Congratulations to the 2021-2022 Incoming Board, Executive Committee, and Award Honorees

On Wednesday morning, June 9, NCJW/Essex held its annual Installation and Awards Brunch at Mountain Ridge Country Club. The outgoing 2020-2021 Section Board and Executive Committee was thanked for their service, and Nominations Chair Jill Sorkin Johnson welcomed and installed the new 2021-2022 Board and Officers.
The morning also honored three NCJW/Essex members for their extraordinary contributions to the organization:

  • Sheri Trugman – Service to Section Award
  • Patty Kremen – Hannah G. Solomon Award
  • Laurie Schuftan – Henrietta Weiser Emerging Leader Award

As last year’s Installation was virtual, this year’s Installation was an opportunity for current president Penina Barr to receive the ceremonial gavel, and to recognize Lesley Greenstein, our immediate past president.
The morning also celebrated three longtime staff members on their retirements: DIane Apter, Gail Sample, and Barbara Sunberg.
Thank you to Event Chairs Lesley Greenstein and Nancy Eskow, and to Ad Journal Chair Deborah Legow Schatz.

Click here to send a tribute honoring the new Officers and Section Board. For a full list of the 2021-2022 Executive Committee and Section Board, click here.

Click here for video of the Installation speeches.

Click here for more photos from the event.

Preview YouTube video 2021 NCJW/Essex Installation2021 NCJW/Essex Installation

NCJW/Essex’s 2021 Golf Invitational

We’re back in the swing! More than 100 golfers came out for a great day of golf at our 17th Annual Golf Invitational. Thanks to everyone who made the day such a huge success including sponsors, donors, volunteers, and golfers, and especially our event c-chairs who made it all possible: Robin Kollin, Emily Berkowitz, and Debbie Merkin.

Thanks to many generous supporters, we raised more than $100,000 to help improve the quality of life for women, children and families in need here in Essex County. 

Help Write Backpack Notes for the 2021 NCJW/Essex Mobile Back 2 School Store

Due to continuing public health concerns, we will be unable to have our usual “hands-on” volunteer experience this year for the Back to School Store (B2SS).  Instead, we will be having a Mobile B2SS, which includes distributing backpacks full of school supplies and personal care items to the children we serve. Our goal is to provide items for 1,000 children this year!

Here is where we need you! We would love to include personal notes to each child who will receive a backpack wishing them a great new year in school. Please help create uplifting “Backpack Notes” that will bring a smile to a child’s face. The notes can be simple or elaborate, and feel free to make several since we need 1,000 of these notes!

Instructions for “Backpack Notes”:

1. Click here to print the backpack note page.

2. Write a message – please be sure the message is unisex and appropriate for any child in Kindergarten through 5th grade.

Wondering what to say in the note? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Can’t wait for you to rock this super cool new backpack next school year. Have a great summer!
  • Hope you enjoy all of the goodies inside this awesome new backpack. Have a blast this summer and a great school year!
  • This school year is going to be awesome! Hope you love your new backpack and all of the cool stuff inside!

3. Decorate with your own markers/crayons – you can even add stickers if you want!

4. Mail the completed “Backpack Notes” to the NCJW office (or drop off during business hours by Thursday, July 8:
NCJW/Essex B2SS, 70 South Orange Avenue, Suite 120, Livingston, NJ 07039

We will place the notes inside the backpacks as an unexpected surprise for the children receiving the backpacks.

If you have any questions about volunteering, please don’t hesitate to contact us at

Thank you!

Susie Botwinick and Sherri Fendelman
NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store Volunteer Co-Chairs

Lauren Tabak Fass, Rachel Khedouri, and Lori Gelman
NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store Co-chairs

NCJW/Essex Shares Recollections about Diane Apter

NCJW/Essex’s longtime bookkeeper Diane Apter has retired after more than 28 years. A celebration was held via Zoom, and many shared their fond memories of working with Diane, and how she was always there to help and to share a friendly smile.

Here are a few of the recollections shared from those who knew Diane over the years.

Diane arrived at NCJW just in time for me. I had just become the treasurer of our Thrift Shop and had no idea about taxes, etc. She spent hours with me teaching and never gave up. ENJOY your retirement – you deserve it! – Sylvia Goldbas

Dearest Diane, I remember when we hired you – lo those many years ago. You taught me bookkeeping 101 and during my 15-years with the Section were always such strong support. It is no wonder I came to love you and your family so much. We celebrated so much together and of course, cried together as well. Now when I think of you I picture you at Abra’s wedding – smiling, glowing, taking care of each and every guest – not to mention helping her change into her many dresses!! But mostly, I remember the last time I saw you with your mom, Murray. You are a very special woman Diane – you combine grace and strength in the most perfect way.  NCJW is so fortunate to have had your support for so many years. I treasure the moments and hugs that we shared. Enjoy this next chapter. Perhaps a visit to Los Angeles is in the cards????
Love and admiration always,
Judy Gordon

I have known Diane for many years, and always appreciated her warmth. She always asked me about my family and children and it was genuine. As president I enjoyed working with her, she never lost her patience with me no matter how silly the question was!! We will miss you Diane!” – Lesley Greenstein

I’ve always been grateful that Diane is part of the NCJW/Essex staff, as well as being my friend.  She is so generous, warm and compassionate toward everyone she meets.  For quite a while, the only people regularly working in the office on Friday were Diane and me.  We enjoyed having lunch together in the conference room, with plenty of sharing:  stories and photos of our families; my friend’s knowledge of Italian & memories of her childhood; one of Diane’s homemade soups and sometimes a treat from the cafe.  I loved hearing about Diane’s daughters and her grandchildren, of whom was very proud.  Occasionally I’d play my flute for a little while.  Diane always turned off the music in her office so she could enjoy the Italian tunes.  I think we developed a special bond, spending time together on Fridays.  Diane gave so much of herself to NCJW/Essex.  She was phenomenal at her job, challenging as it could be at times.  Diane worked very hard, sometimes coming in on weekends or staying late on Fridays.  She was invaluable in so many ways – day to day bookkeeping, helping out at events, patiently assisting new treasurers and co-chairs of events, solving problems – nothing could get past this amazing woman.  Diane was truly a heroine of NCJW/Essex! – Gail Sample

Click here to send a tribute in honor of Diane.

NCJW/Essex Stands Against Hate

“We don’t know what we are looking at yet. Is this the end of something or the beginning?” – Van Jones, CNN 

We are still reeling after watching the chaos that unfolded on Wednesday as protesters stormed the Capitol, overrunning police barricades, brandishing weapons and ransacking offices. 

The image of a man amidst the mob wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Camp Auschwitz” was particularly haunting.

Equally disturbing was the image a few months ago of peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors being shot, arrested and chased down while protesting systemic racism. Why is it that peaceful protestors were met with violence, but these domestic terrorists who directly destroyed property, trespassed, instigated violence, and violated federal laws while contesting a fairly decided election were simply walked away from the Capitol? We know why this outcome was so different. The majority of the people who stormed the Capitol were white.

We know what we are looking at because we have seen it too many times before. Call them right-wing activists, conspiracy theorists, white supremacists or extreme fringe groups. It doesn’t matter. They are all euphemisms for hate.  

At NCJW/Essex we stand together against hate in all its forms. We will continue to work with advocates across New Jersey and the country, with our partners, and our elected officials to demand justice.

Those who work toward damaging our democracy have been empowered in recent years. They leave behind, at a minimum, a distrust in government and, at worst, the seeds of violence and fear. The cleanup on Wednesday was literal. Another striking image was one taken after the Capitol had been cleared: NJ Congressman Andy Kim helping to pick up the mess left behind. 

Repairing the damage left in the wake of this hate means strengthening our towns, our state and our nation by recommitting to the work we at NCJW/Essex do best: forming and engaging in coalitions; becoming better allies; advocating, volunteering and participating in community service. 

The fortitude of our country comes from people standing together, working toward its betterment and against threats to democracy. That is our power. That is the wall that cannot be breached. 

Thank you for standing with us. 

To learn more about the National Council of Jewish Women’s powerful response to the deplorable attacks on the U.S. Capitol click here.

Charitable Giving: Did you know there are “new” tax incentives this year?

If you are looking for a last minute charitable idea you might consider a year end gift, to help NCJW/Essex carry out our mission and reach more people. The need is great, and we truly need your help. Your donation might also have some “new” tax incentives this year. Always check with your accountant.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act offers new opportunities to maximize the benefits of your charitable giving, but only in 2020.
They include:

  1. A new tax benefit for non-itemizers. Donors who do not itemize may take a one-time adjustment to income of $300 for cash gifts.
  2. Higher charitable deduction limits for cash gifts in the tax year 2020. Donors who itemize may claim a charitable deduction for up to 100% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) for cash gifts.
  3. A suspension of the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from individual retirement accounts. Individuals over age 72 do not need to take an RMD in 2020.
  4. Continued opportunity for individuals age 70 1/2 or older to make a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). Donors may give as much as $100,000 directly from an IRA plan to a qualified charity.

The above information provides a general overview that is not intended as tax or legal advice. Donors are encouraged to consult with their own professional advisors on how the CARES Act may apply to them. For further discussion please contact David Pasternack, Director of Resource Development at 917-535-6555 or

NCJW/Essex 2020 Highlights: Reproductive Rights

NCJW/Essex spearheaded many advocacy efforts for Reproductive Rights in 2020.

At Roe 2.0 in January, we learned from Katie Watson, acclaimed author of The Scarlet A, how to talk about ordinary abortion and what access might look like in the next decade and beyond. 

We wrote hundreds of postcards to our legislators asking them to protect reproductive rights here in NJ at our Advocacy-in-an-Hour.  

We joined with other NCJW sections and Jewish communities across the country and took a symbolic walk to mark the end of shiva for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, thanking RBG for her accomplishments and vowing to continue her work.

As part of Thrive NJ, we worked with the Governor and state legislature to create and introduce the Reproductive Freedom Act, proactive legislation that will help protect and expand New Jerseyans’ ability to receive reproductive healthcare, such as birth control and pregnancy-related care, including abortion.  

2020 Highlights: NCJW/Essex Gets Out the Vote!

We had many successful Get Out the Vote initiatives in 2020.

We created and distributed more than 1,000 packets of voter registration materials to Get Out the Vote here in NJ. 

We spread the word about “Everything You Need to Know to Vote in NJ” with our flyer we distributed both in paper and via social media to coalitions, food pantries and partner organizations.  

We led six virtual voter education programs and released regular how-to videos keeping voters up to date on the latest election developments in NJ. 

We placed our A-List for Advocacy full-page ad, signed by more than 175 supporters, in the Star Ledger to debunk common voting myths. 

We partnered with Reclaim Our Vote for Advocacy-in-an-Hour to write and mail more than 1,000 GOTV postcards encouraging low propensity voters to turn out for the general election and then the Georgia runoffs elections. 

Myrna Wertheimer Receiving National NCJW Award: Enduring Advocate 2020

For those who know Myrna Wertheimer, and her many contributions to NCJW/Essex, we applaud the fact that she is the recipient of this year’s Enduring Advocate for Social Change Award from NCJW National. This award recognizes her as an NCJW leader who has been advancing social change by being an NCJW advocate in our community for more than 10 years. But what you might not know is that this award is actually Myrna’s second national award: she was also recognized in 2003 as the recipient of the NCJW Outstanding Leadership Award. 

An active NCJW/Essex leader since 1974, Myrna’s first focus was on Community Services which led to her passion to provide direct services to empower women. In 1987, Myrna created a communitywide forum, “Behind Closed Doors,” making public the issue of domestic violence in the Jewish home. Myrna studied for a year with the NJ State Division on Women, becoming an expert on domestic violence which started her advocacy journey, founding programs that include The Rachel Coalition, the MetroWest community’s response to domestic violence (where she still serves on the Board) and NCJW/Essex’s Teen Dating Abuse Awareness program. 

Among her many accomplishments, Myrna also led two sellout performances of The Vagina Monologues, a rally for One Billion Rising, and a production of Slut: The Play, which opened the door to making counseling on sexism and sexual violence available to every Newark teen. Most recently, Myrna helped start and currently co-chairs the NCJW/Essex project Carpool Conversations, helping parents address their children’s contemporary issues. 

Myrna shared that she could not have accomplished all that she has without her endlessly supportive family, noting also that she is proud to set the example of the importance of volunteerism and giving back to your community for her four grandsons. We believe that Myrna exemplifies the definition of “enduring.” Our section and NCJW at large have benefited from her many years of dedication to our advocacy work and community programs. 

We are honored that Myrna still chooses us, and we as a section choose her to be our Enduring Advocate!