The NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN (NCJW), CLEVELAND SECTION was established in Cleveland in Nov. 1894 (1 year after the national organization). The local group did not officially affiliate with the national until Feb. 1896. The Cleveland Section was formed by the merger of 3 organizations, the Ladies Benevolent Society, the Ladies Sewing Society, and the Personal Services Society. Rabbi MOSES J. GRIES, one of the prime movers in the section's creation, served as its first president (1894-96), the only male officer in its history.
A social-welfare and social-action agency, the NCJW, Cleveland Sect. initially aided East European Jewish immigrants who were settling in the Woodland neighborhood. Its early programs included English and citizenship classes and day nurseries, a forerunner of the JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER (JCC). In 1897 the council established a night school which was taken over by the city in 1900, and in 1907 the Martha House, a home for young working WOMEN. Other section projects, once established, have been taken over by appropriate agencies: the Vocational Counseling Bureau (by the Jewish Welfare Federation) and the Golden Age neighborhood clubs (mid-1940s, by the JCC). From 1908-22 the Cleveland Sect. dropped its affiliation with the national organization, in a dispute over membership classifications and dues, and was known as the Cleveland Council of Jewish Women. Funding for the NCJW, Cleveland Sect., always included dues and fundraising. In 1936 the first of the Council Thrift Shops opened, which quickly became the largest source of income, allowing the discontinuation of annual funding from the Federation of Jewish Charities (later the JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION).
In 1959 the Cleveland Sect. endorsed an idea of member RUTH EINSTEIN for a nonsectarian, federally subsidized housing complex for healthy older adults who do not qualify for PUBLIC HOUSING. In Nov. 1963 Council Gardens opened a 130-unit complex on Taylor Rd. near Mayfield Rd. in CLEVELAND HTS. The Cleveland Sect. has assisted such community organizations and services as Bellflower House, Jewish Big Sisters (see BIG BROTHER/BIG SISTER MOVEMENT), the JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE ASSN., and Women in Community Service.
In the 1980s the NCJW sponsored a Holocaust Archives Project which videotaped interviews with 136 Holocaust survivors, liberators, and righteous gentiles; helped in the resettlement of Soviet immigrants; and published the first Access Guide to Cleveland (1980), a project that anticipated the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the 1990s the organization cosponsored a home-based hospice program with the MONTEFIORE HOME. Upon celebrating its centennial in 1994, the NCJW received the Jewish Community Federation's Charles Eisenman Award. Its membership in 1995 was 2,800.
By 2023, NCJW programming focused upon social justice advocacy, community engagement, and education. NCJW/Cleveland continued its legacy of support of progressive social issues such as school literacy programs, senior life enrichment, voter registration, and Women's Reproduction Justice. Fundraising initiatives included Designer Dress Days, an annual sale of new and gently used clothing, handbags, furs, and jewelry, and Thriftique Showroom, an upscale resale shop. Volunteers continued to run most projects and activities of the organization with the support of a small paid staff.
In 2023, NCJW had more than 2,500 members. Laura Kuntz and Dana Trau served as co-presidents of the Board of Directors and Mindi Axner served as executive director. Offices were located at 26055 Emery Road, Suite L, WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS.
Updated by Sylvia Abrams
Last updated: 2/22/2023
Finding aid for the National Council of Jewish Women, Cleveland Section Records, Series I, WRHS.
Finding aid for the National Council of Jewish Women, Cleveland Section Records, Series II, WRHS.
Finding aid for the National Council of Jewish Women, Cleveland Section Photographs, Series I, WRHS.
Finding aid for the National Council of Jewish Women, Cleveland Section Photographs, Series II, WRHS.
See also JEWS & JUDAISM, PHILANTHROPY