People A-Z / Shirley Troyan Joseph
International Jewish, and women’s rights advocate.
Shirley Troyan Joseph was a feminist Jewish activist and a Jewish women’s rights leader who worked in community organizations and advocacy groups at local, national and international levels.
Born in Buffalo in 1925 as Shirley Mildred Troyan to Louis and Betty Troyan, both emigres from Eastern Europe, she studied Political Science at the University of Michigan and was awarded a BA in 1947.
She was a charter member of the 1950s rebirth of the Buffalo Section of National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and worked in an NCJW project that established libraries on inner city public schools. This led to further leadership roles within National Council of Jewish Women at regional levels. She served as president of the Northeastern District from 1968 to 1970 and as national vice president from 1975 to 1983.
Moving across Jewish organizations and national organizations some of which held a global focus, Shirley Joseph went on to serve as vice chair of the United States National Commission for UNESCO from 1975 to 1977. She was a delegate to the National Women’s Conference in Houston in 1977 and became a board member of the National Women’s Conference Committee in 1979.
From the 1980s to the 1990s, Shirley Joseph participated in three United Nations’ World Conferences on Women. In 1980 she was a journalist for the NCJW Journal covering the UN World Conference on Women in Copenhagen, Denmark. She went to the UN World Conference on Women in 1985 in Nairobi, Kenya for Moment magazine as a correspondent. In 1995 she attended the World Conference on Women in Beijing, China as Chair of the Jewish Women’s Caucus, and as a member of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Beijing Conference Circle. Interwoven with these activities were leadership roles on the Status of Women Committee of the International Council of Jewish Women from 1984 to 1990 and from 1999 to 2002.
In 1985, Shirley Joseph joined the Erie County Status of Women Task Force and became the executive director of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women in 1988 for nearly five years. This position was followed by the presidency of the non-partisan Women’s TAP (Taking Action in Politics) Fund from 1992 to 1996, that helps elect women to local office.
In addition to her advocacy roles, Shirley Joseph served as president of Jewish Federation Housing, and chaired the Commission on Aging under the Buffalo Jewish Federation. From 1989 to 1993, she served as vice chair of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (later renamed JCPA) and also served as a chair of the Women’s Division of the United Jewish Fund campaign among other local leadership positions.
Deeply invested in women’s rights, and efforts to both include and support poor and marginalized women, she worked on policy and programs to provide work opportunities and early childhood education. Outside of these broader aims was a strong bifocal interest in feminist and Jewish identities, and the issues of antisemitism in the women’s movement that she identified and highlighted from the 1970s.
Over her fifty years of service, she was recognized with several awards locally, notably the Hannah G. Solomon award from the Buffalo section of National Council of Jewish Women and the Nathan Benderson Community Service award, given by the Buffalo Jewish Federation.
Our thanks to the Joseph Family, the Buffalo Jewish Federation and the Benjamin and Dr. Edgar R. Cofeld Judaic Museum for permission to reproduce materials, and to the Joseph Family, Ellen Goldstein of the Buffalo Jewish Federation, and Charlotte Gendler for their assistance in the creation of this biographic profile. Our thanks to Bob Kupczyk, Editor, for his permission to use an article published in the Amherst Bee.