National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh

Our History

As National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section celebrates its 120th year and enters its 13th decade of service to this community, we acknowledge the thousands of women who, since 1893 have, generation to generation, dared to dream big and confront the social, economic, and political issues of their time. Improving the lives of women, families, and children continues to be the polestar by which we hone our projects, commit our energy, and focus our numbers. By providing opportunities to those in need, building collaborations with like-minded organizations to ensure best results, and harnessing the talent and energy of our members, NCJW Pittsburgh Section continues to be a force of change and service.

Our legacy is rich. We celebrate the past and are energized by the strength of the women who have come before us to continue to make a difference in the lives of women, children, and families.


The first Kindergarten in Pittsburgh Public Schools (1894), followed by the introduction of a Penny Lunch in 1911 which became the School District’s Cafeteria Program


The Columbian Council Settlement School, which became the Irene Kaufmann Settlement and later, the Jewish Community Center


League for the Handicapped (1929), which became the Vocational Rehabilitation Center and is today known as Life’sWork


Cerebral Palsy Recreational Work, which became Pioneer School (collaboration with the Pittsburgh School District)


Nursery School for Deaf Children


Council House, later known as Renaissance Center, was the county’s first resocialization program for discharged mental patients


Head Start, one of the first in the United States


Job Corps recruitment and screening in collaboration with National Council of Negro Women, National Council of Christian Women United


Oral History Project – a multidecade effort to record the Jewish immigrant experience in Pittsburgh and the stories of those making contributions to the success of the region


Testing and Remediation Program for Children with Learning Disabilities in the Pittsburgh School District


Russian Resettlement


Friends Indeed – the first of a long-term effort to support and assist female teens leaving incarceration. Program expanded to a supervised Residential Apartment setting in 1979, a Volunteer Probation Project which added boys to the program, a Service Project for delinquent youth to fulfill community service in 1987 and a Volunteer Mentoring Project. Parts of this Project went on to exist at the Boys and Girls Club of Western PA and at Whales Tale


Children’s Playrooms in the Courts are a safe, stress-free environment for children while their parents are involved in court proceedings. The first room opened in Family Court in 1980. Additional Rooms opened in Juvenile Court in 1989, in Criminal Court in 2000, and in Municipal Court in 2002. The Family Court and Juvenile Court Rooms merged into one room in 2000


First Adult Day Care in Allegheny County; now a part of the Jewish Association on Aging

HIPPY – Home Instruction for PreSchool Youngsters. Spun off to the Pittsburgh School District


Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure – NCJW was the local founder and local organizing sponsor for 13 years before the Race became a Komen affiliate


Silent Witness Initiative (domestic violence awareness and outreach) expanded to include the Poster Project and Sheila’s Shawls in 2003


Suit Yourself provides clothing vouchers to women in programs of self-improvement and job readiness


Pic A Bag provides duffle bags filled with necessities for children removed abruptly from their homes to enter temporary shelter or foster care. Project expanded to include homeless children and children in domestic violence shelters


Children’s Literacy Project – tutoring for elementary students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools


BatchPacks – a backpack project in collaboration with the Best of the Batch Foundation (Pittsburgh Steeler Charlie Batch) in which Section provided backpacks and school supplies for students at Barrett Elementary School in Homestead, PA


Jane B. Lobl Family/Juvenile Court Playroom opens to children of prospective and sitting jurors, enabling Allegheny County to increase the diversity of the jurors’ pool


NCJW’s Social Enterprise retail store begins its training program for children with disabilities and their mentors from local schools, providing work skill development and continuing education within real-world work environments


Advocacy efforts, directed to the nomination of Supreme Court Justice, expanding on the Pennsylvania Coalition on Constitutional Values


Gwen’s Girls Partnership – working with girls who are aging out of Pennsylvania’s foster care system by providing summer art classes, tutoring, and holiday/back-to-school  programs


Summer internships to Gwen’s Girls recipients for experience with work in the Children’s Playrooms in the Courts and at retail locations

The Personal Care Closet provides supplies and emergency items for women and children in immediate need. NCJW distributes women’s and children’s bags of essential personal care products through a vouchers program with partner organizations such as POWER and the Women’s Center & Shelter


NCJW launches the Center for Women in partnership with the Jewish Women’s Foundation. The Center for Women exists to help women of all ages throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area, including women in transition, female heads of households, and other populations of women with areas related to achieving economic independence. The Center aims to provide women with financial skills, education related to workforce entry/re-entry, mentorship and internship opportunities, and referrals to additional support services


Standing Firm, The Business Case to End Domestic Violence affiliates with NCJW.


Back 2 School Store project launched to provide a school shopping experience for underprivileged students. Over 200 children received head to toe outfit, new shoes, and fully stocked backpacks to start school on a level playing field with their peers.


Thriftique opens in Lawrenceville.


Publish HER DEEDS, an oral history anthology of 21 Pittsburgh Jewish women who significantly contributed to the community.

Why Courts Matter: Reproductive Justice, the Courts, and You, benchmark program in collaboration with Women’s Law Project and others to discuss role of courts and women’s health care issues with goal to move to full access for medical and reproductive health care for all women.

Project Prom, in collaboration with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, provided 200 at risk teenage girls and special needs teens with prom gowns and accessories.

The Center for Women serves its 1300th woman and launches a Camp NCJW to raise awareness and funds for the project.

JEWISH ORGANIZING INSTITUTE AND NETWORK (JOIN) selects section for hands on training in areas of community organizing and grassroots social action.

Become Part of NCJW's History

As we continue to work toward a better future, NCJW needs you - your time, talents, and financial support - more than ever. We hope you'll take advantage of the many opportunities membership in NCJW affords.