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The NCCJ was founded in 1927 as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, in response to anti-Catholic sentiment being expressed during Al Smith's run for the Democratic nomination. Its founders included prominent social activists such as Jane Addams and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes who dedicated the organization to bringing diverse people together to address interfaith divisions. Several years later, the NCCJ expanded its work to include all issues of social justice including race, class, gender equity, sexual orientation and the rights of people with different abilities.
In the 1990s, the name was changed to the National Conference for Community and Justice to better reflect the breadth and depth of its mission, the growing diversity of the country and the need to be more inclusive.
Their Vision for America is to "make our nation a better place for all of us, not just some of us."
In 1927, The New York Times announced the founding of the National Conference of Christians and Jews by community leaders from different faiths including Jane Addams, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, and Benjamin N. Cardozo. The founders were committed to bringing diverse people together to address interfaith divisions, race relations, and social and economic barriers among people of different faiths, cultures, and ethnicities.
The Tolerance Trio, consisting of a Minister, a Rabbi, and a Priest, traveled across America in 1933, calling all people to embrace intergroup understanding. The Trio covered over 9,000 miles, visiting 129 audiences around the country. One year later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the precursor of Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week, held annually during the third week in February, as its first Honorary Chairman. During the second World War, the NCCJ religious trio provided spiritual guidance to the armed forces, reaching over eight million enlistees.
In the 1950s, the NCCJ began its award-winning residential youth leadership institutes, including their Anytown program, all of which are still offered across America. In addition to Anytown, programs such as the Brotherhood/Sisterhood Camp, Mini-Town, MetroTown, It's Your Move, Unitown, Building Bridges, Camp Odyssey, and Knowledge and Social Responsibility were formed during this time, helping to spread the NCCJ's message across the country.
President John F. Kennedy commended the NCCJ in 1961 for doing more than "perhaps any other factor in our national life to provide for harmonious living among our different religious groups." In 1977, the NCCJ led a nationwide series of institutes on the Holocaust, leading to an Act of Congress establishing the National Holocaust Remembrance Week. Nearly a decade later, the organization established the precursor to today's Seminarians Interacting initiative. In 1994, the NCCJ issued a groundbreaking nationwide survey of attitudes on intergroup relations called Taking America's Pulse.
One year later, the NCCJ started a series of nationally telecast National Conversations on Race, Ethnicity, and Culture at the Library of Congress. Partnering with Aetna, Inc., these Conversations were created to enlighten people about the various cultures that exist within society, to encourage and broaden dialogue among people who have limited interaction with those of different backgrounds, and to create more welcoming environments in the workplace and society at large.
At the White House's request, the organization convened faith leaders and began a long-term racial reconciliation in 1998. Two years later, the NCCJ issued its second nationwide survey of attitudes on intergroup relations, Taking America's Pulse II. Today, the NCCJ's mission, as it has been in the past, is to eliminate all forms of prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. The organization's programming, research, and public policy efforts are directed at transforming our communities to make them more inclusive and just for all.
Since its founding in 1927, the NCCJ has operated within a national unitary model of regional chapters in as many as 60 cities in 22 states. In 2005, the NCCJ moved from a unitary structure of governance to independent, autonomous regions to better respond to the dynamic environment of change faced by most non-profits today.
NCCJ has effective networking skills which have enable them to secure partnerships with several corporations to help further its initiatives. Partners have included Aetna, ING, the MetLife Foundation, Prudential, Federal Express, and Darden Restaurants.
Through its adult and youth programming, the NCCJ works with students, teachers, clergy, corporate, and civic leaders to facilitate workshops, develop curriculum, convene race relations and inter-religious dialogues, and provide consulting on challenges related to bias, bigotry, and racism.
Anytown is the NCCJ's premiere youth program, and has existed for over 50 years in America. Many similar programs (in name and content) emerged across the country, including Metrotown and Unitown. Anytown is designed to educate, liberate, and empower youth participants (ages 14–18) to become effective, responsible leaders and community builders in a global society. Anytown brings together a diverse group of students and counselors to learn to identify the many "isms" in our society, including racism, sexism, antisemitism, heterosexism, classism, cissexism, and ableism. Students examine in-depth prejudice and its byproduct discrimination, enhance their communication skills, and prepare to take their knowledge and skills into their schools and communities to make them more just and inclusive for all.
Walk as One, a community walk-a-thon held in the fall, is currently NCCJ's biggest public event. Each walk-a-thon is held in a major urban area, and serves to spotlight NCCJ's efforts in each community in which it serves. Preceding, during, and following the walk-a-thon itself is a one to two hour open air gathering which involves area vendors, music performances, side entertainment and non-profits.
NCCJ once sponsored a week-long National Brotherhood Week, held generally during the third week of February from the 1940s through the 1980s. Tom Lehrer satirized the idea in his song of the same name, recorded on That Was the Year That Was.