by Erica Brody
Meet Marlene Hammerman, NCJW advocate extraordinaire whose easy laugh and petite stature belie the powerful punch she packs when speaking out on key NCJW issues. That’s why, this March, she was tapped to head up NCJW’s State Public Affairs (SPA) network as a volunteer national coordinator, Marlene Hammerman along with Judy Rosenberg.
It’s been three decades since the St. Louis, Missouri, native attended her first NCJW meeting, and today she describes NCJW as the “home base” of her adult life. “I was drawn to NCJW because its mission lined up with everything I believed in. NCJW is a vehicle for me to carry out my core beliefs in a way that makes my one voice join with so many others so that together we can really make a difference,” says Marlene.
One way to do this is through NCJW’s SPA network, which “takes our mission, our principles, and our on-the-ground experiences home to change public policy for a better world,” says Marlene, who just finished her second stint as Missouri SPA chair, a post now filled by her daughter-in-law, Amy Hammerman.
There are myriad paths to advocacy, and Marlene found hers after 22 years as a counselor at a local abortion clinic. “I got into advocacy because I kept seeing the same thing again and again. It isn’t abstract: I remember these women’s stories, their families…. I’m not just citing statistics. I’ve seen these things, heard these things. They’re real.”
Volunteering, philanthropy, and advocacy have a “symbiotic relationship,” according to Marlene, who says this three-pronged approach contributes to NCJW’s ability to be effective. The “in-the-trenches knowledge” gained from community work allows NCJW advocates to give powerful congressional testimony and to “passionately write letters” to decision-makers. Financial support, she adds, “is extremely important to being able to forward the NCJW mission.”
In March, Marlene was elected to NCJW’s national board — also becoming a Woman Who Dared, an NCJW giving circle created for action-oriented women. “I am deeply honored,” she said. “Indeed, I have always looked up to the national leaders of NCJW and aspired to be one of those women.”
She’s not alone. As a Missouri state senator recently told an NCJW delegation: “NCJW is a savvy organization that understands the nuances of advocacy.”
For Marlene Hammerman, being engaged brings its own rewards: “If you want to get the most from NCJW, get active, since you will meet the best women, be challenged to grow and learn, and gain the sense that you really are making a difference in the world.”