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National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)


NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN (ncjw), U.S. national organization, was founded by Hannah Greenebaum *Solomon in 1893, when she and other Jewish women from across the country gathered to participate in the World Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World Exposition. The National Council of Jewish Women undertook a wide range of religious, philanthropic, and educational activities, from organizing vocational training for Jewish women and girls, to managing settlement houses and offering free baths to poor urban dwellers. Starting with the belief that those in need required skills instead of alms, "friendly visitors" acted as pioneer social workers and family aides. Council sections sponsored free libraries, employment bureaus, kindergartens, day nurseries, and projects providing summer outings for children. They also established Sabbath schools in communities without synagogues.

When Jewish immigrants began to arrive in the United States in great numbers at the turn of the century, the council met and cared for incoming women and girls, creating a permanent immigration-aid station at Ellis Island in 1904. Representatives in 250 American cities and in European ports assisted the girls with immigration problems and protected them from white slavery. ncjw also promoted English classes and job-skills training, and guided girls to employment and lodging. The National Council of Jewish Women combined social action with local service, assisting with programs to help poor children with free milk, penny lunches, and health programs in school. In 1909 the council participated in President Taft's White House Conference on Child Welfare, and in 1911 it set forth its first complete program for social legislation, including regulation of child labor, low-income housing, civil rights, public-health programs, and food and drug regulations. After World War i, the council helped thousands of refugees stranded in internment camps as the U.S. tightened its immigration laws. Out of the rescue work came the International Council of Jewish Women, which is today a network of Jewish women in 47 countries. During the 1920s the council sponsored classes for unemployed workers and brought health care to Jewish people in isolated rural communities.

When Nazism brought a new wave of refugees, the council participated in the formation of the National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees and Emigrants Coming from Germany, which became the National Refugee Service. In the post-World War ii period, it established homes for unattached girls in Paris and Athens to help victims of the European Holocaust. To help rebuild Jewish welfare and educational institutions, it brought educators and welfare workers from Israel and Jewish communities abroad to the U.S. for advanced training, with the stipulation that they return home to use their new skills. Toys and educational supplies were sent to children's institutions in Europe, and to Israel, Morocco, and Tunisia. In Israel the council began to assist the Hebrew University's teacher education program, helping to establish its John Dewey School of Education and building a campus for the Hebrew University High School in 1959. In 1968, it established the Research Institute for Innovation in Education, to educate Israeli children who are socially at risk, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In the 1960s the National Council of Jewish Women had more than 100,000 members in communities throughout the U.S. Council women were pioneers of the Head Start pre-school program and the Golden Age Clubs (the first nationwide network providing recreation for seniors). The council has participated in interfaith efforts to assist low-income women, and adopted a major national program to promote day-care facilities in communities across the country.


H.G. Solomon, Fabric of My Life (1946). add. bibliography: F. Rogow, Gone to Another Meeting: The National Council of Jewish Women, 18931993 (1993).

[Hannah Stein]

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