Our History

As NCJW Pittsburgh celebrates its 125th year, we acknowledge the thousands of women who, since 1893, have 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 mission by which we hone our projects, commit our energy, and focus our numbers. By providing opportunities to those in need, building collaborations with complementary organizations to ensure best results, and harnessing the talents and energy of our members, NCJW Pittsburgh Section continues to be a force of change and service today.

Our legacy is rich. We celebrate the past and are energized by the strength of the women who have come before us. See what we’ve been working on for over 125 years.

The first Kindergarten in Pittsburgh Public Schools (1894)

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

Penny Lunch, which became the Pittsburgh Public School District’s Cafeteria Program

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, is the county’s first re-socialization 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 multi-decade 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 Whale’s Tale

Children’s Rooms 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) expands 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 duffel 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 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

The Center for Women launches in partnership with the Jewish Women’s Foundation. The Center for Women was founded 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’s original mission was 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 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 a new space in Lawrenceville

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, provides 200 teens with prom gowns and accessories.

The Center for Women serves its 1300th woman and launches 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.