In the less than two years since she grabbed the reins of the National Council of Jewish Women, Nancy Kaufman, 61, has injected energy and purpose into the venerable organization. Her native Boston accent is still strong, but Kaufman is now playing on the national stage, using her network of 90,000 members and supporters to advocate for the progressive causes that have long animated her career.
Before joining NCJW, Kaufman had worked in state government and then ran the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston for two decades, deftly cultivating relationships with other community groups and weaving concerns about social justice into Jewish activism. She’s now applying that approach to NCJW — by partnering, for instance, with Catholics for Choice to push for reproductive rights in the framework of religious liberty. NCJW also mounted a nationwide voter education campaign through many of its 88 chapters, with the aim of encouraging women to “promote the vote, protect the vote.”
Kaufman is now positioning NCJW to become a major platform for training women leaders and championing gender equality in the American Jewish community and in Israel. NCJW was founded in 1893 by Hannah G. Solomon, who famously complained that women volunteers were given nothing to do of substance at the Chicago World’s Fair and decided to do something about it. Kaufman is continuing in Solomon’s feisty tradition, making sure her voice is heard — with a strong chorus behind it.