In 1913, a group of 75 women formed the first Jewish women’s organization in Dallas – the National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Dallas Section. Then, as now, NCJW has been at the forefront of social change – championing the needs of women, children, and families – while courageously taking a progressive stance on such issues as child welfare, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom.
Inspired by Jewish values – and our understanding that these values are universal – NCJW is the place where women come together to make the world at large and their communities in particular a better place.
2000-2002 Julie Lowenberg
2002-2004 Kyra Effren
2004-2006 Marlene Cohen
2006-2008 Sue Tilis
2008-2010 Cheryl Pollman
2010-2012 Barbara Lee
2012-2014 Robin Zweig
2014-2016 Caren Edelstein
2016-present Joyce Rosenfield
The year 2002 brought the formation of Hannah’s Group, our advocacy arm, which proudly represented our organization with the largest group in attendance at the 2002 Women’s Equality Day Commemoration at Dallas City Hall. Nomi Eve, author of The Family Orchard, was the featured speaker at the annual joint meeting. And Safeguards for Seniors found a new home at Jewish Family Service. HIPPY held its first inaugural Home Instructor of Year Awards luncheon, and Section, in co-operation with Parkland Hospital, initiated a new community service project, Making the Connection, to promote infant brain development.
Over $1,000,000 has now been raised and distributed to more than forty projects in the Metroplex during the last five years. Once again the Dallas Southwest Osteopathic Physicians generously supported us as our Presenting Sponsors of the annual gala for the 10th year.
In March 2003, a historic 90th birthday luncheon was held with Coretta Scott King as the guest speaker. Section’s many community partners helped celebrate.
Summer 2003, Making the Connection, a program stressing brain development in the 0 – 3 year old child is launched with an outstanding pamphlet and program being used in several of Parkland Hospital’s clinics.
As the 2003-2004 programming year began, Kevin Ann Wiley, Vice President and Editorial Page Editor, The Dallas Morning News, was the featured speaker at the October opening meeting.
National NCJW President Marsha Atkins visited Dallas. Marsha spoke to members at the opening meeting and Evening Branch’s monthly meeting. She got to see several community service projects in action, including the HIPPY program at Dobie Elementary School. To see pictures of Marsha’s visit, click here.
In October 2003, the exciting Nasher Sculpture Center opened, and NCJW members received the first docent tours.
Robert Miller, Dallas Morning News columnist, sang our praises in his column. Click here to read it.
For our annual gala in November, Mandy Patinkin performed at the Charles W. Eisemann Center in Richardson. Mr. Patinkin presented a wonderful evening of song and comedy. Over $130,000 was raised to support our community service projects.
May 2004 brought Sammie Moshenberg, Director of NCJW’s Washington Operations, to speak at Installation and to Hannah’s Group. Ms. Moshenberg talked about BenchMark: NCJW’s Campaign to Save Roe and about the importance of the upcoming elections.
In perhaps our finest hour, in 2013 NCJW Greater Dallas celebrated, along with our entire community, the 100th anniversary of the section’s founding.
1990-1992 Joni Cohan
1992-1994 Phyllis Bernstein
1994-1996 Jody Platt
1996-1998 Maddy Unterberg
1998-2000 Kathy Freeman
In 1990, Mayor Annette Strauss, an NCJW member, welcomed the delegates to the last NCJW Southern District Convention. Evening Branch presented Norma McCorvey in a pro-choice program. Professional Branch had a Sunday brunch program with investigative journalist Laura Miller, who, in 2002, would become the third Jewish woman to be mayor of Dallas. The 1992 New Project Search Committee formed Safeguards for Seniors, a program that educates seniors on the proper use of their medications, and it officially opened its doors in 1993. Also in 1993, Section presented a forum, “Juggling Jobs and Family: Making it Work at Work,” as part of NCJW’s National Day of the Working Parent. The Marriott companies in the Dallas- Ft. Worth area were co-sponsors.
The Parkland Hearing Screening Project to test the hearing of newborns at Parkland Hospital was initiated in 1993. The program is still receiving accolades today. And in 1994, Section pioneered KIDS IN COURT, a program to prepare children who must give testimony in criminal trials. The Kids in Court project was presented an award by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office for exemplary service to children preparing to give testimony in abuse cases. Section received The Dallas Southwest Osteopathic Physicians, Inc. their coveted Humanitarian of the Year Award.
During the years 1995 to 1999, the Rabin Peace Fund sent three Dallas high school students to Israel. A $10,000 grant from Dallas Southwest Osteopathic Physicians enabled this program. (Program is currently on hold due to the violence in the Middle East.)
The Leadership Development Group was initiated in 1997 with fifteen members committing themselves to a year of learning about NCJW and the Dallas community. In each succeeding year, another group has participated in this program. Section and Junior league convened “Literacy: Can Dallas Read the Future?” in 1998. Texas First Lady Laura Bush was the keynote speaker. This conference won the LIFT Key Award for Community Outreach.
1981 saw the formation of Professional Branch as an auxiliary group for both women and men. In 1982, SHARE, a tribute fund for social service and public affairs projects not covered in the budget, was created. Community projects included FOCUS [now CASA], the Docent’s Program at the new Dallas Central Library and the Khmer Community Development Project that included a Cambodian newspaper, the Juvenile Mediation project and the Health Special project. West of Hester Street was our first Gala and fundraiser. What an exciting event, filling the auditorium with 1,000 people to see a film depicting Jewish immigration to the Southwest.
1984-1986 brought Section into the technological age. We bought our first computer and began to train on it. The office moved out of the Harry Hines area to the centrally located offices currently occupied. The still popular program, “Hello Israel,” in which volunteers teach school children about the culture of Israel, was started. In addition, we initiated an important support group called “Incest Recovery.” The Jewish Community together for a conference on substance abuse by Jewish teens, and began a collaboration with the city and the Jewish Community, which eventually became the Jewish Community Coalition for the Homeless’ day care center for children of homeless parents, the Vogel Alcove.
Annette Strauss was elected Mayor of Dallas in 1987, and in an interview she credited NCJW for providing her with leadership training as a young woman. Home Power for Women, a new project, addressed the issue of feminization of poverty.
Section, in cooperation with the Alzheimer’s Care Corps, made a video to help facilitate the training of respite caregivers to people with Alzheimer’s. Two research projects where done in conjunction with the National NCJW – Women in the Workplace followed working women through their pregnancy, delivery, back to the workplace and their childcare needs, and Children as Witnesses dealt with victims of sexual abuse and how they were treated in our court system.
The late 1980s brought the introduction of HIPPY (Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters) to the Dallas area. It is now in the Dallas, Grand Prairie, Irving and Richardson School districts. And in 1989-1990, Section co-founded the Greater Dallas Coalition for Reproductive Freedom to combat threats on Roe vs. Wade.
* of blessed memory
1970 brought a social worker in the Jail with NCJW paying his salary. A first for Dallas! The first NCJW Summit meeting in Israel, which included dinner with Golda Meir at the Knesset, occurred in 1971, and its President represented Section.
During 1972-1973 NCJW sponsored a daylong seminar: “Justice for Children” with Judge Justine Wise Polier, a New York Family Court Judge, as keynote speaker. The co-sponsoring and participating groups read like a who’s who of Dallas community groups – at least thirty organizations. Topics discussed included creative use of volunteers.
1974-1976 found Section involved in an advisory role with the Committee for the Smooth Transition, working with the Dallas Independent School District on the smooth implementation of the desegregation process. The Community Service Department undertook several new initiatives including: The Consumer Alliance project, day care staff training, Elder Artisan Program (Texas Collectable), the Family Outreach Center and Community Board Institute, which continues to this day. A conference titled In Search of Safer Senior Years: A Workshop Against Crime was held and as a follow-up, 150,000 “Yardsticks” with telephone numbers and helpful information for senior safety were published and distributed in the community.
The Working Parents: Concerns and Choices forum celebrated the Bicentennial Year, with co-sponsors Child Care ’76 of Greater Dallas and the Texas State Department of Public Welfare (DPS). The featured speaker was Liz Carpenter, former White House Press Secretary.
In 1976, Section received an award of highest commendation from the Texas Department of Public Welfare because of continued effort on behalf of the recipients of that department, and also received a second award from Eastfield College for our Day Care Staff Training Program. In May 1976, Section gave a $6,000 grant, which was matched by the Law Enforcement Agency, in order to hold a forum on Status Offenders in Washington D.C. Section held a second forum in Dallas in December 1976. As a result, the Texas Coalition for Juvenile Justice was formed.
Section hosted the 33rd NCJW National Biennial Convention in 1979. Over 300 local volunteers participated, receiving accolades from all participants. A resolution on “gun control” was so controversial that doors were locked to prevent delegates from leaving the session. Section helped organize the Women’s Issues Network, and provided the first funding for Family Place, a refuge for victims of domestic violence.
In 1979, Section launched Foster Child Advocate Services to provide intensive training for volunteers. FOCAS is now an independent agency, DALLAS CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) that serves children in placement through Family Court.
1960-1962 Pat Peiser
* of blessed memory
1960 marked the beginning of the Section’s first community-wide project: Operation Lift (Literacy Instruction for Texas). The challenge of the proposal was for NCJW to provide the organization to recruit volunteer teachers and students, and to establish a community-wide system of teaching centers. The Dallas Morning News accepted our challenge to promote this cause-of trying to reach the persons with functional illiteracy. For six months, three times each week The Dallas Morning News ran half and quarter page ads, with coupons for teachers’ and students’ registrations. WFAA and KERA agreed to run a television teaching series as a public service at 6:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., five days each week. The project became a citywide effort. Classes began on June 5, 1961, with 250 volunteers, 150 from NCJW, 175 volunteer teachers and served 600 students during the first year. Today, LIFT continues to serve over 500 students each year. NCJW received the very first Dallas Times Herald Club of the Year Award, and NCJW’s first major award for Operation LIFT in 1961.
The celebration of the 50th birthday of Section featured a renowned CBS television journalist, David Schoenbrun. He cancelled his scheduled appearance to us having been ordered to Washington D.C. to cover the federal role in the confrontational entry of the first African-American student to the University of Mississippi. Schoenbrun spoke to a ballroom of members and community leaders via a private radio hook-up, no mean feat in the pre-computer era.
Section’s response to the black day of November 22, 1963, was to lead in the reform of welfare and health services for children and youth in Dallas County. A convention center filled with community leaders, elected officials and professionals in helping services watched a dramatized presentation of the conclusions of a youth study, revealing the hardships of inadequate welfare, education, and the dismal record in health services to children.
Section addressed the looming battle in public education and race at Southern Methodist University with a successful, community-wide School for Community Action, “Equal Opportunity for Youth,” which focused on the inequality of children who start behind and fall behind. After -school tutoring in West Dallas was the project, and in later years, full participation of volunteers in schools and ongoing advocacy. An office was established with a part-time professional staff. Senior citizen projects were added and another follow-up project of recruiting students for social work professions. Section increased its influential involvement in public affairs, focusing more on advocacy to state government.
The School for Community Action, called “Women on the Move,” was held for 450 people, representing thirty volunteer organizations and including eighteen women “in poverty” with incomes of less that $3,000 a year. The forum was co-sponsored by the Community Council of Greater Dallas and Dallas County Community Action Committee (“War on Poverty”). The project “Operation Ready” was established. NCJW volunteers wrote simple booklets in English and Spanish to educate low-income families on employment, saving and buying, and distributed them in the Dallas public schools. A Social Service Directory was published for the benefit of those in need of welfare services and for the use of the thirty participating organizations.
National’s 75th year in 1967-68 was commemorated with another school for Community Action, “Spotlight on the Family.” Section supported the need of a Graduate School of Social Work for the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. This eventually resulted in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington. We also told of the need for social worker at the Dallas jail (which eventually became a reality) and the establishment of a Dallas Human Relations Commission.
NCJW was involved in the” War On Poverty”, a national initiative to help those on the poverty level, and held a major workshop dedicated to helping Section members understand the true plight of those immersed in poverty. Section also worked politically on behalf of saving the War on Poverty office in Dallas. The major effort, with the longest-term benefits, was the launching of the first School Volunteer Program in the city of Dallas and in Texas. Prior to that time, volunteers were not utilized to help youngsters with academics. The program started at one small school in west Dallas, and was replicated throughout the city and later the state. Untold thousands of children are still benefiting from Section’s School Volunteer pilot project.
1950-1952 Lorraine Schein*
* of blessed memory
In 1951 the Section pioneered the first after-school program. A teacher, who was coincidentally a Section Vice President, broached the possibility of an after-school program and after determined efforts Section initiated a program in the basement of City Park School. An SMU student was engaged as supervisor and for five afternoons a week, fifteen volunteers served apples and cookies, directed playground activities, read stories, played games, helped with homework and engaged in enrichment activities with twenty-five to forty children. This pioneering solution to latchkey children was vindicated by the fact that City Park School was inundated with requests for transfers from other schools. In 1951 Evening Branch was created to involve a new generation and thirty-three young women became its members. Their first project was a survey of mental hospitals for children, and their exhaustive research disclosed that only thirty-five beds existed. The Evening Branch President was invited to present these findings to the Texas Psychological Association.
Service to the Foreign Born offered both English and citizenship classes. In 1954, forty students completed their courses and became citizens. 1956-57 brought fourteen Hungarian refugees. In 1957, Evening Branch was reorganized with an emphasis on newcomers, young mothers and working women who were not able to attend daytime functions. Programming focused on newcomers, from both various part of the United States and overseas. In partnership with the Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation of Dallas, “Your Key to Big D” was launched. Evening Branch also offered “Know Your Community Club” for Jewish New Americans.
1940-1941 Felice Bromberg*
* of blessed memory
In 1941 Section lent eighty-four workers to the largest volunteer project ever attempted in Dallas. Soundex was an effort of the Council of Social Agencies to codify 300,000 case histories. The project spanned eleven weeks during which volunteers amassed 2,000 hours instituting an efficient, updated filing system. Section continued to sponsor English classes for immigrants, and by 1941 over ninety students took part, reflecting the influx of refugees from the Holocaust. The Children’s Aid Committee came into being in 1935 to respond to “the desperate plights of our co-religionists in far off lands.” Section was asked to find homes for two children. In 1939 three children were placed in homes and supported by Section. One boy grew up under Council’s auspices, prospered and bequeathed real estate in Grand Prairie to the Section at his death. The entry of so many women into the workforce as a consequence of a wartime economy made day care an unquestioned necessity. In 1942 Council provided twenty-six volunteers who worked five days a week, year round at the Silberstein Day Nursery. Again this would set a precedent in an area where Council would assume a leadership position for years to come.
The War years saw a continuation of services inherited from the previous decade. One hundred-fifteen members made surgical dressing and stitched 7,000 garments. Volunteers staffed the Silberstein Nursery. Volunteers sold War Bonds and worked with the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Defense as well as the Aircraft Warning Center. The demands on the Milk Fund were met with 3,000 quarts annually. At the end of the decade almost 25,000 quarts reached needy families each year. Section’s membership in the Texas Society for Mental Health signaled a new dimension in the Health program. Recognizing that isolation and loneliness were among the elderly’s most severe problems, Section proposed its first substantial project for the aging in 1946. In 1947 the Golden Age Recreational Club was officially opened. In 1948 Section sought a permanent, reliable source of revenue and opened Your Thrift Shop with one hundred-fifty volunteers. In its first year, Your Thrift Shop cleared $6,000.
1931-1933 Thekla Brin*
* of blessed memory
During this decade one of the major commitments was the ongoing project for the blind. Section purchased an automobile to transport workers. Volunteers operated the Talking Book program and compiled a history of the blind in Dallas for the School Board’s edification. They found a volunteer teacher for a five year old, and by the second year of the Hard of Hearing Project eight boys were enrolled in the class. When the School Board finally agreed to take responsibility for educating the hearing impaired in 1939, nearly two hundred were enrolled in sixteen classes in eleven schools. The program continued to grow as families from rural areas came to Dallas to work in war related industries bringing children whose hearing had never been tested. Three hundred students were benefiting from the project at decade’s end. Tuberculosis still dominated health concerns, and contributions for its victims took the form of free milk. Section supplied 4,000 quarts annually at the project’s peak and added oranges and cod liver oil for those in need.
1921-1923 Gussie Utay *
* of blessed memory
At the age of ten, Dallas Section could count many accomplishments without being aware of the legacy it had created. The founding members had sketched the outlines of over ninety years of accomplishment to come and prepared their successors for challenges they themselves could not have foreseen.
The Dallas Section embarked on its second decade with a strenuous advocacy agenda. The Americanization Committee cooperated with other Jewish organizations to enable and encourage the foreign-born, particularly Jewish women, to become citizens by guiding them through the naturalization labyrinth. Section sponsored five classes annually in English, hygiene and business for up to twenty-five students per course and added classes in civics, literacy and Bible over the decade.
The Sewing Circle, in these ten years, turned out thousands of garments, some for local day nurseries and needy families and others for shipment to Ellis Island. Supply kept pace with demand as the New Orleans Home for Jewish Children, Dallas Baby Camp, the Tuberculosis Hospital and the Federated Charities joined the list of beneficiaries. This enormous endeavor consumed no treasury funds; volunteers persuaded local merchants to donate materials and charged themselves 10 cents for each cup of coffee consumed while working.
In 1923 Section focused its concern on the local epidemic of tuberculosis. The Milk Fund, which survives today as the only source of free milk in Dallas, began as an adjunct of the Tuberculosis Committee.
Section campaigned to motivate every Jewish woman to register to vote and made It was also during this period that Section began its pioneering work on behalf of the blind, incorporating all the skills and strategies Section had developed and developing all the elements of advocacy, service, education and community influence it had accumulated in its repertory. Section inaugurated Braille instruction for young women, successfully prevailed upon the Dallas Public Library to create a department housing Braille books, secured free medical attention for blind patients, referred those in financial straits to United Charities, persuaded the Dallas Board of Education to serve blind children as well as persuading theater managers to install hearing aids so all patrons could appreciate the performance.
Its influence felt in the appointment of Section members to city boards and commissions. Section endorsed relocating the prison system and placing the insane in hospitals instead of jails. Advocacy thus took a quantum leap during this period, locally and nationally, laying groundwork for many years of assertive citizenship to come.
At the heart of the new Section was Community Service. Five volunteer projects were underway as early as 1914 – Immigrant Aid, Medical Inspection of Schools, Penny Luncheon, Day Nursery and Free Kindergarten – all precursors of continuing Section concerns. In 1914, Section established the first volunteer program in the Dallas Public Schools. Three hundred children were served wholesome hot lunches at a penny a dish. Word of the project’s success reached other schools where Mothers’ Clubs followed. By 1918 the Board of Education was persuaded to take over the project and school lunches became part of every child’s public school experience.
World War I had a profound impact on Section’s activities. Section publicized and encouraged food conservation and worked with other Jewish organizations on the Soldiers and Sailors Welfare Committee. The Philanthropic Committee disbursed contributions throughout the decade to dozens of beneficiaries ranging from the Jewish Welfare Relief Fund to the Times Herald Free Ice Fund. A $1,000 contribution to the Children’s Ward at the National Jewish Hospital in Denver resulted in the erection of a plaque commemorating the Dallas Section.