National Council of Jewish Women, Buffalo Section
The National Council of Jewish Women was founded in 1893 in Chicago and the Buffalo Section formed just two years later in 1895. The section focused on service and advocacy in several areas including child welfare, health care, women’s rights and individual rights.
The National Council of Jewish Women was created in 1893 and built a network of local sections. Both national and local sections worked in the areas of immigration, child welfare, poverty, health care and work-life balance, women’s rights, as well as environmental and individual rights.
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) was founded by Hannah Greenebaum Solomon in 1893 in Chicago, as part of the World Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World Exposition. It launched as a grassroots organization, inspired by Jewish values, whose volunteers and advocates strove “for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.”
In Buffalo, the first Buffalo section of the NCJW was founded on December 27, 1895. Cecil B. Wiener (later Judge Wiener) was installed as president and within five years the branch had 150 members. Meeting at Temple Beth Zion, the group offered a Women’s Bible class that attracted Jews and non-Jews alike, as well as study groups on European history and culture. This initial group focused more heavily on educational activities rather than social action. The section folded just before WWI.
The Buffalo Section of the NCJW was revived in the 1930s as a “junior” under 30’s grouping, and in the 1940s, a senior section was formed. Both were short-lived and it was not until 1953 that a full section re-launched. The NCJW was active in a host of outreach projects including Buffalo Public School libraries, the Veterans Administration Hospital, Family Courts, and the Rose Coplon Old Folks Home (now Weinberg Campus).
Few NCJW archives for the Buffalo Section exist for the 1890s-1960s except for a handful of scattered items held by former members. Throughout the 1970s to 1990s, for which we do have primary documentation, the NCJW Section maintained a broad and active agenda across Jewish and non-Jewish communities. It participated in the ERA campaign and the White House Conference on Families. The group campaigned for the release of Soviet Jews, supported the distribution of local Kosher meals on wheels, and social work through the Rosa Coplon (Weinberg) home. Members were also active in county-wide initiatives, including the Parent Aide Community Efforts of Erie County (PACE) as well as a range of group social activities.
Buffalo gained national exposure in the organization when Shirley Joseph, was appointed VP of the national NCJW. Due to declining population and changing work patterns of women in the 1990s, the NCJW found it hard to attract members, and closed.
1966 NCJW Greater Society Booklet
Courtesy of Cofeld Judaic Museum
Discover More Collections
Collection at the University Archives, University at Buffalo, NY
- Muriel Markel Goodman Papers, 1941-2006 (MS200.12)
- Elinor Weiss Papers, 1984-2016 (MS200.45)
- Ethel Roblin Melzer Papers, 1932-2012 (MS200.16)
Collection at the Benjamin and Dr. Edgar R. Cofeld Judaic Museum
- Buffalo Jewish Vertical Files, National Council of Jewish Women, Buffalo Section.
Our thanks to Muriel Goodman z”l, Eleanor Weiss and Ethel Melzer for providing their papers to the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project, lodged at the University Archives, University at Buffalo, NY. Our thanks to the Benjamin and Dr. Edgar R. Cofeld Judaic Museum of Temple Beth Zion for permission to reproduce select materials from their Jewish Buffalo Community vertical file collections.