The New Council
Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, 1858 - 1942
"Objections have been made because we are a women's organization. We have not intended to exclude men....We expect to include them whenever they clamor for admission. Up to the present time they have not clamored."
Members of the newly founded National Council of Jewish Women carried the energy and optimism of the World's Fair events back home. By the Council's first Triennial convention in 1896, NCJW was an organization of fifty sections and over 3300 members. Many sections had already founded permanent social service institutions as well as religious education schools for girls. Study Circles, where members discussed the Bible, Jewish culture and history, were flourishing with over half of NCJW's membership participating regularly.
The young Council's identity was still uncertain, but one question was already clear: would it become primarily a religious organization or a women's volunteer agency? For Solomon, philanthropy was an expression of Jewish faith, and an important area of work for NCJW. But she found no reason for a specifically Jewish organization to define itself through social work when non-sectarian charities were equally effective. On the other hand, she saw NCJW's goal of religious renewal as unique. As president, Solomon tried to steer Council towards Judaism as its defining principal.
- "Objections have been made because..." quote from Sheaf 140.
- For statistics on Council's membership and philanthropy organization growth, see Rogow 33. On Study Circles, see Rogow 61.
- On Solomon's view that Council's defining identity was its Judaism, note Fabric 80. In the World's Fair's early planning stages, she had chosen to move the congress from the Women's Building to the Parliament of Religions because, "When we use the word 'Jewish' it must have a purely religious connotation."
- On social work as expression of faith, see Sheaf 86-7: "If the deed is the supreme test of religion then does our faith, as exemplified in this branch of our work, reach its highest idea."
- For Solomon's opinion that non-sectarian charities were sufficient, see Sheaf 260-1. Whether this was actually the case could, of course, be contested. Solomon attests in the above report to the fact that she saw no discrimination in the non-sectarian charities serving the Jewish population. Even if this were true, there was often a need for specifically Jewish organizations like the Maxwell House Settlement because some Jewish immigrants avoided Christian social workers in fear they were missionaries.(see Cutler 83)
- Caption to National Council of Jewish Women Kitchen Class for Immigrants: the quote "As an example of what has been accomplished..." is from Sheaf 150.