At the Forefront of Social Change

In honor of Women’s History Month, TC Jewfolk asked the local chapters of Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) for guest posts. This week’s column is by NCJW St. Paul‘s Co-President Jacy Grais and V.P. of Public Relations Deborah Zuckerman.
In honor of Women’s History month, what could be more appropriate than to highlight the longest standing Jewish women’s volunteer organization in America?
Have you heard of the National Council of Jewish Women?
NCJW is a volunteer organization that has been at the forefront of social change for more than a century. Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW courageously takes a progressive stance on issues such as child welfare, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom. With over a century-long history, a purposeful mission and dedicated members in communities across the nation, National Council of Jewish Women continues to make an impact on vital issues affecting women in all walks of life.
NCJW St. Paul section is an excellent example of how the organization carries out its long-term mission. The St. Paul Section became a charter section of NCJW in the late 19th century with clear objectives: to provide training, education and shelter for young immigrant women, advocate for child labor laws, arrange childcare for immigrant families, and provide services to help the disadvantaged. NCJW St. Paul is an all-volunteer organization with approximately 400 members, including 24 Board members and officers.
NCJW St. Paul has long-standing relationships with community partners throughout St. Paul, including two nationally renowned programs:

  • Girls On The Move/GOTM program (2006 Faith in the Future Award Winner). In partnership with Out On A Limb Dance Company, this was created as a weekly program to provide girls in 3rd & 4th grade with the skills, tools, and information to develop positive self-esteem, good self-image, and empower them to be all that they can be. Through both classroom hands-on activity sessions and a weekly movement component, the girls were able to share their experiences, learn, and grow with each other in a safe supportive environment. This wonderful program has been successfully offered via St Paul Public Schools, Talmud Torah of St Paul, and is available for future programming schedules.
  • The Children’s Healing Arts Initiative/CHAI (The first recipient of the Tikun Olam Award at the NCJW National Leadership Conference). The award winning Children’s Healing Arts Initiative (CHAI) was developed by NCJW St. Paul and facilitated in partnership with ArtStart and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. This program was designed to celebrate the artist in all children regardless of their physical or mental challenges, and to embrace the entire family towards the goal of creating works of art to be shared publicly. These works include (but are not limited to) the creation of a public art mural located in the heart of the St. Paul Art District at 4th & Wacouta in downtown St. Paul. The mural and many of our other projects were created under the direction of local and nationally recognized artist Ta-Coumba Aiken.

Not only is the NCJW St. Paul section setting an example for other women to follow, but more specifically, these efforts are exemplified through one of its own member’s volunteer efforts. Her name is Stephanie Levine, and she was recently nominated for the Enduring Advocate Award by the NCJW St. Paul section. Stephanie is clearly a woman who is helping to make history through her volunteer efforts to carry out the NCJW mission.
Stephanie’s history with NCJW has been long and varied. She joined the St. Paul section in 1994 and joined the Board of Directors the following year, serving as Chair of the Project Development Committee. Taking advantage of her financial and mathematic skills, Stephanie served as treasurer of the St. Paul section from 1996-1998, and again in 2003.
In 2004, Stephanie became President of the St. Paul Section. Under her presidency, the section’s popular program, Neighborhood Takeout, was created. In 2006, when Stephanie’s term as President ended, she became the section advisor, a role which she still holds.
Stephanie was chairperson of the section’s longest-running project, Stuff for School (a school supply drive in partnership with 3M that lasted 14 years) for several years, until 2009, when it was successfully spun off from NCJW to the project’s primary partner, 3M. Under Stephanie’s leadership, Stuff for School, which was the model for similar projects across the country, grew with leaps and bounds, ultimately providing more than 16,000 children in the St. Paul public schools with new school supplies at the beginning of each school year.
Stephanie is considered to be an influential mentor, advisor, and recruiter for NCJW. She consistently remains positive about the organization, its mission and future. Her passion for NCJW and what it stands for are what mark Stephanie and other influential members of NCJW for having a historical impact on the organization.
Go to our website for more information about NCJW and the St. Paul section –