By: Heather Beyer
The anniversary of NA’AMAT, the largest Jewish women’s organization in the world, was celebrated with a brunch Sept. 18th at the Akron Women’s City Club.
The anniversary marked the 85th year of partnership between NA’AMAT USA and NA’AMAT, its sister organization in Israel. NA’AMAT is the largest Jewish women’s organization in the world. Its members are committed to social justice and child welfare and equality, with a primary emphasis on the protection and promotion of women’s rights.
“The longer I have remained with NA’AMAT, the more impressed I have been with the work it does. Golda Meir is a past national president of NA’AMAT USA. She said our organization is the only one she would ever work for,” said Sylvia Lewis, permanent member of the Administrative Committee and the National Board of NA’AMAT.
“In addition to our efforts on behalf of Israel, NA’AMAT USA advocates for women’s rights and child welfare,” said Lewis. “When issues arise that affect women and children, we are there. It has enabled Jewish and non-Jewish women to feel close to and to support Israel and to recognize the importance of Israel in this world. I have written many letters to the editor clarifying misunderstandings about Israel and on other important issues.”
“I have been a Zionist (supporter of a Jewish state) since before Israel was created,” said Lewis. “The Holocaust made it very clear that the Jewish people needed a homeland, a place where they can direct their own lives and eliminate persecution.”
Lewis joined NA’AMAT in 1947, the year she married.
“I became active locally and nationally,” said Lewis. “I was selected to participate in a young leadership seminar in Israel in 1966; I was so overwhelmed by my three weeks in Israel and it confirmed my awareness of the importance of supporting the work of NA’AMAT. In 1993, I was elected national president and am active on the national scene ever since.”
For the last three years, Lewis has served as national vice president of Programs and Education for NA’AMAT. She has made great efforts to get the organization on to the Internet.
Lewis has also been very active throughout the city of Akron throughout her life. She served as President of the regional chapter of Planned Parenthood, which is now called Planned Parenthood of NE Ohio. Then it was Planned Parenthood of Summit, Portage and Medina counties.
“I have always been pro-choice and when I was invited to become a board member, I accepted,” Lewis said.
At the brunch, Lewis spoke of a New York Times Article written by David Brooks.
“To paraphrase David Brooks’ statement that Jews are a famously accomplished group, I think NA’AMAT is also a famously accomplished group,” said Lewis. “Like the Jews, NA’AMAT is not a large percentage compared to the organizations in the world, but it is such a special organization, and what it accomplishes in Israel is astounding.”
“I have spoken before you many times and I know that you are aware NA’AMAT is a world movement with branches in eight countries; that it is Israel’s largest women’s movement; that we operate the largest network of day-care centers in Israel, serving 19,000 children, in addition to 24 multi-purpose centers to provide special services for children who have been traumatized by terrorism or are from dysfunctional families,” said Lewis.
NA’AMAT has also had a local impact.
“It has enabled Jewish and non-Jewish women to feel close to and to support Israel and to recognize the importance of Israel in this world,” Lewis said.