The year was 1948. Hitler's Third Reich was gone. Israel had been born and a small group of American Jews set out to build a new research university named BRANDEIS in Waltham, Mass.
Though the Holocaust had ended, racial bias clung to many American institutions of higher education. Harvard and other Ivy League schools still employed quotas on Jewish admissions.
So Brandeis University – named after United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis Brandeis, lawyer, the first Jew to sit on the high court - was to be better, fairer. It was to be Jewish sponsored, but open to Jew and Non-Jew alike. The curriculum was unique and personal, and its academic standards were to be modeled after the best American and European universities.
Brandeis University opened with just 13 faculty members, 107 students, three buildings and 100 volumes in a converted stable that served as a library. The handful of men of vision who pioneered the efforts were supported by eight women who undertook the responsibility of developing the library, the heart of every university.
The unique idea of involving women in a study program using syllabi written by Brandeis professors was the genesis of the Women's Committee. This idea spread, enthusiastically embraced by relatives and friends in other cities. When Brandeis graduated its first class, the idea of a women's committee arrived in the San Fernando Valley.
Our chapter was chartered in 1952. At that time our annual dues was $5 and $100 for Life Membership. By 1960, our chapter grew to 225 members including 31 Life Members. The new library had just opened and unique ways of filling the shelves were being developed. "New Books for Old" was the theme of our "Tree of Knowledge" luncheon held at the Sportsman's Lodge in 1960. Admission was $300 and a book for the library.
That same year there was a Book Fund appeal to members to "immortalize your loved ones' names" on book plates. In those days, however, a $5 donation put a book on the shelf. Also advertised in the bulletin was an offer to enjoy a most rewarding experience by joining "Our Study Groups".
By 1983 our chapter was already involved in Book Sales held at Woodland Hills Promenade. Twenty-five study groups were stabled in such fields as literature, world affairs, bridge, general semantics, Women's Issues, and one called Menopause and Beyond.
We were constantly increasing our study and special interest groups and we heard a succession of well-known speakers, including Jess Marlow and Gloria Allred, to name a few. We developed an exciting travel program and raised enormous funds for the Brandeis Libraries. In 1990 the San Fernando Valley Chapter coined the phrase "Words, Wit and Wisdom" for our authors and celebrities event. In 1994, another first – a fundraising event, featuring authors of children's books. Both are still going strong today.
Ruth Gray, one of our earlier presidents in 1960, saved news articles about our chapter from publications and bulletins. In 1990 after her passing, her husband Bob sent us many of these articles. Every year until his death, he donated $1000 in her memory. These funds were used to purchase special book collections.
A name that became synonymous with Brandeis was Cyrene Wiener. She was revered by our chapter, the region, and on the national level. Her love was Women's Committee and the University. She was an inspiration to us all. Cyrene was president of our chapter, president of the Western Region and served in many capacities on the National Board, as well as a President's Councilor and an Honorary National Board member.
We have formed enduring friendships through our involvement in BUNWC - Branceis University National Women's Committee (now BNC - Brandeis National Committee). We are constantly working hard to provide the needed financial support for the Brandeis University Libraries and always looking for creative and innovative ways of accomplishing this task. Our study and special interest program is known throughout the country for quantity, diversity and quality.
Our chapter has won many awards, including the Louis Award for reaching membership and financial goals. Others include community service, and special fund raising. We have been Chapter of the Year three times. We have accomplished this because of our excellent leadership, active membership, and over all camaraderie. Each of us brings a unique and important contribution to the group. We look forward to many more years of working and enjoying together the rewards achieved by the San Fernando Valley Chapter.
Muriel Eiduson, Historian
|San Fernando Valley Chapter
Chartered in 1952
"Our Guiding Lights"
|1952-59||Mrs. Joseph Walters|
|2010-12||Harriet Glass Ulmer|
|2014-15||Dee November - Chair Executive Council;
Council: Robin Pelter, Linda Dressler,
Sandy Morgan, Sue Rosenfield
|2015 -||Claire Rabishaw|
©2019, San Fernando Valley Chapter, Brandeis National Committee. All rights reserved.