The Ms. Foundation for Women is pleased to announce the launch of their first Advocacy and Policy department and, after a lengthy search, have selected renowned civil rights advocate and champion Deborah Jacobs to lead the new department as the Vice President, Advocacy and Policy. Jacobs will develop a national advocacy and policy strategy in alignment with the Ms. Foundation’s strategic plan to advance gender equality. Her position will start on July 16th.
"Deborah is recognized nationally as a powerful voice for reproductive freedom, racial justice, student rights, gay and lesbian rights and other fights against discrimination," said Anika Rahman, President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation. "I am certain that Deborah’s leadership will enable the Ms. Foundation to amplify the voices of our grassroots supporters and address the structural barriers that impede equality."
Jacobs comes to the Ms. Foundation for Women after 13 years as the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ), where she spearheaded legislative, grassroots and legal advocacy to promote civil liberties in the state.
Jacobs started her ACLU career in 1992 at the ACLU of Washington, where she directed legal intake and managed volunteers. Moving gradually west before landing in Newark, Jacobs became one of the youngest-ever executive directors of a state ACLU affiliate as head of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri in St. Louis. She took the helm of the ACLU-NJ in 1999.
Under Jacobs' leadership, the ACLU-NJ became one of the largest ACLU affiliates in the country, with nearly 15,000 card-carrying ACLU members in the Garden State. The organization quadrupled its membership, budget and staff size on Jacobs' watch. In this role, Jacobs was recognized as a powerful voice for First Amendment rights, privacy, reproductive freedom, student rights, gay and lesbian rights, non-discrimination, drug policy reform and other fights against injustice.
"She's a force to be reckoned with, a talented leader and a visionary who gives energy to any movement she's a part of," said ACLU National Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.
During her time at the ACLU-NJ, Jacobs testified regularly before the state legislature, appealing to officials in the past on topics including marriage equality, unjust sentencing laws, sensible drug law reforms, racial profiling, police accountability, barriers to open government, free speech, election laws and voting rights, and other issues affecting the rights of people in the state.
A talented and prolific writer, Jacobs has seen her opinion pieces printed in most if not all of New Jersey's major newspapers, including The Star-Ledger, The Bergen Record, The Trenton Times, and The Press of Atlantic City, as well as The Philadelphia Inquirer. Newspapers, radio and television reporters—including The New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio, and USA Today—regularly ask Jacobs for her take on the major civil liberties matters of the day.
Jacobs holds a B.A. in English Literature and an M.A. in Liberal Studies from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. In 1990, she was awarded a Fulbright grant to study in Helsinki, Finland.