Just Two Hours Can Make a Difference

A new lipstick, a fresh journal and a lovely scented lotion – these may be items that you treat yourself to regularly, but for women in economic need, these are luxuries that may be out of reach.  Volunteers at our most recent Mitzvah-in-a-Minute event decided to change that story. With the help of some generous donations, NCJW/Essex volunteers created dozens of “Take Time for You” gift bags filled with cosmetics, hair care products and other little luxuries that were presented to NCJW/Essex Center for Women clients throughout the month of May.

The gift bags are just one example of the way NCJW/Essex touches the lives of local women, children and families in economic need. The Mitzvah-in-a-Minute program is a series of community service projects planned throughout the year that can all be done in under two hours. 

One of our newer projects is creating “Period Ready Kits” in partnership with the NCJW/Essex Period.Project.  Volunteers fill cosmetic bags with sanitary pads, travel deodorant and lip balm. The bags are given to school nurses for distribution to middle school girls in need.

A favorite morning for many volunteers is chopping and slicing vegetables for freezer-ready meals as part of Mitzvah-in-a-Minute “Fill-the-Freezer.” Center for Women clients are so grateful to receive trays of homemade lasagna, burritos, soups and other hearty dishes that they can serve to their families.

Involving your children in community service is easy with Family Mitzvah-in-a-Minute events.  At these fun, child-centered events, children hear from local agencies about why their time and service are important and how the packages they are assembling help the community.

If you have two hours, you can make a difference! To learn more about volunteering, organizing or hosting a Mitzvah-in-a-Minute, please contact Dina Stambler, Director of Volunteer Outreach and Membership at dstambler@ncjwessex.org.

Caitlin Higgins Joy Appointed Executive Director at
National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section

The Board of Trustees of the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex Country Section (NCJW/Essex) is pleased to announce the appointment of Caitlin Higgins Joy as Executive Director, following the retirement of Cathy Silverman.

Higgins Joy’s most recent position was as President and CEO of RCS in Clearwater, Florida. RCS is a secular non-profit organization whose mission is to feed the hungry, help families facing homelessness return to self-sufficiency, and empower survivors of domestic violence.

At RCS, Higgins Joy utilized extensive non-profit management skills working with a complex board of directors, staff, volunteers, community partners, grantors, and service recipients. She developed strategic plans, oversaw aggressive and successful capital and fund development campaigns, provided strategic communications and was involved in extensive community engagement and outreach.

Higgins Joy received a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Holyoke College and a Masters of Public Administration, Nonprofit Management Emphasis from University of Alaska, Anchorage.             “What I love most about NCJW/Essex is its longevity, passionate members and commitment to empowering women, children and families,” commented Higgins Joy. “It’s more than a faith in the future, it’s a belief that we can and will take action to build a better future for everyone.”

Beating Back Food Insecurity

If the dinnertime discussion in your household is what you should have for dinner or where you should order it from, it might be hard to imagine that in New Jersey, 1 in 10 persons and 1 in 7 children live in households where there is no regular access to enough food to live healthy and active lives. Often people are forced to choose between paying rent and buying food, leaving little or no money to buy nutritious food to feed their families.

To combat what has become known as “food insecurity,” NCJW/Essex is trying to do its part to help. Career Services Manager Patty Kremen started an informal “food bank” known as Patty’s Pantry where she discreetly offers clients at the NCJW/Essex Center for Women food and gift cards to help them feed their families for several weeks at a time. Any food that is collected that Patty’s Pantry cannot use due to space restrictions is donated to Christine’s Kitchen, a food pantry in West Orange.

A dedicated team of amazing volunteers has been active as well! In March a kick-off Pack the Pantry committee meeting was well-attended. Participants were asked to be responsible for a two-week collection period during which they would solicit direct food donations as well as supermarket gift cards in $5 and $10 denominations. Many of the women chose to honor their birthday weeks to do the collection. During the meeting we brainstormed and came up with some terrific ideas as to how to get the word out about the needs of our Center for Women clients. This year we hope to hold a “mitzvah” event as well as to develop a process where we can solicit stores (other than supermarkets) that sell food.

The Pack the Pantry committee needs your help! In addition to direct donations that can be brought to the office during regular meetings or NCJW/Essex office hours, we are looking for ambassadors to help us at outside NCJW/Essex sponsored events. If you would like to learn more about how you can help or if you would like to join our committee, please email Dina Stambler, Director of Membership and Volunteer Outreach. We greatly appreciate your support—no matter how big or small.

Anti-Semitism Calls on Us to Act NOW!

Anti Semitism image

We at NCJW/Essex are outraged and heartbroken that we marked the six-month anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which 11 people lost their lives, with yet another shooting — this time at Chabad of Poway, California.

While it should be that horrific acts of hatred like these are unimaginable, unfortunately we can imagine them all too well. Hate crimes have surged at an alarming rate. Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. alone rose 60% in 2017. Those who lost their lives were simply worshipping, celebrating mitzvahs, standing with family.

As we have seen in Pittsburgh, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, hatred and access to guns leads to tragedy.

We cannot stand idly by and merely mourn. Our anger leads us to act now.

Please urge Congress to support the immediate passage of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (S. 2148/H.R.4918) to address the growing threat of white supremacist groups and other violent domestic extremists.

And ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on the Enhanced Background Checks Act (S.42), already passed by the House.

Let us make the unimaginable truly unimaginable once again.

Senator Cory Booker: www.booker.senate.gov
Senator Robert Menendez: www.menendez.senate.gov
Senator Mitch McConnell: www.mcconnell.senate.gov
Congressional Representatives: www.house.gov