Shoshana Cardin becomes first woman to lead a major national Jewish organization

November 15, 1984

Shoshana Cardin was an iconoclastic political activist whose guiding principle has been to serve the Jewish people. Though a supporter of women's rights, she locked horns with feminists, not to mention prime ministers and presidents, due to her strongly held views on the issues of the day.

Institution: United Israel Appeal.

After over two decades of building a reputation as a passionate and generous member of the Jewish community through her activism and volunteer work, Baltimorean Shoshana Cardin was elected as the first woman president of the Council of Jewish Federations on November 15, 1984. Through her work with civic and Jewish groups, Cardin became one of the most respected Jewish lay leaders of the 1980s and 1990s.

As a young mother, Cardin worked as a volunteer and served on the boards of a variety of local nonprofit organizations. As president of Maryland's Federation of Jewish Women's organizations in 1960 and 1961, she used her position to call attention to issues of racial inequality. In 1967 Cardin served as a delegate to Maryland's Constitutional Convention and joined Maryland's Commission for Women in 1968. Although she turned down a nomination to the Federal Reserve Board, Cardin worked to change federal and state laws concerning women's legal access to credit. She also served on Maryland's Commission on Human Relations and as chair of Maryland's State Employment and Training Council from 1979 to 1983.

In 1984, Cardin was elected as the first woman president of the Council of Jewish Federations, a national umbrella organization for local groups raising money for social and educational services and for Israel in 189 North American Jewish communities. In this role, she became the first woman to lead a major national Jewish organization.

In subsequent years, Cardin has led the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the United Israel Appeal, the Center for Learning and Leadership, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. She was also instrumental in creating the Shoshana S. Cardin Jewish Community High School, Baltimore's first transdenominational Jewish high school.

Sources: Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 205-207.


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Jewish Women's Archive. "Shoshana Cardin becomes first woman to lead a major national Jewish organization." (Viewed on April 19, 2024) <>.