120 Years Of Making A Difference

NCJWInterview032715TV019To many Louisvillians, the National Council of Jewish Women is intrinsically linked to the Nearly New Shop at the bottom of Mid-City Mall. It’s there that fashion conscious residents are able to get great finds, while proceeds go directly to the NCJW. But the organization is so much more than the Nearly New Store.

For 120 years Louisville’s chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women has been spending every spare moment trying to bring change to the community, through the pursuit of social justice, services to seniors, individual and civil rights and freedoms, healthcare reform as well reproductive rights. And on April 13 and 14 the NCJW is celebrating their 120th anniversary with a series of events, culminating with a lecture from renowned artist Judy Chicago at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

Current president of the Louisville chapter Sue Paul, knows all too well how being part of the NCJW has not only been a chance to make a difference, but bond with like-minded individuals in the city, whether they were transplants like herself from Cincinnati or lifelong residents who cared deeply about what was happening around them.

Scan 1“I was trying to meet people here when I moved from Cincinnati,” recalls Paul. “I had a friend who volunteered at the Nearly New Shop and was tagging clothing and I went with her on Tuesdays.”

“Being president was never on my radar, but eventually I was asked to join the board and asked to become president. But it all started from doing little things.”

For Paul and her colleagues it’s been the little things here and there that have allowed them to pursue bigger goals that make lasting changes in the city, with one such example being the Court Watch Program on domestic violence.

“We had over 100 volunteers who would go into the courts and monitor the court proceedings in regards to domestic violence and would come up with recommendations for the court system.”

ScanIt was the same experience for past president Carolyn Neustadt who found the power that volunteers could wield behind a common cause. When the juvenile detention center was going to be placed underneath the jail downtown, “we went berserk, let me tell you!” recalls Neustadt. “The newspaper said, ‘A group of women have gone out on a limb to do this.’ And we got so angry that was the end of it. We got help from out of town even on how to stop that project and that’s where the interest in juvenile justice really came from.”

But the NCJW’s record of making positive changes in Louisville goes even further back in time. In 1897, only a few years after its foundation, the NCJW maintained the first summer kindergarten in Louisville as well as the first public baths, while in 1977 it sponsored the creation of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

For now though, the women of the NCJW are looking forward to April 14, when Judy Chicago will take to the stage of the Kentucky Center for Performing Arts’ Bomhard Theater to give an artist lecture that looks back on her five decades at the forefront of conceptual art. Chicago already has an existing tie with the city through her donation of her International Honor Quilt to the Hite Art Insitute – a collection of 600 smaller quilts sewn together.

“Judy Chicago is an artist from my generation,” explains treasurer Ellen Rosenbloom. “Previously the NCJW had done ‘The Vagina Monologues’ in Louisville, which was a big hit with women of our generation and it goes along with the NCJW goal of doing things for women, and we thought Judy Chicago might do something along the same lines and do something to entertain women.”

Tickets are still available for Chicago’s lecture as well as the all important patron’s party, the day before on April 13 at Jewish Hospital’s Rudd Heart and Lung Conference Center, for which tickets are still available, and sponsorship for both nights has come from such big names as Heaven Hill Brands, Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence and Kentucky One Health’s Jewish Hospital. VT

For more information on tickets or sponsorship for the event, call the NCJW office at 502.458.5566 or alternatively for just tickets to the Judy Chicago lecture  call 502.584.7777 at the Kentucky Center for Performing Arts. For more information visit www.ncjwlou.org.