Naomi Bronheim Levine appointed director of American Jewish Congress
On March 1, 1972, Naomi Bronheim Levine was appointed Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress (AJCong), becoming the first woman to take the helm of a major American Jewish organization that included both men and women as members. Born in New York on April 15, 1923, Levine was educated at Hunter College and Columbia University and worked as a lawyer before joining the AJCong in 1951. She would remain there for more than two decades.
Levine began her work at the Congress as a lawyer for its Commission on Law and Social Action; from that position, Levine went on to become director of the AJCong Women's Division. These positions foreshadowed her involvement with civil rights and women's issues as executive director of the organization. Although she was considered a pioneer for women, Levine saw herself as caught somewhere between an older ideal of domesticity and a newer feminism. She told the New York Times that "women's lib is probably correct, but it's not my style." Although a Times profile published when Levine was appointed to the top post at the AJCong focused on her devotion to the traditional roles of wife and mother even as she built a path-breaking career, Levine had long been committed to progressive women's issues. From 1955 to 1971, she had owned and operated Camp Greylock, an all-girls summer camp that was later credited with contributing to the professional success of many of its alumnae.
Levine stepped down from her post at the American Jewish Congress in 1978, when she was appointed head of public relations, government relations, and fundraising at New York University. She stayed at NYU for over two decades, eventually becoming senior vice president for external affairs and raising over $2 billion. Her fundraising success allowed the University to transform itself from a local commuter school to a strong university with a national presence. During her tenure at NYU, Levine created the Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising and the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life. After retiring in 2000, Levine continued to chair the boards of both of these organizations. Upon her retirement, NYU President L. Jay Oliva called Levine "quite simply a spectacular human being."
Sources:New York Times, March 2, 1972, November 1, 1979; www.scps.nyu.edu/about-scps/newsroom/experts/naomi-levine.html.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Naomi Bronheim Levine appointed director of American Jewish Congress." (Viewed on October 9, 2015) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/mar/01/1972/naomi-bronheim>.