Joyce Bridge was elected president of the National Council of Jewish Women, Louisville Section, in May, and is now looking forward to her two years in office and helping implement change in the organization.
NCJW is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who help provide funds and volunteers to improve the lives of women, children and families, as well as lobby to protect individual rights and freedoms.
Bridge, who is not Jewish, joined NCJW when she moved to Louisville 10 years ago. In the early 1980s, she had run a social service agency in New Jersey that helped victims of domestic violence. While there, she said, NCJW helped her and the agency a great deal.
When she came to Louisville because of her husband’s job, she said, “when you have no children coming with you and no schools to visit, you end up looking for other ways to meet people and form friendships.”
Since she already knew a lot about the organization, she decided to join NCJW, along with other service organizations where she gave her money and time, including Gilda’s Club and the Speed Art Museum, where she is a docent.
“It’s always good to think that somehow you helped somebody in the course of your life,” Bridge said. “You’ve made a difference. And it’s really what it’s all about. To me it doesn’t matter what religion you are or what color you are. If you’ve done that, then you’ve accomplished something.”
Two years ago, she was nominated as vice president of the organization. She reminded the nominating committee that she wasn’t Jewish, but they told her it didn’t matter. After her two years in that role, she was asked to be president. “I turned it down twice,” she said.
She wasn’t sure if she and her husband were going to move back to New Jersey, but after they talked, they agreed to stay through her term as president. She accepted the position with the caveat that she not have to give up her other volunteer work.
Bridge said the Nearly New Shop has always been NCJW’s major source of fundraising, but due to an increase in competing thrift shops over the years, it’s not making the money it used to. So the Louisville Section has had to find new ways to raise funds.
Bridge’s challenge as president is to forge new alliances to find new ways to help people in need. One initiative is working with jails to give unsold clothing from Nearly New to those recently released from jail who have nothing to wear. NCJW supports social service agencies, including ElderServe, Maryhurst, Jewish Family and Career Services, and many more.
Engaging volunteers is a constant challenge. Bridge said most volunteers in the community are older women, and NCJW would like to find ways to entice younger women so that the organization can be passed down to the next generation and it will be left in good hands.
“My goal is to move this into a way that younger people can start taking this over because we all aren’t getting any younger,” she said with a laugh. “That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I hope to do.”
Bridge has helped the organization host meetings with speakers, such as Jefferson County School Superintendent Donna Hargens, entrepreneur and motivational speaker Barbara Sexton Smith, Pediatric Forensic Pathologist Melissa Curry and many others. The meetings have gotten attendance up to about 60 people.
Her 10 years in Louisville have been great, and she really loves living here, she said.
About NCJW, she added: “It’s a great group of women making a difference in the lives of other people.”
For more information on NCJW, Louisville Section, visit ncjwlou.org.