Important Message from NCJW/Essex

NCJW/Essex Postpones All Events Until May 15

NCJW/Essex is continuing to closely monitor the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 

In accordance with these guidelines, we have decided that the best thing we can do to help stop the spread of this disease is to close the office and postpone all of our events and in-person meetings through May 15.

Unfortunately, the Card Party on May 4 will not take place as scheduled, and we will share details about a new date as soon as we have more information.

Details concerning other events that were scheduled during this time period will be posted on the website, and we will send another email update in April as more information becomes available. In the meantime, please email if you have any questions or concerns.

We would like to again invite you to continue NCJW/Essex’s important work by using conference services like Free Conference Call (good for multiple callers), or video chat using SkypeZoom or other video services.

Please note, staff will be working remotely and will be available by email. For general questions, please email

Thank you again for all of your support and understanding as together we adjust to what is hopefully a temporary “new normal.” 

We are grateful now, as always, for the commitment, strength, and compassion of our NCJW/Essex community.

Lesley Greenstein, President
Caitlin Higgins Joy, Executive Director

Important Update about Coronavirus from NCJW/Essex

Office Closed Monday, March 16, to Friday, March 27

The health and well-being of NCJW/Essex members is always our biggest priority. To ensure we are doing our part to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), especially as we consider the risks to those of us in our community who may be more susceptible to this disease, we have made the difficult decision to close the NCJW/Essex offices.

The office will be closed for two weeks, effective Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27. During that time, we will be closely monitoring the situation to determine if extending this timeline is necessary. 

While the physical NCJW/Essex office is closed, the important work of NCJW/Essex will continue. You can participate in NCJW/Essex business by using conference services like Free Conference Call (good for multiple callers), or video chat using SkypeZoom or other video services. 

Staff will be working remotely and will be available by email. For general questions, please email

We appreciate all of your support and understanding as we face this challenge together, even while apart. 

We are grateful now, as always, for the commitment, strength, and compassion of our NCJW/Essex community.

Lesley Greenstein, President

Caitlin Higgins Joy, Executive Director

In Loving Memory of Cathy Silverman

Cathy Silverman

NCJW/Essex Executive Director

It is with heavy hearts that we share with you that our beloved Executive Director Emerita, Cathy Silverman, passed away on February 4, 2020.

Cathy was the epitome of an NCJW woman – compassionate, courageous, and caring. She was a lifetime member and volunteer for more than 20 years, serving as Division President and as Essex Section Vice President, followed by 18 years as Executive Director of NCJW/Essex. Her impact on NCJW/Essex was immense, increasing the section to over 3,200 members and transforming NCJW/Essex from a well-kept secret to a powerful force in the community.

At the Crown Jewels Gala held in her honor, Cathy shared how much NCJW/Essex meant to her: “There is no other organization more special than this one. I get to work every day with incredibly bright, articulate and passionate women. Whether it is the volunteers or my staff, it has truly been a dream come true. Every day I look forward to my job and the work we do. The depth of the support I receive from everyone goes beyond what is imaginable. This support and our work enable me to experience the pure joy of the women, children and families whose lives we improve with our services.”

During her time as Executive Director, Cathy sparked the growth of NCJW/Essex with many new and innovative programs and initiatives, including the Back 2 School Store, Chai Circle, Mitzvah-in-a-Minute, the Period.Project, the Kids Emergency Closet, the Women’s Seder, and the A-List for Advocacy. She doubled the organization’s professional staff, tripled the budget, and quadrupled assets. Due to Cathy’s leadership, NCJW/Essex has enhanced the lives of innumerable women, children and families throughout Essex County, New Jersey, and beyond.

Cathy inspired all of us to strive for excellence and innovation, and will be greatly missed by everyone who was fortunate enough to know her. 

It is impossible to think of NCJW/Essex without thinking of Cathy, who made the organization what it is today. She will be forever in our hearts.

Our NCJW/Essex community grieves with Cathy’s beloved family: her mother, Doris, her husband Lenny Dinnerstein, her children, and her grandchildren.

Lesley Greenstein, President, NCJW/Essex

Caitlin Higgins Joy, Executive Director, NCJW/Essex

Sold-out Crowd for Fall Lunch & Learn Beyond the Border: Immigration in America Today

Our fall Lunch & Learn, Beyond the Border: Immigration in America Today, drew a capacity crowd to hear a panel of four experts in the field of immigration address topics surrounding immigration, including the politics of belonging, changes in refugee admissions, and how individuals who care about the future of our country can help.

Thank you to our panel: Greisa Martinez Rosas, United We Dream Deputy Executive Director; Farrin Anello, ACLU of New Jersey Senior Attorney; Rosa Huitzitzilin, Make the Road New Jersey Community Organizer; and Yalidy Matos, Rutgers University Assistant Professor.

The speakers shared their individual stories and urged attendees to sign letters in support of expanding access to driver’s licenses here in New Jersey.

We are all immigrants. Now we stand with those seeking better lives for themselves and their families.

A sincere thank you to everyone who attended and signed green cards in support of expanding driver’s licenses to all New Jersey residents. If you did not attend and want to join this effort, please contact Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy, at or (973) 488-0054 for more information.

Click here to view more photos from Lunch & Learn, Beyond the Border: Immigration in America Today

What can you do now?

Join us on Thursday, December 5, at 10 a.m. at the NCJW/Essex office for Advocacy-in-an-Hour.

We will be assembling correspondence packets so that male immigrant detainees, held here in New Jersey, can write to their families.

We are looking for blank greeting cards or those with messages (Happy Birthday,Thinking of You, etc.) that would be appropriate for men to send.

Bring them with you on December 5, or put them in the basket located on the small table in the reception area of the NCJW/Essex office.

Please RSVP to Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy, at or (973) 488-0054. 

Don’t Do Nothing Just Because You Can’t Do Everything

Saving the world is a lofty goal that seems impossible on an individual scale. Right now, America is faced with issues surrounding reproductive rights, gun violence prevention, human trafficking and voting rights – none of which can be solved overnight.

But in just one hour, you can still make a difference! If you are looking to share your passion for advocacy but are on a tight schedule, the NCJW/Essex Advocacy-in-an-Hour program is for you. This is an opportunity for individuals with limited time but unlimited passion.

NCJW/Essex Advocacy hosted a successful Advocacy-in-an-Hour in the spring, fighting for reproductive rights. NCJW/Essex volunteers gathered to write postcards of support to abortion providers around the country who provide caring and quality services to protect women’s health. These clinics so often receive hate mail and withstand protestors at their sites, not to mention bearing the brunt of legislation coming down on abortion rights and access. In just one hour, our advocacy volunteers wrote over 200 postcards! This was a huge effort in a short amount of time, but one that was much appreciated by the recipients at abortion clinics nationwide. “It was a real morale booster,” said one representative whose clinic was a recipient of postcards. “It made us feel appreciated for the difficult work we do.”

If you have an hour to spare and the passion to change the world, we hope you will join us for the next Advocacy-in-an-Hour this fall! Watch for details!

Don’t have an hour? What about a minute? Our new Advocacy-in-a-Minute initiative is perfect for those who are interested in an issue and want to learn more in a short amount of time. Our own NCJW/Essex experts will be squeezing a wealth of knowledge and a Call to Action in 60 second videos. The video series will be posted in Happenings, on social media, and on our website. If you have the passion and the time, watch out for Advocacy-in-a-Minute soon! Feel free to email Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement, at

Getting Hooked on Current Events

If you have a passion for the news and are looking to do direct volunteer service, the NCJW/Essex Current Events program, in partnership with local independent living residences, is a sure fit. Volunteers facilitate groups of senior citizens in engaging and timely discussions of local, national and world events.

I expressed my interest, went to one of the groups as an observer and I was hooked! In the last two years I’ve facilitated groups with all types of volunteers, both men and women. The common denominator is our desire to bring newsy discussions to people who sometimes aren’t heard or listened to on the topics of the day.

I found out quite quickly that seniors have strong opinions and want to express them. The role of facilitator is to set an open, honest and respectful tone and try and give everyone a chance to speak.  We don’t share our personal opinions, but rather keep the discussion moving and suggest topics should the conversation lag.

What happens in a typical hour-long group? I usually have a list of topics on my phone along with an ending joke or funny story…always a hit!  We work in groups of two facilitators each week; some facilitators work with notes, others bring clippings from newspapers. We begin by asking, “What would you like to talk about today?” and then it’s off to the races!

There are people of differing political persuasions in every group.  We’ve spent hours talking about the state of the presidency, the #MeToo movement, moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, the North Korea summits, climate change, local elections, self-driving cars and other tech innovations…the list goes on and on. We’re always looking for additional facilitators. You don’t need to have any experience with seniors, just a desire to lighten up their day with a lively discussion. Make that first call and join the Current Events team! Email

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

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:
Senator Robert Menendez:
Senator Mitch McConnell:
Congressional Representatives:

Fighting for Menstrual Equity

Time of the Month ambassadors have successfully led collections for community organizations in need.

The Period.Project’s Time of the Month initiative is up and running! Each month one volunteer or group of volunteers serves as an ambassador for the Period.Project by identifying an agency of their choice, collecting feminine hygiene products and delivering them to women in need. Thank you to the many NCJW/Essex volunteers who have stepped up and taken the lead.

To date, more than 10,000 feminine hygiene products have been collected and distributed. Period.Project members are proud not just of the many boxes of product, but what they represent: the ability to help women go to school or work; the knowledge women can provide for their families; and the dignity of each woman we help.

Period.Project committee members have also been advocating for A3868/S3645, a state bill that requires school districts to provide feminine hygiene products in public schools where a certain percentage of students fall below the poverty line. Thanks to the committee’s efforts, the bill is now in committee in both the Assembly and Senate, and legislators are signing on as co-sponsors! Look for a future “Call to Action” once the bills are out of committee.

It is a thrilling time to be part of the Menstrual Equity movement. Queens, NY Congresswoman Grace Meng recently introduced the Menstrual Equity for All Act, the first comprehensive bill to address the different challenges that women and girls face in affording and accessing menstrual hygiene products. Together we are working to correct inequity and allow all women to maintain their dignity and self-respect.

To help with advocacy efforts, email Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement, at