NCJW Pittsburgh’s new leader has full slate already

NCJW Pittsburgh’s new leader has full slate already

Cristina Ruggiero, new NCJW Pittsburgh executive director 

Photo courtesy of NCJW Pittsburgh
Cristina Ruggiero, new NCJW Pittsburgh executive director Photo courtesy of NCJW Pittsburgh

Cristina Ruggiero is now leading the National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh Section. Since June 19, the Squirrel Hill resident and former University of Pittsburgh administrator has overseen the 125-year-old service organization’s local branch.

Taking the helm of NCJW allows Ruggiero to “marry” two of her principal interests: leadership and advocacy.

Prior to NCJW, Ruggiero was associate dean of the College of General Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. In that position, with its various requirements, including overseeing a staff of 20 people, managing a nearly $3 million budget and an endowment, Ruggiero gained the leaderships skills needed to administer NCJW, she said.

During that period, as well as now, Ruggiero engaged in various volunteer activities, including with the United Way, as a Bridges Society steering committee member and a Women’s Leadership Council member, a mentor and fundraising volunteer for Strong Women, Strong Girls and as vice president of the engagement and fundraising committee for La Escuelita Arcoiris (a Spanish-immersion early childhood program housed in Congregation Beth Shalom).

With no desire to give up any of these socially minded activities, Ruggiero said, “Now my life will be 100 percent immersed in the community.”

Included within that focus are two upcoming events of particular interest, she said.

On Sunday, July 23, from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. at the Kingsley Association, NCJW will host its Back 2 School Store. The program is a self-described “mechanism for helping underprivileged children begin the school year on an equal footing with their peers.” Specifically, the one-day event will provide children with school supplies and parents the chance to meet with local agencies and social service organizations to receive information on topics ranging from health care to finances and professional development.

Secondly, Ruggiero called attention to an event on Monday, Aug. 14, from noon to 7 p.m. at Green Oaks Country Club, in which the Center for Women, in partnership with the Jewish Women’s Foundation, will host A Day at Camp with NCJW. The program is a self-described “fun-filled, coed day of golf, tennis, swimming, pickleball, dinner and more to benefit the Center for Women.”

“Those are two big things going on, and [I’m] just getting my computer setup,” said Ruggiero with a smile as Day 4 at her new position was underway.

Looking forward, Ruggiero said that she is interested in bettering the people and area around her.

Whether it is partnering with the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network for Justice (JOIN for Justice), a Massachusetts-based organization committed to “training, supporting, and connecting Jewish organizers and their communities” on local “grassroots advocacy” initiatives, or working to implement the Lethality Assessment Program Maryland Model, a self-described “two-pronged intervention process that features a research-based lethality screening tool and an accompanying protocol referral” for first-responders to reduce incidents of domestic violence, Ruggiero is excited about the tasks ahead.

These initiatives, and future NCJW activities, will address “the needs in the community and how can we make this a better place and a more just society,” she said.

Such concern is in line with what NCJW seeks to achieve, explained its lay leadership.

“As a grassroots organization with powerful advocacy and community service agendas, we take on challenges to stand up for what is right and working toward creating a better community,” said Laurie Gottlieb, president of the board of directors, in a prepared statement.
“Cristina will execute our vision, demonstrate our values and inspire others to engage with our mission.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at

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