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NCJW Celebrates 125 Years and Looks to the Future

A look back on the Atlanta Section of the National Council of Jewish Women’s history and where it’s headed now.

By Jan Jaben-Eilon | Atlanta Jewish Times

The Atlanta Section of the National Council of Jewish Women kicked off its 125th anniversary year last month with a visit from Sheila Katz, the new CEO of the national network of 90,000 members and supporters, which is two years older than Atlanta. Current president of the Atlanta Section, Sherry Frank, reviewed the many accomplishments of the local progressive Jewish women’s organization.

Frank listed those accolades in 25-year increments starting with 1895 to 1920. In those years, free education was the group’s top priority. It sponsored free kindergarten at the Jewish Educational Alliance and established Shabbat schools for new immigrants.

Celebrating NCJW Atlanta Section’s 125th anniversary are Sherry Frank, president; Sheila Katz, national CEO; and Rachel Rosner, immediate past president.

Celebrating NCJW Atlanta Section’s 125th anniversary are Sherry Frank, president; Sheila Katz, national CEO; and Rachel Rosner, immediate past president.

In the past 25 years, NCJW took over the Atlanta Jewish Coalition for Literacy, initiated a backpack/school supplies project, pop-up Mother’s Day jewelry shops, and teen dating advocacy services, adopted Toomer Elementary School and Agape Community Center and hosted the national convention.

But the AJT challenged Frank to look forward to 2045 – in another 25 years – and what she expected of NCJW’s Atlanta Section then. “We will still be fighting for women’s equality,” she said. “We will be fighting the same issues.”

Frank pointed out that throughout NCJW’s history, it has been involved with immigration, including working at Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century.

Currently, the Atlanta group is training women to document the “shady practices” in Georgia where some 97 percent of cases brought by immigrants and refugees before the courts are turned away by the judges. “We’re training court watchers,” Frank said.

In addition, NCJW in Atlanta is training people for poll watching for the upcoming elections. “We will always be looking at civil rights and democracy,” she said. Fortunately, she’s observed that “people are coming out of the wood works for advocacy and volunteering.” Recently she handed out a sign-up sheet for those interested in working against domestic violence and was amazed at the number of women who signed up.

The group also plans this year to bring a domestic violence and teen dating program with a one-person play to schools across Atlanta.

“We are almost over-programming to give people a voice,” Frank said.

Indeed, this 125th anniversary year will be busy for NCJW’s Atlanta Section. “Our Women’s Seder was so successful in 2019 that we are holding it in the evening so working women can attend,” Frank told attendees at the kick-off brunch last month. The Women’s Community Seder will be held March 26, again at Congregation Or Hadash, with their co-sponsorship. The group’s haggadah was so popular last year that Frank said extra haggadot will be printed and sold this year.
Last year’s Celebrating our Sheroes event will also be repeated, this year on May 6, at City Springs.

As part of the anniversary celebration, an e-Blast from The Past will be sent out monthly, Frank said, to highlight several notable historic milestones. The first said that the group was organized in November 1895 at The Temple at its original location at Forsyth and Garnett streets.

Thanks to several endowment funds, Frank said the group has been able to raise its profile in the community. “We were blessed with endowment funds decades ago,” she said. Some of that money will be used to send leaders to the national convention in Chicago in April.

Frank said that much of NCJW’s work is done in conjunction with other organizations. A panel of past presidents event will be held with The Bremen Museum. And to conclude the 125-year celebration, the 100th anniversary of the suffragette movement and passage of the 19th amendment event will be co-sponsored with the League of Women Voters and the National Council of Negro Women.