Chicago social activist Hannah Greenebaum Solomon (1858-1942) was asked to coordinate the participation of Jewish women in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. When Solomon and her recruits discovered that “participation” meant pouring coffee and performing hostess duties, they declined. Solomon took matters into her own hands and organized a Jewish Women’s Congress under the auspices of the World’s Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the Chicago World’s Fair. At its conclusion, delegates founded the National Council of Jewish Women and elected Solomon their first president, changing forever the role of Jewish women and the nature of volunteerism.
Twenty-one women organized the Portland Council of Jewish Women in October, 1920. Within a year, membership totaled 150. Mildred S. Markson (1889-1966) was our first president.
Our Section’s Timeline
Immigrant services included providing kosher food for immigrants at House Island, outfitting them and sending them to their final destinations. Voter registration; support of local Hebrew School; interest-free loan fund (first Scholarship fund) established; outings for the blind (became Beacon Club); Americanization classes; started Judaism section in the Public Library.
Endorsed legislation for birth control, unemployment relief, and old age pensions; started Big Sister and Big Brother programs; Jewish Refugee Fund to aid those fleeing the Nazis; Bulletin started. Set up Clothes Center and Thrift Shop; Jewish Book Week at Public Library; Scholarship Fund for vocational training. Protest against British White Paper restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Sewing at Maine Medical Center; Americanization Bureau opened; raised money for German-Jewish Refugee Children in the U.S.; Food Stamp Plan for Jewish needy in Portland; helped in the war effort by fund-raising, helping displaced persons find relatives. Aided returning veterans in post-war adjustment; Ship-a-Box of educational materials to Jewish children overseas; supported Fair Employment Practices Act in Augusta, member of the Interfaith Committee of Greater Portland; Social Welfare Committee active (later Jewish Family Services). Supported establishment of Israel; joined Women’s Legislative Council of Maine.
Thrift shop with Hadassah; Americanization classes; volunteer services at hospitals; civil defense and freedom campaign. Supported Hebrew University in Israel. Scholarships continued; pilot Friendship Group for elderly; United Nations conference; visiting shut-ins; worked with mental health organization. Garden club formed. First Donor’s luncheon to raise scholarship funds.
Initiated city-wide U.N. Program; lobbied for federal aid for education; introduced first War on Poverty program in Portland — Women in Community Service (WICS, later Ingraham Volunteers, later Opportunity Alliance) to enroll girls in Women’s Job Corps. Established summer program for disadvantaged pre-schoolers which became Portland’s first Head Start program.
Assistance to Portland Public Library Book Mobile; Ship-a-Box continued; Council tours; first Hanukkah Exhibit and candle-lighting at the Maine Mall; Tay Sachs Clinics at the Jewish Community Center; breast cancer program; section honored by Governor’s proclamation; sponsored Russian refugee families; support of Fair Harbor Book project with YWCA; published Shalom, booklet describing Portland Jewish Community for newcomers; co-sponsored concert by Portland Community Orchestra.
Joined with Temple Beth El for feminist seder; lobbied Maine legislators in Washington, D.C.; Silver Foxes inaugurated for older women; began school program, Puppets for Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse (received award at the 36th National NCJW convention); shabbat family service; Flowers for Rosh Hashanah and Passover and “Call the Police” banner fund-raisers. Active interest in women’s issues, civil rights, Israel. Worked with NOW, Maine Civil Liberties Union and Maine Women’s Lobby.