December 2023

December Snapshot at NCJW/Essex

Wrapping Up 2023

It was another busy December at NCJW/Essex.  We connected.  We volunteered. We advocated.  And, we ended 2023 getting things done. 

Read more about our day at the United Nations, our first indoor pickleball event and our annual Holiday Toy Drive and Gift Wrap.  

Bearing Witness at the United Nations

NCJW/Essex joined advocates and witnesses and others from NCJW at the United Nations on Dec. 4 for “Hear our Voices: Sexual and gender-based violence in the October 7 Hamas terror attack.”

The gathering gave voice to the silenced, especially the women who were raped and murdered during the attack. Speakers including NCJW CEO Sheila Katz, elected officials, first responders who witnessed the aftermath of the attacks, and others implored the international community, which has largely been silent, to speak up against the horrors and atrocities.

NCJW/Essex members and other advocates with NCJW CEO Sheila Katz

Peace, Love and Pickleball

The courts at Center Court in Chatham were filled with NCJW/Essex members and friends on December 12 for our first indoor pickleball event.  Players – from beginners to experts – enjoyed lunch together before hitting the courts for an exciting round-robin session.  Congratulations to our prize winners: Corrine Siegel, Melissa Trachtman, Jodi Chisarick, and Elisa Madorsky.

That's a Wrap on 2023 Mitzvahs-in-a-Minute

On Friday, Dec. 15, close to 40 volunteers came together to wrap more than 300 gifts headed to the children at Focus Hispanic Center for Community Development in Newark and to the children of our Center for Women clients. 

This annual event is a wonderful way to cap off a year of exciting and meaningful Mitzvahs-in-a-Minute. We hope to see everyone at upcoming 2024 MIMs.

Kudos to co-chairs Dorie Eisenstein and Rachel Fink, Mitzvah-in-a-Minute Coordinator Penina Barr and VP, Volunteer Outreach Cindy Charney for all their work to make it happen.

Community Lunch & Act: The Act of Coming Together

The Act of Coming Together

Hands on hearts, and connected in a circle that filled the room, our Community Lunch & Act concluded the way it began: feeling the comfort and support that comes with being together as we stand in solidarity with Israel and against antisemitism.

It has been nearly two months since the vicious terrorist attack in Israel. In its aftermath, the war, the wait for more hostages to be released, and the frightening rise in antisemitism have filled our thoughts and our conversations.  Our Jewish community feels more important to us, and in fact, is more critical than ever.  As the Talmud teaches:  all of Israel is responsible for one another.

That’s why on November 29 we came together to act, doing what NCJW/Essex does best which is getting things done. Our Advocacy team, together with the REDI (Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Committee Chairs created an afternoon focused on action and reminding us of our mission.

We were joined by leaders from Hillel of Greater MetroWest, who shared the work they are doing on six college campuses in our area.  Hillel Director Rebekah Adelson talked about meeting with college presidents to help them understand and address the changing needs of Jewish students on campus.  She also reminded us that there is still joy to be found among these young people – a joy that will be uplifted with the delivery of the special Hanukkah gift bags, filled with sweets, holiday decorations and personal notes, the group assembled.

Like at many Shabbat dinners since October, none of our tables were completely full, each with an open seat, representing a hostage still held in captivity.  The message “bring them home” featured prominently in the hundreds of postcards written that afternoon addressed to elected officials along with our thanks for what has already been done.  

NCJW/Essex members who attended the March for Israel rally in Washington, DC earlier this month relayed their experiences, highlighted with a powerful video (below/audio begins about 35 seconds in).  The transformative experience of being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people and listening to passionate remarks about Israel and what it means to be a Jew both inspires and motivates.

It felt good to be together and to do something.  One of the attendees sent this thank you note: “Today’s NCJW/Essex event was amazing! I was so inspired and moved. It was wonderful to be with such an amazing group of women and accomplish what we did. Ah, if only women ran the world!!!”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway was that in such a time of darkness and uncertainty, it is okay – in fact, it is necessary – to laugh and to find joy and light and love.  NCJW/Essex strives always to bring more light to the world as we do what we do best: help the most vulnerable members of our community by improving the lives of women, children, and families and safeguarding individual rights and freedoms. 

Thanks to VP of Advocacy Laurie Kahn, Lunch & Learn Chair Meryl Goodman, REDI Co-Chairs Debra Goldsmith, Paula Green and Myrna Wertheimer, Executive Vice President Andrea Mintz and Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement Stephanie Abrahams for making our first Community Lunch & Act so meaningful and memorable.