kveller q&a

This Rabbi Is Fighting for Your Right to Have Safe & Affordable Abortions

abortion access

Rabbi Lori Koffman is kind of a big deal. She’s doing incredibly important work–as Chair of NCJW‘s Reproductive Initiative, Koffman has been fighting for a woman’s right to safe and affordable abortion care. Recently, she participated at All Access 2016, which was an event that featured Sia, Jessica Williams, Leslie Jones, among others. In the past, she’s even spoken at the Rally to Protect Abortion Access at the Supreme Court.

Besides all of this, she’s a mom to two daughters–which means she’s also trying to change the world we live in for the better so her daughters can live in a place where their bodies are their own.

I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Lori about her favorite Jewish holiday, how she’s parenting her daughters with feminist ideals, and what her favorite TV show is:

Was there a defining moment that led you to become an activist for safe and affordable abortion care, either personal or professional?

I am reminded of Shonda Rhimes’ book “Year of Yes.” While I have always been a supporter of safe and affordable abortion care, what got me to be a much more visible and vocal advocate was when a few years ago Linda Slucker, the former President of NCJW (a progressive Jewish women’s organization on whose Board of Directors I serve) asked me to be the Chair of NCJW’s reproductive justice effort.

At first, feeling overcommitted (which I tend to be all the time) I tried to say no, but thanks to Linda who gently persisted until I said “yes,” I have had the great privilege of being a spokesperson for an issue that desperately needs more voices–especially religious voices advocating for safe and affordable abortion care when there are such loud religious voices on the other side trying to shut down abortion access.

How do you try to instill a Jewish and feminist identity for your own daughters?

I am incredibly lucky that I have two fabulous daughters, each very different than me and each very different than the other. I try very hard to respect and support who they are and the choices they make and not impose my values or expectations on them.

Having said that, I guess perhaps they way I live my life and the passions they see and hear about from me might have had some impact on them–each one of my daughters seems to have imbibed Jewish and feminist values albeit in differing degrees and in different ways. We frequently have discussions around these issues and they probably see the ways in which my Jewish and feminist identities have enriched and expanded my life.

What was your favorite children’s book or young adult novel growing up?

I loved to read growing up (still do) so there are so very many to choose from it’s hard to narrow it down. “A Wrinkle in Time” was definitely a favorite and I loved the “Nancy Drew” series as well—I guess I liked strong women from the beginning.

What TV show have you binge watched?

So much TV, so little time: “Call the Midwife” and “Rectify.”

Biggest pet peeve:

Noisy cracking gum chewers.

If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?

Sukkot—it’s about joy (‘zman simchatenu’)! It’s all about thanksgiving, nature, and hospitality–all values and experiences I would want to invite others to share.

Childhood goal:

My dad was my hero—he was really a very special man and when he died last year dozens and dozens and dozens of people shared stories of what he did for them and how he helped him.

He was a lawyer, and he loved his work, so I always thought I would be a lawyer because he made it look like the best job in the world. And it was the best job in the world—for him. As it turns out, being a rabbi is actually the best job in the world for me.

What’s your weirdest family tradition?

I asked my husband, daughters, mother, and brothers to help me with this question and the answer is: We are hopelessly conventional—nothing very weird came up from anyone.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Say the “Modah Ani” prayer thanking God for another day. Starting the day with gratitude is incredibly important. Followed IMMEDIATELY by my cup of coffee—also incredibly important.

Watch at the All Access concert below:

Read More:

Why I’m Actually Sad That School’s Starting

Why I Don’t Want My Children to Grow Up in a Safe Space

Orthodox Women Take On ‘Vagina Monologues’ & Make it Their Own

Joanna Valente

Joanna Valente is the Editorial Assistant at Kveller. She is the author of Sirs & Madams The Gods Are Dead, and Marys of the Sea (forthcoming), and received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. You can follow her @joannasaid on Twitter, @joannacvalente on Instagram, or email her at joanna@kveller.com.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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