter: the choice of what to do about her body and her pregnancy was Alison’s. 

Moments of reflection and recognition emerged during the performance. Our intergenerational audience perhaps remembered their own stories, or recalled abortion stories from friends, colleagues and family. Alison’s message that building and living the life you want is more than enough, even and especially if society tells you otherwise, reverberated in the room.  

As our 2022 Opening Event drew to a close, our thoughts turned to the work we do collectively as NCJW/Essex to raise awareness, support abortion seekers and abortion providers, and advocate for equitable access and the right to choose.

Attendees headed into the crisp fall evening thoughtful about the story they heard, reminded that abortion is healthcare and should be equally available to all who become pregnant, and energized to continue our work and to make a difference.

An evening of laughter and conversation ...

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