National Council of Jewish Women

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The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.[1] Founded in 1893, NCJW is self-described as the oldest Jewish women's grassroots organization in the United States, currently comprising over 180,000 members.[2] As of 2021, there are 60 sections in 30 states.[2] Specifically, NCJW's policies address expanding abortion access, securing federal judicial appointments, promoting voting integrity, and mobilizing Israeli feminist movements.[3] These objectives are achieved through lobbying, research, education, and community engagement. NCJW's headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., and the organization maintains offices in numerous other cities in the U.S. as well as in Israel.[4][5]

Mission statement[edit]

"The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms."[6]


In 1893, Hannah G. Solomon of Chicago was asked to organize the participation of Jewish women in the Chicago World's Fair. When Solomon and her recruits discovered that their participation was not solicited for the women to contribute to the proceedings, but would consist of pouring coffee and other hostess duties, they walked out. Rebuffed by the Jewish men at the parliament from playing a substantive role, the assembled women sought to form an organization that would strengthen women's connection to Judaism and build on that identity to pursue a wide-ranging social justice agenda. That agenda included advocating women's and children's rights, assisting Jewish immigrants, and advancing social welfare, as well as defending Jews and Judaism, advancing Jewish identity, and incorporating Jewish values into its work. According to Faith Rogow, author of Gone to Another Meeting: The National Council of Jewish Women (1893–1993), the "NCJW was the offspring of the economic and social success achieved by German Jewish immigrants in the United States. As this community of German Jews matured and stabilized, it faced the same challenge to gender role definitions that had accompanied the Jacksonian Democracy a half-century earlier." (Rogow 1995:2)

At its beginning, NCJW focused on educating Jewish women who had lost a sense of identity with Judaism and on helping Jewish immigrants become self-sustaining in their new land. Activities included promoting education and employment for women through adult study circles, vocational training, school health programs, and free community health dispensaries. NCJW was part of the broader effort of middle-class and upper-class women to assist those less well off, working closely with the settlement movement epitomized by Jane Addams' Hull House in Chicago. Their work helped create the modern profession of social work. NCJW also began a campaign for social legislation to address low-income housing, child labor, public health, food and drug regulations, and civil rights. In 1908 NCJW argued for a federal anti-lynching law. NCJW also became involved in efforts to promote world peace.[7]

During World War I, NCJW raised funds for war relief in Europe and Russia and helped achieve passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Since its founding, the NCJW had fought for abortion access for everyone, and in the 1920s helped found the first ten birth control clinics in the U.S. that later became Planned Parenthood health centers.[8]

As the Depression began, NCJW became involved in government programs to provide relief and help the unemployed find jobs, while continuing its legislative efforts for social legislation. During the 1940s, NCJW called for an end to segregation and racial discrimination. World War II found NCJW engaged in rescuing Jewish children from Germany and working to reunite thousands of displaced persons with family members, as well as a broad range of other relief efforts.

After the war, NCJW fought to preserve civil liberties during the McCarthy era and helped develop the innovative Meals on Wheels program for the elderly and pioneered the Senior Service Corps to help seniors lead productive lives as volunteers.[9] The organization joined the emerging civil rights movement and participated fully in the drive to enact and promote the 1960s' anti-poverty and civil rights programs. NCJW renewed its commitment to women's rights as the revitalized women's movement took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. Focusing its energies on the fate of women and children, NCJW sought childcare programs and family-friendly policies that would benefit children and working mothers and championed reproductive rights. In the 1970s, NCJW officially published a series of documents: Windows on Day Care, the first nationwide survey of day care facilities and services; Children Without Justice, a study of the US Justice Department's work with foster children; and Innocent Victims, a comprehensive manual on child abuse detection and prevention.[10]

The NCJW state, in their principles, that they support the separation of church and state, yet they continue in their support of the present configuration of the State of Israel.[citation needed]

In 2021, the DC chapter of the Sunrise Movement called for the removal of the NCJW, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs from a voting rights coalition due to their Israeli ties and support for Zionism. Sunrise DC apologized after Jewish organizations condemned the chapter for antisemitism.[11]

Audio interviews[edit]

The University of Pittsburgh houses and has made available a collection of audio interviews produced by the NCJW. Over one hundred audio interviews produced by the Pittsburgh Chapter of NCJW are available online. Those interviewed describe their interactions and affiliations with historical events such as emigration, synagogue events, professional activities, and other topics. These interviews also include information about personal life events, episodes of discrimination against Jews, moving from Europe to America, and meeting Enrico Caruso, Robert Oppenheimer, Jonas Salk and other historical figures. Others who were interviewed came to America but were born elsewhere. Jews from Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Hungary, India, Israel, Korea, Poland, and other countries describe their experiences.[12]

NCJW and Israel[edit]

NCJW has had a long involvement in promoting the welfare of Israel. Beginning with its Ship-a-Box program to send toys, books, and educational materials to young Holocaust survivors and generations of Israeli children, NCJW began a long collaboration designed to improve the lives of women and children in Israel. NCJW funded the department of education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for the training of teachers, and eventually established the Research Institute for Innovation in Education (RIFIE) at Hebrew University. The institute assists at-risk children from all segments of Israeli society, including as many as 40 ongoing projects each year in early childhood education, school integration, vocational education, immigrant absorption, and cross-cultural education. Major programs include HIPPY/Haetgar (Home Instruction for Pre-School Youngsters), Manof, and YACHAD. NCJW built Hebrew University High School in Jerusalem. NCJW later launched an Israel Granting Program called Yad B' Yad: NCJW's Initiative to Nurture Knowledge, to support grassroots organizations serving at-risk children and their families in Israel.

NCJW helped launch the NCJW Women Studies Forum at Tel Aviv University, which advances research and analysis in feminist studies while reaching out to the public through empowerment seminars and community services. The NCJW Women and Gender Studies Program at Tel Aviv University is the first bachelor's degree-granting program of its kind in the Middle East, providing an interdisciplinary analysis of issues impacting women and other minorities. NCJW has expanded its Israel Granting Program to include Women to Women: NCJW's Empowerment Initiative. This new funding stream complements the work of Yad B' Yad by supporting women's empowerment projects that address women's rights and well-being in areas like economics, politics, education, domestic violence, and social justice.

Recent and current campaigns[edit]

NCJW's major initiatives include:

Higher Ground: NCJW's Domestic Violence Campaign
A national effort to end domestic violence by improving the economic status of women. Grounded in the understanding that economic security is critical to women's safety, Higher Ground educates and mobilizes advocates, community-members, and decision-makers to promote progressive policy solutions that champion women's economic autonomy.
BenchMark: NCJW's Judicial Nominations Campaign
Educates and mobilizes NCJW members, the Jewish community, and friends and allies everywhere to promote a federal bench with judges who support fundamental freedoms, including a woman's right to reproductive choice.
Plan A: NCJW's Campaign for Contraceptive Access
Educates and empowers individuals to advocate for women's universal access to contraceptive information and health services. Through a combination of education and advocacy initiatives at the community, state, and national levels, Plan A aims to secure and protect access to contraceptive information and health services for all, putting individuals back in control of their personal health decisions.
NCJW's Promote the Vote, Protect the Vote Initiative
is designed to secure and safeguard voting rights for all, and encourage participation in the democratic process at the community, state, and federal levels with the aim to ensure that every eligible voter is able to vote and to ensure that every vote cast is counted. NCJW also works with the non-partisan VoteRiders.[13]
Bowdlerizing Scrabble
While reading the Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary, Judith Grad found several words she considered to be offensive, including "jew", listed as a verb with the definition "To bargain with - an offensive term".[14] Her initial letters to Merriam-Webster and Milton Bradley requesting removal of the words resulted in politely negative responses. Grad wrote to the National Council of Jewish Women, who began a letter-writing campaign in support of her cause. Publicity in Jewish media led to the Anti-Defamation League writing to Hasbro chairman Alan Hassenfeld, who announced that a third edition would be published with the "offensive" words removed. The news was generally not well received by members of the National Scrabble Association, which was not consulted in the decision. After receiving mostly negative feedback from players, including threats to boycott events, NSA president John D. Williams announced a compromise, the result of which was the publication of the unexpurgated Official Tournament and Club Word List.[15]


NCJW is governed by a board of directors, president, and an executive committee. Headquartered in New York City, NCJW maintains offices in Washington, D.C., and Israel. Members vote on organizational policies and resolutions at national conventions, which have been held every two years before 1953 and every three years since then.

Council presidents[edit]

Council presidents at the national level:[16]

  • 1893–1905 Hannah G. Solomon
  • 1905–1908 Pauline Hanauer Rosenberg
  • 1908–1913 Marion Simon Misch
  • 1913–1920 Janet Simons Harris
  • 1920–1926 Rose Brenner
  • 1926 Constance Sporborg
  • 1926–1932 Ida W. Friend
  • 1932–1938 Fanny Brin
  • 1938–1943 Blanche Goldman
  • 1943–1949 Mildred G. Welt
  • 1949–1955 Katharine Engel
  • 1955–1959 Gladys F. Cahn
  • 1959–1963 Viola Hymes
  • 1963–1967 Pearl Willen
  • 1967–1971 Josephine Weiner
  • 1971–1975 Eleanor Marvin
  • 1875–1979 Esther R. Landa
  • 1979–1983 Shirley I. Leviton
  • 1983–1987 Barbara A. Mandel
  • 1987–1990 Lenore Feldman
  • 1990–1993 Joan Bronk
  • 1993–1996 Susan Katz
  • 1996–1999 Nan Rich
  • 1999–2002 Jan Schneiderman
  • 2002–2005 Marsha Atkind
  • 2005–2008 Phyllis Snyder
  • 2008–2011 Nancy Ratzan
  • 2011–2014 Linda Slucker
  • 2014–2017 Debbie Hoffmann
  • 2017–2020 Beatrice Kahn
  • 2020- Dana Gershon

Notable people[edit]

Other notable people:[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roberts, Ken Schwencke, Mike Tigas, Sisi Wei, Alec Glassford, Andrea Suozzo, Brandon (2013-05-09). "National Council Of Jewish Women Incorporated, Full Filing - Nonprofit Explorer". ProPublica. Retrieved 2021-12-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b "About Us - The National Council of Jewish Women". National Council of Jewish Women. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  3. ^ "Our Work". National Council of Jewish Women. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  4. ^ "Contact". National Council of Jewish Women. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  5. ^ "NCJW Near You". National Council of Jewish Women. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  6. ^ "National Council of Jewish Women". Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  7. ^ [1] Archived 2011-01-05 at the Wayback Machine More information about NCJW's work in 1900.
  8. ^[bare URL PDF]
  9. ^ [2] Archived 2011-01-05 at the Wayback Machine Information about NCJW's programs in the 1960s.
  10. ^ [3] Archived 2011-01-05 at the Wayback Machine More information about NCJW's work in the 1970s.
  11. ^ "Sunrise movement: DC chapter's singling out of Jewish groups is 'antisemitic and unacceptable'". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 22 October 2021. Retrieved 2023-04-04.
  12. ^ "Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community (National Council of Jewish Women Oral History Collection at the University of Pittsburgh)". 2008. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  13. ^ "Partner Organizations". VoteRiders. October 21, 2022. Retrieved October 23, 2022.
  14. ^ The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary Second Edition, Merriam-Webster, Inc. 1990. ISBN 0-87779-120-1
  15. ^ Fatsis, Stefan. (2001). Word Freak Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
  16. ^ a b Rogow, Faith (1993). Gone to Another Meeting: The National Council of Jewish Women, 1893-1993. University of Alabama Press. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-8173-0671-7.
  17. ^ Moreno, Barry (2003). Ellis Island. Arcadia Publisshing. p. 76. ISBN 978-0738513041.


  • Cooper, Victoria. (2015) The Story of NCJW San Francisco Section: 115 Years of Courage, Compassion and Community Service
  • Mayer, T. (1994) Women and the Israeli Occupation: The Politics of Change ISBN 0-415-09546-8
  • Misra, K., Rich, M. (2003) Jewish Feminism in Israel: Some Contemporary Perspectives ISBN 1-58465-325-6
  • Nadell, P. (2003) American Jewish Women's History ISBN 0-8147-5808-8
  • Rogow, F. (2005) Gone to Another Meeting: The National Council of Jewish Women (1893-1993) ISBN 0-8173-0671-4
  • De Lange, N., Freud-Kandel, M. (2005) Modern Judaism: An Oxford Guide ISBN 0-19-926287-X

Archives and collections[edit]

External links[edit]