The National Council of Jewish Women-Pittsburgh Section was founded in May 1894, a few months after the creation of the national body during the Jewish Women’s Congress at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Pittsburgh Section was the fourth local chapter of the organization and was known until 1906 as the Columbian Council—against the wishes of the national organization. The NCJW-Pittsburgh Section initially favored a type of “preventative philanthropy” aimed at helping recent immigrants adapt to life in America. Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, it evolved to undertake a variety of projects and advocacy initiatives designed to improve the lives of women and families.
In its first decade, NCJW-Pittsburgh Section created the Columbian Kindergarten (1894), the Sisterhood of Public Service (1895), the Immigrant Aid Society (1904), and the Committee for Jewish and Non-Jewish Blind (1904). Its most lasting early initiatives were the Columbian School for children (1895) and associated Franklin Evening School for adults (1904), which both evolved into the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House (1909). The group also sponsored the Southwestern District of Pennsylvania Jewish Religious Schools program, which oversaw religious education throughout the region.
Other important initiatives of the NCJW-Pittsburgh Section include the Penny Lunch program (1911), the Student Aid Project (1925), the Council Service Shop, currently Thriftique (1927), the League for Handicapped (1929), the Council Lounge for Older People (1949), the Council House (1957), the local Headstart program (1963), Friends Indeed (1975), Children’s Rooms in the Courts (1980), Council Care (1983), Home Instruction for Preschool Youngsters (1987), Komen Pittsburgh Race For The Cure (1993), Partners in Conversation (1994), the Silent Witness Initiative (1997), and the Center for Women (2013). The NCJW-Pittsburgh Section is also responsible for the Oral History Project (1968), which has become one of the largest and longest-running community oral history projects in the United States. The NCJW-Pittsburgh Section was also involved in major resettlement efforts involved German refugees in the 1930s and Soviet émigrés from the 1970s into the 1990s.
In addition to its large branch in Pittsburgh, the National Council of Jewish Women expanded throughout Western Pennsylvania to include branches in many small towns.
NCJW-Pittsburgh Section Presidents include Pauline Hanauer Rosenberg (1894-1896, 1902-1903), Fanny Hamburger (1896-1898), Emma Rosenstock (1898-1900), Franc R. Blumberg (1900-1902), Bertha Rauh (1903-1922), Amelia Zugsmith (1922-1925), Lillian Freund (1925-1927), Minnie Kaufmann (1927-1930), Corinne Half (1930-1933), Ada Buerger (1933-1935), Ruth Helen Kaufman (1935-1938), Lola Shonfield (1938-1941), Jeannette Bachman (1941-1943), Cecile Silberstein (1943-1946), Minnie Susman (1946-1949), Pauline Oseroff (1949-1952), Florence Goldsmith (1952-1955), Bessie Katz (1955-1956), Margaret Libson (1956-1958), Martha Rothman (1958-1960), Eleanor Pearlman (1960-1962), Shirley Lavine (1962-1964), Estelle Kushnick (1964-1966), Frieda Shapira (1966-1968), Helen Spirer (1968-1970), Marcia Frumerman (1970-1972), Mina Kavalier (1972-1974), Rachel Porter (1974-1976), Ruth Lieber (1976-1978), Gene Dickman (1978-1980), Barbara Felman (1980-1982), Elizabeth Finegold (1982-1984), Elaine London (1984-1986), Carol Williams (1986-1988), Carolyn R. Lebovitz (1988-1990), Merrille Weissman (1990-1993), Patty Hourvitz (1993-1995), Judi Kasdan (1995-1998), Gail Ball (1998), Elyse B. Eichner (1998-2000), Lynne S. Jacobson (2000-2002), Lynette Lederman (2002-2004), Judy Greenwald Cohen (2004-2006), Lynne Garfinkel (2006-2008), Susan Nitzberg (2009-2011), Hilary A. Spatz (2011-2013), Paula L. Garret (2013-2016), Laurie Gottlieb (2016-2018), Debbie Levy Green (2018-2019), Teddi Horvitz (2019-2022), Andrea Kline Glickman (2022—present).