Fortunate to have found safety and opportunity in Pittsburgh, our foremothers at NCJW reached out to newcomers with support and programming designed to ease the immigrants’ way.
In 1894 NCJW founded the Columbian Council Settlement School, which taught religion and English to immigrant children in Pittsburgh. This program became the Irene Kaufman Settlement, which in turn became the Jewish Community Center that still exists today.
In 1904 the Services to Foreign Born committee was founded to provide settlement and educational services to immigrants. Since then, many programs have been developed to meet the specific challenges of new waves of immigrants, including: Israeli Friendship in 1970 for Israelis residing in the city; the Russian Resettlement program, which provided services for newly arrived immigrants in 1974 and then again to Soviet Jews in 1989; a community-wide Mentor Family Program pairing those newly arrived with volunteers to aide in transition.
The Services to Foreign Born merged with other immigrant aid societies in the region to form one organization that is known today as Jewish Family & Children’s Service.
NCJW continues to serve our community’s immigrants. Refugees receive shopping vouchers that can be used to purchase clothing and furniture at Thriftique. Our Back 2 School Store partners with diverse immigrant communities across the city to provide children with a new school outfit, winter outerwear, and a fully stocked backpack. The Center for Women provides services to women of all nationalities who are seeking economic independence and back-to-work opportunities.
It is critical to remember that when NCJW began its work on behalf of immigrants in 1894, we were one of only a very few organizations addressing the needs of these communities! Pittsburgh is now home to many organizations that offer services for immigrants, but NCJW Pittsburgh can be proud of our groundbreaking work.
Special thanks to board member and past president Hilary Spatz for preparing these articles on NCJW Pittsburgh’s history as part of our ongoing celebration of our 125th anniversary.