Documenting Maine Jewry - Oral Histories
Documenting Maine Jewry : National Council of Jewish Women
(Portland Section)


1920 – 1986

Charlotte B. Wernick
June, 1986

Much of the material I have presented here, I found in previous histories, speeches, and pages written by Rita Willis, Selma Black and Anna Sacknoff. To them I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation for such help. Thanks, also, to all who contributed their "attic boxes" of pictures and clippings.

I have tried to note mostly the activities of the Portland Section, rather than the people who originated or took part in them. Were it otherwise, any personal omissions, which might occur by accident, would be difficult to correct.

A special thanks goes to Selma Black for the brief sketches of each decade which I have included as part of this history.

This history does not include the many on-going activities of the Section (and their many, many volunteers) which are administrative or peripheral, and keep the Section functioning to carry out its projects. Committees such as Membership, Program, Fund Raising, Hospitality, Study Groups, Publicity and the like—all have contributed to the success of all projects and, of course, have been carried on through the years even though little mention of them in particular is made here.

Original in the Portland Room at the Portland Public Library


National Council of Jewish Women (hereafter referred to as NCJW) was the first national women's organization in American Jewish history. It marked an independent venture, placing on Jewish women a responsibility for a more united and broader participation in community affairs than had ever existed.

Founded in 1893 by Hannah G. Solomon, at the Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World's Fair, the NCJW is now an organization made up of over 200 Sections in the United States. The Sections include women of all ages, whose members are volunteers dedicated in the spirit of Judaism to advancing human welfare and the democratic way of life.

Its priorities are women's issues, the disadvantaged, Jewish life, children and youth, Israel and the aging. Through education, advocacy and community service, NCJW has become a leading Jewish organization in national and international life. NCJW founded International Council of Jewish Women, so its members could relate to Jewish women around the world. It now has 25 affiliates in 23 countries.

NCJW, as of 1984, had a membership of 100,000 volunteers in 200 Sections working in more than 3000 service and advocacy programs. Not only is it the oldest major Jewish women's organization in the United States but it also:

  1. was the first Jewish women's group to establish Sabbath schools
  2. helped plan the first White House Conference on Aging
  3. opened homes in Europe for young women who had been victimized by Nazis
  4. had won numerous awards for its work with children and youth
  5. published the first definitive nationwide survey of day care facilities and services
  6. established and helps maintain, NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education in Israel
  7. recently established a Research Center for the Child
  8. develops and influences programs which affect the lives of people of all ages, races, and religious backgrounds

It has become the representative of Jewish women on the national scene—at national conferences, on presidential ad hoc or long standing committees and as an observer at the United Nations.

There are many services that the national organization offers to the community, to the sections and members. Advisory Services - includes visits to sections by professional, staff and volunteers; service to regional conferences; certificates of national approval for community service meeting national standards; and the publication of the President's Hand Book. National Affairs - it represents the sections on the national level at conferences, by testifying in Congress and maintaining a liaison with national and governmental agencies. National Events - such as United Nations Institutes and Public Affairs Institutes are supported by NCJW. Guides to Study and Action - Publication Services, Audio Visual Aids, Community Interpretation and Cooperation, Training Services and Workshops, all provide a link between NCJW and the sections.

The Portland Section was founded in 1920 with 88 members and now has approximately 300 members, including working professionals, homemakers, single parents, and women in transition. It works with national priorities such as: golden age groups, juvenile justice, social service; social legislation; women's issues; and community service to name only a few. Some of its ongoing projects are:

  1. Beacon Club - social program for sight-impaired women
  2. Coordination with other major women's organizations on programs of mutual concern
  3. Financial support of NCJWprograms in Israel including Research Institute for Innovation in Education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem
  4. Public Affairs - study and advocacy
  5. Scholarship and Loan Program
  6. Ship-a-Box - sends clothing, educational materials, and toys to Israel
  7. Silver Foxes - senior citizens club in conjunction with the Jewish Community Center
  8. Puppets for Prevention - a puppet show for school children dealing with the prevention of child sexual abuse.

It is funded by membership dues, a Jewish Federation allotment and fund raising events, all of which allow the Section to pursue its activities in education, advocacy, and community service.

Along with its ongoing projects, the Section has ongoing committees which make these projects possible. Committees for membership, publicity, programs, fundraising, study groups, hospitality, social legislation, nominating, public affairs, social clubs, life membership, bulletin, historian, scholarships and ship-a-box—along with elected officers—all function all the time and they are well supported by the volunteer members.

The Portland Section is a member of the Northeastern District of NCJW - which includes New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. It is a member of Area I of the Northeast District with all the sections of Massachusetts.

The TWENTIES "The Lawless Years"

The First World War had ended - the war "which was to make the world safe for Democracy". Wilson had put forth his fourteen points for peace and had formed the League of Nations. It was a dream - a dream to be dashed when the United States Senate refused to join it.

Harding had come in as President and it was a time of great prosperity. Even the Teapot Dome scandal couldn't dim the American dream.

Women voted for President for the very first time. Women's Suffrage had taken a long time, but, at last, women had civil rights. They were becoming first-class citizens. They had the vote.

The flapper was coming into her own. Short skirts, rolled stockings, cigarettes in holders - the Charleston was the big dance for the young crowd.

The '20s saw the beginning of organized crime - prohibition was here, but liquor was available if you knew the right source. Every day's paper screamed of gangsters, mob killings, gangsters molls. Al Capone was the non-hero of the day.

Those were the days of the bathing beauties. Fashions were exciting - and expensive.

"Keep Cool with Coolidge" was the slogan when Coolidge ran for his first elected term in 1924.

People were talking about the Sacco Vanzetti case and the Scopes trial which pitted the two giants, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow against each other to prove or disprove "The Theory of Evolution" - that man was descended from apes.

The Ku Klux Klan was in full swing - even in Portland with headquarters on Forest Avenue and a white-shrouded parade down Congress Street.

Movies were coming into their own - from the silent films and the weekly serials like "Perils of Pauline" to the first "talkie", "The Jazz Singer" in 1927. Vaudeville, too, was big in the Twenties - What was Saturday without a visit to B. F. Keith's?

"Lucky Lindy" flew alone non-stop to Paris and George Gershwin wrote the first jazz symphony ''Rhapsody in Blue". Women were elected to public office and new appliances were on the market to relieve the housewife of daily drudgery. Camel cigarettes had just been put on the market, but Sweet Caporals were still the universal favorite. Prohibition was here - so was radio and air travel and prosperity.

In eight days, 4,000 women in Portland registered as voters to vote in their first election, and one woman who refused to give her age and whose registration was denied, took the issue to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court as a test case.

An air trip from New York to Alaska proved so successful that air transportation was considered a coming means of transport for freight, passengers and mail.

William Marconi, inventor of a new wireless, announced that a concert given in London could be heard 1,000 miles away. He told the world that this new wireless was much more distinct than the ordinary telephone.

In 1920, Maine was contemplating giving her veterans of the World War a hundred dollar bonus. The Russian Bolshevist Minister of Foreign Affairs declared that Communism was a spontaneous movement and that the Soviets had high hopes of normal relations between Russia and the United States.

The ‘20s - years of peace, of violence, of sudden fortune and then came 1929 - the stock market crash. With the crash, the whole world seemed to tumble down -and this began a new decade and a whole new era.

That was the climate of Portland in the Twenties when a small group of civic-minded and far-seeing women felt the need for united action in the local Jewish community. These women, recognizing the scope of the program of the National Council of Jewish Women formed the nucleus of the Portland Section.

October 20, 1921 - Twenty one members organized the Portland Section, National Council of Jewish Women.

November 17, 1921 - Mrs. Maurice Markson, the first President, held the opening meeting at her house with 88 members. (At the end of the year, there were 150 members). 8826

Members were interested in education, child welfare, americanization and civic affairs. This involved care of immigrant families buying clothes - glasses for poor children - bible classes; visiting the sick; providing kosher food at hospitals; fund raising for these services.

1922 - The Section adopted a war orphan; collected clothes for immigrants; cooperated with Young Men's Hebrew Association to buy a Community Center; donated to Hoover's Drive for European Relief.

1922-25 - Mrs. Jacob Sapiro, President.

Kosher food for immigrants arrived at House Island. Immigration Committee met immigrants, outfitted them and sent them on to their final destinations (even prevented some from being deported). The interest free loan fund was started by 10 women who gave around $50 each. (This was the start of the Scholarship Fund as we know it) . Education activities included current events, parliamentary law seminars, bible classes, book reviews, and open forums. Portland Section worked with the blind with outings and parties and this later became a very active non-sectarian group called the Beacon Club. They supervised a Hebrew School (until the Auxiliary was founded) , and was instrumental in getting butchers and bakers not to use newspapers for wrapping.

1925-27 - Mrs. Israel Bernstein - President.

Portland Section was an important contributor and service arm of the Associated Charities; and was vital in the development of the first Jewish Community Center. Americanization committee helped enroll aliens in night school classes and had private classes in homes. Miss Clara Soule worked with the Section. Four war babies were adopted for one year and $100 was donated to ORT for two children to go to a trade school. Members began to attend Regional Conferences. Members studied the Constitution. As a gesture of good will, Portland Section dressed a doll to be sent to Japan.

1927-29 Mrs. Samuel Sacknoff - President.

Portland Section became a member of the State Conference of Social Workers. Activities: gave prizes for essays in Americanization Classes; started Judaism section in the Public Library; sent 6 needy children to the country for summer vacation; supported a girl in trade school; furnished milk for underprivileged children; contributed to Institution for the Blind, and to a fund for a motion picture machine for Americanization work; continued to contribute to necessities for Center, Associated Charities, Red Cross, Traveler's Aid, Maine General and Children's Hospitals. Portland Section began to realize the need for trained social workers to take over the many problems that came up.

1929-31 Mrs. Benjamin Press - President.

Social Service projects continue. Interest in World Affairs and Education became apparent. Members studied Kellogg Peace Treaty; sponsored a Peace Program open to the public; contributed to the World Committee on Friendship for gifts for children in the Phillipines; Round Tables were held on education of foreign born, current events and a course in Child Psychology.

The THIRTIES "The Desperate Years"

The '30s began as the '20s ended - in despair and violence. Crime was still rampant and able-bodied men were selling apples on the street corner and waiting in bread lines for something to eat.

Rudy Vallee was the singing idol of the day.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated President in March, 1933 and immediately declared a bank holiday. People were using scrip instead of money.

The most unspeakable crime of the century was committed - the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh child.

Prohibition ended at last but the problems of economics were the overriding issues of the day.

Hitler came into office at almost the same time as Roosevelt and immediately began his tirades against the Jews. Father Coughlin and other bigots preached the same line of hate and those were days of fear and trepidation.

Men went to work on WPA projects at $12 or $14 a week, but kept their dignity by going off welfare roles. John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" was a chronicle of the times as he pointed out the Okies and the effect of the Dustbowl.

The great romance of the century was that of King Edward VIII and Wally Simpson and the world was equally divided in its opinion whether he should or should not have abdicated for "the woman I love."

Hitler marched through the Rhineland, Austria took over Czechoslovakia, Mussolini overran Ethiopia, and Spain had a prolonged civil war, but Lord Chamberlain, Prime Minister of England, spoke of "Peace in our time."

With little money to spend, people were lured to the movies by "giveways" or stayed home and listened to the radio. The "Big Apple" was the dance craze. Cars were cheap if you could afford one, and the first sit-down strike was staged by the CIO. Women were still interested in fashions and with learning to play the new great game of contract bridge.

The great Eleanor Roosevelt struck a blow for civil liberties when she resigned from the DAR because they would not allow Marion Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall.

While Europe was beginning to burn and Hitler had invaded Poland, the United States, at the end of the '30s was still isolationist and holding massive "peace rallies."

Thus the '30s ended with the opening of the World's Fair, an era that would leave its mark on Americans as perhaps none other in history - fear, want, social legislation, and the beginning of world involvement.

1931-32 - Mrs. Louis Matson, President.

These were depression years - social welfare was called on for relief and medical care. The Section endorsed legislation for Birth Control and President Hoover's Unemployment Relief Bill. It sponsored a Sunday School at the Center.

1932-33 - Mrs. Israel Bernstein, President.

Emphasis was still on services. The Big Sister movement was started. Music and drama groups began to help underprivileged children. The Section gave assistance to Hebrew charities. Lectures on adolescent children were held, and there was great interest in child psychology. There was also interest and activity in the establishment of a World Court.

1933-36 Mrs. Samuel Sacknoff, President.

Vocational guidance was advocated. Portland Section worked for old age pension in the state. English classes for the foreign born were started. Welcoming Committee began to welcome newcomers. Courses were held in Parliamentary Procedure and Contemporary Jewish Affairs. It helped to start Big Brothers with B'nai B'rith - 11 boys and a mother and child were sent to summer camp. A Loan Fund was established so every alien could become a citizen. Funds for the Jewish Refugee Fund were raised. Work for Peace continued. Mrs. Israel Bernstein was appointed to the National Board of Directors of NCJW. Portland Section worked with the Red Cross in transporting patients to the hospitals.

1936-37 - Mrs. Jessie Rosenberg, President.

Jewish Book Week was established at the Public Library. Bulletin was started; new Clothes Center was established for benefit of Social Services Committee. A study group on Jewish history started; services to blind were underway.

1937-38 - Mrs. Richard Wilkes, President.

Thrift Shop was opened November, 1937. Scholarship Fund was established so that Jewish girls could learn a trade or vocation. .

1938-39 - Mrs. Benjamin Zolov, President.

World situation was growing dim. Protest was sent to the President against the White Paper on the Balfour declaration. Delegates were sent to Washington to attend a conference on causes and cures of war.

The FORTIES "War - Peace - War"

The '40s opened with America convinced it could stay out of the second World War. All those high hopes were dissipated when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The next day, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan and the following day on Germany. With war came rationing and rent control. It was difficult to plan a meal but we managed. Women entered the armed forces - the WAVES, the WACS, and the WAFS. Those were the days when women went to work with a vengeance - on production lines, in the shipyards -doing hard physical labor. "Rosie the Riverter" became a household name.

Folks at home took a special interest in the armed forces stationed near here and showed their appreciation and hospitality through the U.S.O.

The new fad of the "Bobby Soxers" was the Jitterbug.

President Roosevelt looked ill indeed when he met with the major powers at Yalta in 1944, but the death of F.D.R. just before the end of the war in Europe was a personal tragedy to every American.

Paris was liberated in August of 1944, but the Germans did not surrender until the spring of 1945. When the American troops liberated the Jews from the concentration camps, the horrors they saw were incomprehensible. 6,000,000 met their death in the gas chambers. Those who survived were living skeletons.

The war in the Pacific was still raging and had turned in favor of the United States.

The greatest secret of all, the building of an atom bomb which unleashed devastation of a kind inconceivable to man ended the second World War in August of 1945 when two bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Again, the world's hope for lasting peace surfaced, this time in the formation of the United Nations. The United States became the greatest world power and turned its attention to rebuilding the war-torn world. Through the Marshall Plan and with the Truman Doctrine, President Truman began to heal the wounds of a world torn apart by war.

The war days ended and women again turned to fashion -the New Look it was called - midi length after the short skirts of wartime. Drive-in movies began to make an appearance on the outskirts of many cities.

The days of peace were short-lived for in October, 1950 we were engaged in another war - far away from the U. S. mainland, this time in Korea.

The MOs "War-Peace-War" days of suspense and personal tragedies were the era when the U. S. came of age as the richest and most powerful nation in the world.

1939-42 - Mrs. Lewis Bernstein, President.

There was war in Europe and a threat of war in U.S. Members were volunteering for U.S.O., Traveler's Aid, Volunteer Placement; the Filter Station, Council of Social Agencies and Bundles for Britain. Portland Section joined the sewing project at Maine Medical Center; Americanization Bureau was opened at the Center. It raised money for German-Jewish Refugee Children in U.S. for whose care NCJW had assumed financial responsibility. A Sunday School was opened at the Center and soon after the Section relinquished the project. We cooperated with Army and Navy Committees of the local Jewish Welfare Board. In 1941, Big Sisters brought the Food Stamp Plan to Jewish needy in Portland.

1942-45 - Mrs. Casper Sutton, President.

War had come to the United States and the Section's activities were as follows: contributed to x-ray machine for U. S. Naval Hospital; aided the "Get out the Vote" Committee; distributed banks for refugees in our homes; set up central location index to help displaced persons find relatives here; shared in the War Chest of Portland; organized programs for service men and aided returning veterans in their post war adjustment. We still carried out all our basic programs. International Relations and Social Legislation committees were formed into groups for study. The Section worked for Civilian Defense in cooperation with the Red Cross; for the war Relief Drive; for the Alien Volunteer project, the Victory Book Collection for servicemen for USO and Army day rooms. In 1944, it was voted to honor the memory of Sarah Bernstein by naming the Rememberance Fund - the Sarah J. Bernstein Scholarship Fund and all gifts to that fund to go for scholarships. The original loan program (at first called Scholarship Fund and in 1954 changed to Student Loan Fund) was funded by gifts to this Remembrance Fund also. In 1956 - it was voted that all monies collected go for scholarships only.

1945-46 - Mrs. Aaron Blumenthal, President.

Overseas work was expanded - now that the war was over, the need was felt to help displaced persons in European camps. The 25th Anniversary of the Portland Section was on December 19, 1945. Mrs. Israel Bernstein was named Honorary President of the Portland Section. Volunteer work at Children's Hospital was continued. Contemporary Jewish Affairs Study Group was started.

1946-47 - Mrs. Louis Black, President.

The Section helped to sponsor a city-wide Atomic Energy Meeting. It inaugurated its Ship-a-Box project. It continued to be vitally concerned with legislation. A most important contribution to the community was the establishment of a Citizens Committee for displaced persons in Portland (when legislation finally passed the Section became co-sponsor with Jewish Federation of the Refugee Service Committee).

The three Annas (Sacknoff, Sapiro and Matson) were named Honorary Vice Presidents. Portland Section received a citation from National Jewish Welfare Board for meritorious service during war years.

It worked for Passage of the Fair Employment Practices Act in the Maine Legislature. It became a member of the Interfaith Committee of Greater Portland.

1947-49 - Mrs. Aaron Blumenthal, President.

Portland Section was back to the usual areas of service - local, national and overseas. Passover packages were distributed to Jewish patients at City Hospital. A student nursing scholarship on a non-sectarian basis was offered. Establishment of the Jewish state was urged. It continued the project to send food and clothing overseas through Ship-a-Box. Mrs. Israel Bernstein was appointed to the National Committee of NCJW for Education for Social Action. Mrs. Lester Willis was appointed to the National Social Services Committee. Portland Section's Social Welfare Committee was recognized by the local community as the only Jewish case work agency and was asked to be a member of the Portland Council of Social Agencies. The first Jewish displaced person came to Portland, (1948—Mr. & Mrs. Paul Brem) . The Section also joined the Women's Legislative Council of Maine.

The FIFTIES "The Years of Transition"

The Korean war dragged on as the United States began to convert to a peace-time economy. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the most popular general of the second World War, was elected on the promise that he would end the Korean War.

The '50s were comparatively halcyon years with an expanding economy.

The Supreme Court decision on school integration, removing forever the inequities of the "separate but equal" school systems for black and white children introduced a whole new concept in civil liberties.

Television was the most exciting single innovation to reach almost every family in the country. For the first time, people saw as well as heard the great events of the day.

Russia put its first spacecraft "Sputnik" into outer space and turned around education in this country.

But if these were easier days, in some ways, they were also harrowing days, too, for this was the "McCarthy Era" which cast a pall over the land. Everyone who said or did anything which could be construed as liberal was considered a "Red". Communists were lurking in every corner. McCarthy's demise as a leader came with the McCarthy Army hearings when he was unmasked as the great demagogue.

1949-52 - Mrs. Lewis Kriger, President.

Thrift Shop was established with Hadassah. Americanization classes for new Americans were started. The project of Volunteer Services to Hospitals was active. There was interest in slum clearance and Portland Section worked on a survey of Portland. Many volunteers were active in resettlement of Displaced Persons who emigrated to Portland.

(1951) All Jewish Social Welfare Agencies were coordinated under one committee, the Jewish Family Services (combining United Hebrew Charities, Social Service Committee of Portland Section and Social Welfare Committee of Federation); a special United Nations meeting was held and members were recruiting for Civilian Defense (the only organization asked to do this); Freedom Campaign was held with the slogan "Speakup—Freedom Needs Exercise. " Other activitives were as follows: helped children in Morocco; supported School of Education at Hebrew University in Israel (NCJW was responsible for the entire teaching program of Hebrew University); served on National Civil Defense Committee, one of fourteen organizations; planned for training women to teach new Americans; gave scholarships to foreign students to study social services in universities in United States; approved Sarah Bernstein Scholarship Fund to award $25 to a needy student at both Portland and Deering High Schools to be given on a non-sectarian basis for nursing study.

1952-55 - Mrs. Simon Glaser, President.

A successful New England Regional Conference was held in Portland, March 1954. The first pilot project was established for a golden age club with the formation of the Friendship Group. Other organizations asked for guidance thereafter in setting up such clubs. The Section initiated a city wide event - a United Nations meeting and it was the most successful meeting of its kind ever held in Portland. Mrs. Kriger and Mrs. Glaser attended the conference of the International Council in London. Their report was exciting—telling about Jewish women all over the world engaged in activities similar to ours. Mrs. Kriger was appointed to the National Committee on Finance. New project: visiting shut-ins and invalids. Portland Section received membership achievement award from NCJW. It was accepted as a cooperating agency for the Portland Toy Lending Library and worked with Council of Social Agencies and Southern Maine Mental Health Association on many projects. A Garden Club was started.

1954 - It was voted to change the name of the "Scholarship Fund" to "Student Loan Funds" since all scholarships were awarded as loans. It was also voted to give an outright scholarship (establishing a new Scholarship Fund) — "to a high ranking Jewish senior girl from greater Portland, on the basis of need and merit, who is planning to attend a school of nursing, teaching or any allied profession." These developed into those for "higher education" as well.

1955-57 - Mrs. Lester Willis, President.

In 1956 the first Donor's Luncheon was started to raise money for scholarships and for our education project in Israel, helping to support the School of Education of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was voted to make scholarships awardable to boys as well as girls.

1957 - It was stipulated that a Scholarship winner could also receive a loan.

The SIXTIES "The Violent Years"

The '60s opened with high hopes. A brilliant new young President became the shining light and Camelot came to Washington. The Kennedy years - short though they were— brought a new style and a young image to the United States. The Cold War with Russia grew daily more frightening. The Berlin Wall shutting off East Germany from the West was built. President Kennedy confronted Russia on the installation of missiles during the Cuban Crisis in 1962 and the Russians withdrew.

Then the world stopped. President Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullet. It couldn't happen but it did. The world mourned, but the living go on living and President Lyndon Johnson launched his new society. Not since the days of F.D.R. had so much social legislation been passed. The War on Poverty was the beginning of a new era for the poor and the disinherited.

Our space program continued to expand (by July, 1969, we had placed a man on the moon). Despite the successes in outer space, this was a country tearing itself apart. Martin Luther King, the greatest proponent of civil rights through non-violent means was shot to death and shortly, thereafter, Robert Kennedy, brother of the late President, Senator from New York, and a candidate for U. S. President, was himself the victim of an assassin's bullet. The most agonizing issue of the day was the war in Vietnam, the most unpopular war this country ever fought. Riots in the streets; violence on college campuses. As the war enlarged, so did the battle against it on the home front. President Johnson withdrew from the race for reelection to the Presidency because of it. And Richard Nixon became President. The hippies who ushered in a new life style of love and peace also ushered in a new life style for the young - drugs and the drug problem. The Generation Gap grew wider with youngsters rejecting the affluence and materialism of their parents. Never-ending warfare in the Middle East created a new and idiological conflict between the U.S. and the Soviets.

The Equal Rights Amendment, the Women's Liberation Movement and protection of the environment were some of the burning issues of the day. Finally women were given equal status in employment.

1960-61 - Mrs. Maurice Drees (President)

1961-63 - Mrs. Gerald Waxman (President)

1963-64 - Mrs. Bertram Wolfson (President)

1964-65 - Mrs. Arthur Freundlich (President)

1965-67 - Mrs. B. James Cohen (President)

1967-68 - Mrs. Herbert Bennett (President)

1968-69 - Mrs. Howard Brenner (President)

During the Sixties, NCJW won the William J. Shroder Award (1960) - the highest honor for service in American Jewish life.

Portland Section celebrated its 40th Anniversary. 50 years of social action in Maine was also spotlighted and we joined in a program with YWCA which honored four women with citations - Mrs. Israel Bernstein, Mrs. Philip Chapman, Mrs. Margaret Payson and Miss Clara Soule. Citations were for their dedication to a Code of Personal Commitment which was offered as a guide for community action and good citizenship by the National Boards of YWCA and Council of Jewish Women. Activities during the Sixties were: concern and action for War on Poverty; initiated a city wide United Nations Program; lobbied for Federal Aid for Education; joined the establishment of WIGS - (Women in Community Service) -a national organization comprised of National Council of Jewish, Catholic and Negro Women and United Church Women. WICS started as the exclusive agency (by contract with the Federal Government) for recruiting, screening and enrolling girls between 16 and 20 for the Women's Job Corps. April 1965 - Portland Section, acting as convenor, formed Portland WICS - the first program in the War on Poverty established in Portland. WICS over the years became Ingraham Volunteers which maintains a Hot Line for adolescents to call. It also houses a few needy girls. A summer program was set up for disadvantaged pre-schoolers which became Portland's first Head Start Program. Portland Section chaired this program for 6 years.

The SEVENTIES "The Vietnam War Years"

Vietnam War raged on. U.S. soldiers were accused of massacre at My Lai. U.S. waged undeclared war in Laos. Protester was killed by the National Guard at a rally at Kent State.

Khaddafi seized control of Libya; Arabs and Israelis continued to clash as diplomats worked to end hostilities.

Poverty reached new high in U. S. Daniel Ellsberg stole confidential information. U.S. Supreme Court upheld busing to achieve racial balance. Watergate began (grew into the greatest constitutional crisis in U.S. history); U.S. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota received the Democratic nomination for presidency.

Dow Jones closed at 1003 - above the 1000 mark for the first time in history. Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein began to crack open the Watergate affair; F.B.I, agents established that the Watergate affair stemmed from political spying and sabotage on behalf of President Nixon's reelection - directed by White House officers and the Committee to re-elect the President.

1973 - "Cease Fire" in Vietnam. Bombing of Cambodia continued.

Yom Kippur War began in Middle East on Day of Atonement—ended 18 days later. Arabs initiate the energy oil crisis.

Vice President Agnew resigned and President Nixon named Gerald Ford as Vice President.

United States' median sales price for an existing single family house reached $28,900 - up from $20,000 in 1968 - by 1976, prices would be $38,000.

In Israel, Golda Meir steps down and Yitzhak Rabin is named as Premier.

"Streaking" was a fad in the U.S.

The Watergate affair accelerated and Nixon resigned. Gerald Ford became the 37th U.S. President. Nelson Rockefeller was Vice President. President Ford granted a pardon for Richard Nixon and granted a limited amnesty to Vietnam draft evaders and deserters.

In 1975, "The Godfather, Part II" named best picture of the Year and "A Chorus Line" named best musical by the N.Y. Drama Critics.

Andrew Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Prize for developing the Soviet's hydrogen bomb. 40 Islamic nations voted to expel Israel from the United Nations.

In 1976 - United States celebrated its Bicentennial. Saul Bellows was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Israeli Airborne Commandos rescued hostages held at Entebbe Airport by Pro-Palestinian hijackers. Women were admitted into the U.S. Air Force Academy for the first time. Blacks in South Africa battled over apartheid. Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States and Walter Mondale became Vice President. Kurt Waldheim (Austria) won a second term as Secretary General of the United Nations.

Russia arrested Human Rights activists including Alexander Ginzberg and Anatoly Scharansky. Communist Party Chief Leonid Brezhnev was elected President of the Soviet Union. U.S. unmanned space crafts began journeys to explore outer solar system. Egypt's President Sadat visited Israel. Violence in Nicaragua. Sandanista government campaigned to overthrow the government of Simoza. Diplomatic relations were established between United States and China (1978). Premier Manachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt agreed on a framework for mideast peace at Camp David summit talks arranged by President Carter. Begin and Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize. World population (1978) 4.4 billion with 200,000 added daily.

1969-71 - Linda Abromson, President

1971-73 - Barbara Epstein, President

1973-74 - Sylvia Cohen, President (again)

1974-76 - Diane Volk, President

1976-78 - Ronnie Levine, President

1978-80 - Joan Hirsch, President

Portland Section of NCJW celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1971. In 1972, twenty five years of work in Israel were celebrated. NCJW had developed the John Dewey School of Education at Hebrew University and had built Hebrew University High School. It also instituted an experimental project which provided advanced training for educators and social workers through Council Fellowship. Council Tours were first mentioned in 1972, offering a program of tours to Israel, Europe, Africa, Mexico and Oriental countries. The Section continued to send toys and educational materials to children through Ship-a-Box. Assistance to the Portland Public Library Book Mobile was started.

In 1974 the First Chanukah Exhibit at Maine Mall was started, and a candle lighting ceremony was held with different groups of children each night.

1975 - Tay Sacks Clinics were set up at the Jewish Community Center. The installation on June 3, 1975 honored Mrs. Israel Bernstein. Installing Officer: Rosalyne Bernstein, her daughter-in-law. Speaker: Helen Wasserman, her daughter. The Section is now sending New Year cards, birthday cards and remembrance cards. A program was held on breast cancer - Reach to Recovery. NCJW event was planned evoking discussions of changing roles of volunteers. A proclamation was signed by our Governor hailing NCJW for its volunteer and community efforts.

1976 - Responsibility was accepted for the first Russian family that stayed for 1 1/2 years and we are now ready to accept another. The Section and Friends of Portland Public Library co-sponsored a concert by Portland Community Orchestra. Portland Section supported the Fair Harbor Book project with YWCA. Portland Section published a booklet called "Shalom" describing the Portland Jewish Community for newcomers.

The EIGHTIES "The Dark Years"

President Carter was defeated; Ronald Reagan was elected; hostages came home from Iran on Inauguration Day. U.S. refused to enter Olympics in Moscow because of Russian invasion of Afghanistan. John Lennon was murdered; also Sadat, Egypt's President.

"Dallas" was the hottest T.V. show in town.

Unemployment became higher than ever. The deficit grew. Mubarak became President of Egypt; Warsaw installed military rule especially against Solidarity. Begin annexed the Golan Heights. AIDS becomes known; herpes was out of control. School prayer again became a public issue. Economic distress was deepening in U.S. War was going on between Israel and PLO in Lebanon. Great Britain went to war to retake the Falkland Islands from Argentina. Unemployment reached post-war high -also inflation.

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. Farmers suffered the worst drought in years. National debt hit a "trillion". "The Day After" - a depiction of the "after-math" of a nuclear strike on U.S. horrified everyone.

Gorbachev came to power in Russia. Olympics were great success in Los Angeles. Joan Benoit from Maine won a gold medal as a long-distance runner. Reagan defeated Mondale despite the first woman as a Democratic Vice Presidential candidate (Ferraro). U.S. men stationed as peace keeping force in Lebanon were withdrawn after violent attacks. Michael Jackson was undisputed King of "Pop" and Bill Cosby's T.V. Show became # 1.

Sandanistas in Nicaragua remained a problem. Pressure was on the U.S. to place economic sanctions against South Africa for their apartheid policy.

"Baby Doc" Duvalier was ousted from Haiti and Marcos was forced to leave the Philippines - both took billions of dollars from their country's treasuries. Challenger exploded in mid-air killing the crew which included the first teacher to go into space. Terrorist attacks were prevalent all over the world. U.S. bombed Libya to try to stop Khaddafi's attacks.

1980-81 - Elinor Multer, President.

1981-82 - Lois Kaplan, President.

1982-84 - Lisa Cohen, President.

A joint meeting was held with Hadassah. Also, there was a joint project with Temple Beth El for a Feminist Seder. Representatives were sent to the Joint Program Institute in Washington where they met with members of the Maine Delegation and discussed legislation of interest to Portland Section members. There was a good training session with helpful information on public issues - techniques for action. "Silver Foxes" was inaugurated with Jewish Community Center for a group of older women to be together. After many, many months of looking for a meaningful social project to activate and work for, the Puppet Show on Child Abuse in the schools was chosen and met with great success. A telethon was held for increasing membership. Brown bag luncheons brought speakers on social welfare and legislation to the members.

1984-86 - Gail Volk, President.

Shirley Joseph, former NCJW Vice President and a recent NCJW representative to the 1985 World Conference of the United Nations, "Decade for Women" - came as a guest speaker to tell us about the Conference and the subjects that were unique and pertinent to Jewish women in the United States. In 1984, Elinor Multer was made Treasurer of NCJW.

The first Shabbat Family Service was held.

The President of the Portland Section went to Israel for the Summit IV World Conference of the NCJW in November 1984. The Chair of this conference, Marilyn Flanzbaum, came to Portland to tell about her experiences there.

October-November 1984 - The Puppets Program was launched - called Puppets for Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse.

Fund Raisers started this year were: "Shop Filene's" Project - evaluations produced significant money from Filene's; and flowers for Rosh Hashonah and Passover. At the 36th National Convention of NCJW, Portland Section received a National Public Relations Award for the Puppets project.

The Section received a report from the ad hoc committee to study and evaluate the scholarship program: 1) 2/3 of the receipts of the annual Scholarship Luncheon are to be allocated to the Scholarship Fund (rather than all of it) and 1/3 to be available to the Portland Section to support programs of education and service in the United States and Israel: This is to be re-evaluated at the end of 2 years. (In 1986, the Scholarship Luncheon raised more money to compensate for this change). 2) Continue to sell baggies (packaged remembrance cards) - $15 for ten cards - for Scholarship. 3) Reinstate the policy of publishing names, in the Bulletin, of contributors who call us for remembrance cards - $2.00 each.

“”Call the Police”” Banner fund raising project was started. There was active interest in Women7s Issues and Civil Rights. Personnel cards were sent out for members to sign and give information about their talents and areas of choice for work. Interest in Israeli problems was high. We supported NCJW Research Institute and its Ethopian Absorption Project. Members shared interest in the Women7s Legislative Action Committee to promote women7s and children7s issues. It worked with NOW, Maine Civil Liberties Union and Maine Women7s Lobby. Life memberships increased. At the installation meeting, May 1986, fifty year members received special recognition awards and this met with great enthusiasm.

Sale of advertisments for the Bulletin was started.

Four members went to the Joint Program Institute. This was the maximum number ever sent. Three attended the National Conference in Kansas and four went to the District Convention in Providence. Awards were won by the Portland Section at these conventions for our Public Relations activities, for Membership, Bulletin and Quota. All of these meetings increased the interest and enthusiasm of the members of the Portland Section in its own activities as well as in those of national concerns.

May, 1986, Susan Osborne was installed as President.



Mrs. Maurice Markson,* President

Mrs. Percy Albling,*

Secretary Mrs. Jacob Sapiro,* Treasurer

Mrs. Mark Levine*

Mrs. Joseph Bernstein*

Mrs. John L. Davis*

Mrs. Samuel J. Sacknoff*

Mrs. William Goodman*

Mrs. Elias Caplan*

Mrs. Louis Matson*

Mrs. Morris Oransky

Mrs. Alfred Herman*

Mrs. Jacob Schiebe*

Mrs. Jacob Rosenberg*

Mrs. J. Abrahamson*

Mrs. George Wolf*

Miss Ida Coffin*

Mrs. Bernard Kamber*

Mrs. Abraham J. Bernstein*

Mrs. Samuel Seiger*


Mrs. Maurice Markson* (Millie) - 1921-22

Mrs. Jacob Sapiro* (Anna) - 1922-25

Mrs. Israel Bernstein* (Peggy) - 1925-27 and 1932-33

Mrs. Samuel Sacknoff* (Anna) - 1927-29 and 1933-36

Mrs. Benjamin Press* (Molly) - 1929-31

Mrs. Louis Matson* (Annie) - 1931-32

Mrs. Jessie Rosenberg* (Ruth) - 1936-37

Mrs. Richard Wilkes* (Rose) - 1937-38

Mrs. Benjamin Zolov (Edith) - 1938-39

Mrs. Lewis Bernstein (Hazel) - 1939-42

Mrs. Casper Sutton (Alice) - 1942-45

Mrs. Boris Blumenthal (Edith) - 1945-46 and 1947-48

Mrs. Louis Black (Selma) - 1946-47

Mrs. Lewis Kriger (Gertrude) - 1948-51

Mrs. Simon Glaser* (Lillian) - 1951-55

Mrs. Lester Willis (Rita) - 1955-57

Mrs. Martin Clenott (Esther) - 1957-59

Mrs. Sumner Bernstein (Roz) - 1959-60

Mrs. Maurice Drees (Mildred) - 1960-61

Mrs. Gerald Waxman (Bebe) - 1961-63

Mrs. Bertram Wolfson (Ruth) - 1963-64

Mrs. Arthur Freundlich (Eleanor) - 1964-65

Mrs. B. James Cohen (Sylvia) - 1965-67 and 1973-74

Mrs. Herbert Bennett (Elaine) - 1967-68

Mrs. Howard Brenner (Natalie) -1968-69

Linda Abromson (Mrs. I. Joel) - 1969-71

Barbara Epstein (Mrs. Burton) - 1971-73

Diane Volk (Mrs. Kenneth) - 1974-76

Ronnie Levine (Mrs. Ira) - 1976-78

Joan Hirsch (Mrs. Paul) - 1978-80

Mrs. Ellie Multer - 1980-81

Lois Kaplan (Mrs. Bradley) - 1981-82

Lisa Cohen (Mrs. Davis) - 1982-84

Gail Volk (Mrs. Douglas) - 1984-86


Mrs. Israel Bernstein (Peggy)


*Mrs. Samuel Sacknoff (Anna)

*Mrs. Jacob Sapiro (Anna)

*Mrs. Louis Matson (Annie)

Mrs. Lester Willis (Rita)

Mrs. Louis Black (Selma)


Lisa Cohen 1) National Affairs and Community Service (NAGS) 2) Government Relations Committee (GRC) - Also elected State Chairman for Public Affairs Lois Kaplan Community Services Commission (CSC) Gail Volk 1) Committee on Israel Affairs 2) Jewish Life Priority (JLP) Elinor Multer Committee on 1) By-Laws, Politics & Procedures (BYL) 2) Field Service (FS) 3) Financial Development Committee (FDC) 4) National Affairs & Community Service (NAGS) 5) Finance (FIN) - (Had been National's Treasurer since 1984) . * Deceased

Last Updated : October 11, 2009