National Council of Jewish Women Indianapolis Section Records, 1906-1996
3.0 c.f (3 cartons)
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), established in 1893, is the oldest volunteer Jewish women's organization in the United States. It is "dedicated in the spirit of Judaism to advancing human welfare and the democratic way of life" and focuses on five major areas of philanthropy: Women's Issues, Children and Youth, Israel, Jewish Life and Aging. The Indianapolis Section of NCJW was officially formed in 1903 by women of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation formalizing what had begun in 1896 as a primarily social and religious study group. Advocacy and community service remain the focus of the Indianapolis Section of the National Council of Jewish Women as it begins its second century of service.
The records consist of meeting minutes, yearbooks which list membership and projects, financial records, newsletters, news clippings and two short videotapes.
This collection is open to the public without restriction. The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.
Presented by: The National Council of Jewish Women Indianapolis Section, Indianapolis, Indiana, June 23, 1998 A1997/98-024
Processed by Barbara J. Mondary, August 1998
Established in 1893, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is the oldest volunteer Jewish women's organization in the United States. Based on Jewish values, feminist ideals and democratic principles, the NCJW strives "to break down barriers to social justice; continue to pave the way for a vital and expanded role for women in our society; and continue to seek new ways to improve the quality of life for all people" in order to "further human welfare in the Jewish and general communities through an integrated program of education, community service, and social action." Jewish women in Indiana joined this effort as early as 1896 and, although primarily a social and religious study group, organized an industrial training school for girls teaching seamstress skills of darning, patching and making-over of clothes. The official Indianapolis Section of the NCJW was formed in 1903 by women in the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation and counted in its early membership some of the city's wealthiest women. Freed from domestic chores by staffs of servants, these women were able to devote their time to charitable work. The president of the Indianapolis Section, Mrs. Emma Eckhouse, joined with the Lafayette and Terre Haute representatives to serve as the executive board for the Indiana Council of Jewish Women, formed in 1907. Mrs. Eckhouse also served as the national director of the organization from 1905 to 1911.
Focusing on the welfare of the immigrant poor, the Indianapolis Section of NCJW worked closely with the Jewish Federation to provide assistance and guidance to the immigrant community, with an emphasis on the practical concerns of locating adequate housing, finding jobs and providing tutoring in the English language and naturalization procedures. The headline on a news article about the NCJW Indianapolis Section in the January 12, 1913 Indianapolis Star Women's Section proclaimed "Indianapolis Women Protect Immigrant Girls from White Slavery." Involvement in rehabilitation of youth after incarceration also began as early as 1906 with the women of the organization acting as juvenile court probation officers and overseeing all the Jewish cases, as well as some of the non-Jewish cases. Measures were begun to "reduce the number of potential Jewish juvenile delinquents, truants, and prostitutes." Playgrounds were established to help keep children off the streets and to offer a diversion from petty criminal activity. The Council Religious School was established in 1908 to provide courses in Jewish history and Judaism to children who were receiving no other religious education. Relying on Council members as volunteer teachers, the school reached an annual enrollment of between 150 and 200 children.
Concerned with the welfare of children, in 1920 the Indianapolis Section of NCJW started the first Milk Lunch Program in the public schools as well as sight and hearing testing of school children. Following the feminist views of its foundress, women's rights and suffrage were also a focal point of service projects and in 1926 a program was held on the difficulties faced by women medical students. Always progressive and often ahead of the times, the women were concerned about air pollution as early as 1924 when they asked the city to hire more smoke inspectors. Race relations seminars were held as early as 1935.
Aid to immigrant Jews continued to be a prominent focus of the NCJW Indianapolis Section throughout the 1930s and 1940s with the major focus on German Jews. Rallies were held to encourage naturalization and classes continued toward that end. Coupled with these efforts was practical aid to meet the basic needs of the poor and in 1935, a thrift shop was opened. Many immigrants were unable to practice the profession for which they had been trained in Europe. As a means to supplement their livelihood, the Refugees' Handicrafts Exchange was opened in 1939 by the Indianapolis Committee for Refugees, with the support of the NCJW, who managed the shop where the immigrants might sell homemade baked goods, jams, jellies, and needlework. The Exchange was also a place where personal items or family heirlooms might be sold if that became necessary. However, in 1941 with the United States declaration of war, refugees were classified as enemy aliens and it was considered prudent to close the exchange. The Council served the war effort by providing hospitality and services to the armed forces stationed in Indianapolis and in 1945, joined the national organization in their "Ship a Toy" program which provided toys to children in war-devastated areas.
In 1949, the NCJW, in conjunction with the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, sponsored the first Hoosier Institute on Civil Rights with the theme "To Secure These Rights." In 1951, the Indianapolis Section extended its services to the older members of the community by starting the Golden Age Program, the first of its kind in the city. Toys for children again became a community service for the Council in the "Lend-a-Toy" program which provided toys and games for homebound children with noncommunicable diseases.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the organization continued sponsorship of institutes and seminars with progressive community service themes of human relations and education, with an emphasis on both the youth and elders of the community. Often, spokeswomen from the Council Committee on Social Action appeared before the Indiana General Assembly making the NCJW's views on health and social welfare, civil rights, old age assistance and mental health known to the legislators. The Council continued to provide financial support to various community projects such as Head Start and in 1967 purchased a bus for LaRue Carter Mental Hospital.
In the 1970s Indianapolis Meals on Wheels was started by the Council and outreach to the community continued with the publication of a Senior Citizens Guide to Community Resources which was published in cooperation with the Mayor's Task Force on Aging. Contributions were made to day care centers at the Jewish Community Center and the Hispanic American Center.
In the 1980s with the increase of immigration of Jews from the Soviet Union, the NCJW cooperated with other agencies such as the Jewish Family and Children's Services and the Jewish Center to help find employment, housing, and medical care, thus continuing their earliest tradition of service to immigrants. The Guardian Ad Litem Program, an advocacy program for children in the Marion County Court system was started, continuing the Council's interest in service to incarcerated youth. The Council furthered the welfare of women in several ways: the Sojourner Shelter for Battered Women was renovated, a rape education series was held, Jewish Women in the Arts was presented for the community, and a Women's Seder was celebrated. In the early 1990s a new program for youth, Home Instruction Program for Pre-School Youngsters (HIPPY), was begun.
Officers of the NCJW are elected and include a president, at least four vice presidents, treasurer, assistant treasurer, financial secretary, and a recording secretary. The board of directors includes both elected members and honorary appointees. By 1995, membership had grown to more than 700 women.
For the first half of its existence funding of the charitable work came from dues, donations and bequests. By the early 1950s the thrift shop provided 18% of the operating budget of $7,850. The potential for income from the thrift shop was noted, and in 1958, the first Angel Luncheon was held. An invitation to the luncheon required a set minimum contribution in merchandise to the thrift shop, boosting both the amount and quality of merchandise given. In 1961, the first Angel Ball was held and has become the major social event and fundraiser for the Council. In the early 1970s the Collector's Choice, an annual three-day sale featuring the finest of furs, courtier clothing and household items, was begun. Enriched by the donations engendered by the Angel Ball, the Collector's Choice sale bypassed the thrift shops as an income source and the shops were closed. Collection and preparation for the yearly sale continues throughout the year and is quite labor intensive, but by 1993, the income from the Collector's Choice sale comprised more than 60 % of the operating budget of $79,000. This money also funds the scholarships and grants given by the Council.
"By their very nature Jewish community relations agencies are concerned with the larger community." Throughout its history, the Indianapolis Section of the NCJW has followed the policy of practical help personally offered. Adapting its services to the needs of the times in which it operates, the group continues to work with other service agencies in Indianapolis to serve varied needs of all ages, primarily within the Jewish community, but encompassing many other social and religious groups.
Bodenhamer, David J., et al., eds., The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Endelman, Judith E., The Jewish Community of Indianapolis 1849 to the Present, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The collection consists of records from the period of 1906-1996. The richest information sources are found in three areas: yearbooks (1905-1995), newsletters (1931-1996) and meeting minutes (1952-1989). The collection contains minimal administrative correspondence; however, the three aforementioned areas provide an overall picture of the focus, goals and work of the organization.
The records are organized into five series: Administrative Files, Financial Records, Community Activities, Photographs and Videotapes.
The Administrative Files, 1905-1996, contain board and general meeting minutes which cover primarily the years 1952-1989. The membership yearbooks (1905-1995) provide a listing of members and officers, as well as committees and their chairwomen. The yearbooks also contain for most years a listing of projects for the year, current bylaws, mission statement and goals. From the 1970s on, advertisements in the back of the yearbooks provide an insight on those businesses who supported NCJW. The presidents' annual narrative reports are in this series, with some found in the yearbooks and a few others in an individual file as well as correspondence which includes a sampling of form letters sent to the membership. Activity booklets and committee reports may be found here, along with reports on projects such as the Resettlement of German Jewish Families (1938), the Hebrew University High School Building Fund (1965), Indiana State Legislation Report (1965), and the 100th Birthday Celebration Report (1996). Various instructions for volunteers, public relations training and information about the resettlement of Soviet Jews are included. The major portion of the printed materials consists of NCJW's newsletters from 1931 to 1996 which provide comprehensive coverage of the organization's activities, although the following issues are missing: February 1933 to April 1935, December 1967 to December 1968, May 1981 to March 1982, May 1982 to April 1984, April 1988 to April 1992 and Summer 1992 to January 1994. News clippings documenting the organization's activities from 1907 to 1990 are in this series. Other printed materials include the Youth Yellow Pages, a directory of resources for teenagers and the Senior Citizens' Guide to Community Resources, both published by NCJW.
The Financial Records consist of the annual financial reports for most of the years from 1962 to 1990. Some budgets for years not included in the annual reports are also included in this series.
The Community Activities series consists of files dealing with projects undertaken and events held, with the bulk of information being about the Guardian Ad Litem Project (ca. 1980s) which uses volunteers to provide representation for children in cases of child abuse and neglect. This series also contains the records for the NCJW project Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY). Information on various events and educational presentations such as "Rape and Its Aftermath," School for Community Action and Jewish Women in the Arts can be found in this series.
The Photographs series includes 195 photographs and candid snapshots chronicling the NCJW Indianapolis Section, ca. 1960s-1990s.
The Videotapes series consists of two short videotapes: "A Voice is Heard" which is promotional and "100 Years of History," a brief documentary of the national NCJW.
Last updated by bburk on 05/17/2010