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 dpasternack@ncjwessex.org.

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!

NCJW/Essex 12th Annual Back 2 School Store Goes Mobile for 2020

NCJW/Essex Holds 12th Annual Back 2 School Store Providing Winter Coats and Clothing to 1,700 Essex County Children in Need

NCJW/Essex’s 12th annual and first-ever Mobile Back 2 School Store (B2SS) has completed its distribution of backpacks, school supplies, winter coats, warm clothing, and more for the 2020 season.

More than 1,700 children were served by this year’s B2SS, the most-ever in the store’s history.

“It means so much to all of the donors, sponsors, and volunteers who make the Back 2 School Store happen that we were able to serve the children and families who rely on us, and that we did not let the pandemic keep us from making sure this important endeavor was completed,” said Penina Barr, NCJW/Essex President.

While in prior years children were able to “shop” at the one-day pop-up B2SS, this year volunteers put together personalized outfits based on the children’s preferences which were submitted and included favorite colors and other style requests.

Volunteers worked for several days to create personalized bags for 1,000 children in need in Essex County, which were delivered to more than 40 agencies, schools, and other organizations for distribution to the kids.

“We owe a big thank you to Two Men and a Truck who delivered the items from our storage unit to our distribution center at Temple Beth Shalom, and to Essex County Community Transportation who provided vans and amazing drivers who made our deliveries possible,” shared the B2SS Committee Chairs, Lauren Tabak Fass, Rachel Khedouri, and Lori Gelman.

“The store was reimagined this year, but it got the items kids needed to the families we serve, and that’s what really matters,” said Caitlin Higgins Joy, NCJW/Essex Executive Director, adding, “it’s amazing what can be accomplished when NCJW/Essex members join together to better the lives of children in our community.”

NCJW/Essex is already working on the 2021 B2SS. If you would like to learn more about volunteering as part of this imitative, please contact Ellen Staple at estaple@ncjwessex.org.

Patty Kremen Celebrates 10 Years with NCJW/Essex!


Patty has been the inspiration for so many programs at the heart of the Center for Women (CFW), including Pack the Pantry which is why we are collecting food gift cards in her honor.

Please Donate to Celebrate Patty’s 10 Years of Service

Click here to purchase gift cards online at ShopRite (minimum purchase $25) and have them sent directly to NCJW/Essex at 70 South Orange Ave, Ste.120, Livingston, NJ 07039

(gift cards only – please do not drop off food at the office). Gift cards are always needed and greatly appreciated by our CFW clients as they empower women to shop for and purchase exactly the food their family needs.

Thank you, Patty!

Patty’s love, dedication, and commitment for the CFW, her clients, and co workers is heartwarming and comes through in everything she does . She is compassionate, empathetic, loyal and devoted. We are so fortunate and grateful to have her lead our CFW. Thank you Patty for your professionalism, unwavered devotion, and continued support and leadership. ~ Andrea Mintz, VP, CFW

Patty goes not only the extra mile for clients, she goes an extra 10 miles. Whether it is addressing food insecurity, making sure families have holiday gifts, engaging clients with the Back to School store, or being a cheerleader for a client who is feeling discouraged, Patty makes sure that clients know the Center for Women is there for them in their time of need. This is in addition to ensuring we are providing the best services for vulnerable populations of women who are in need of “survival” employment or of higher paying, more stable employment to support themselves and their families. Patty is the Wonder Woman of the CFW and she inspires all of us to serve our clients well. ~ Kathy Murphy, CFW

Patty listens to her clients, assesses their job options and helps them to create a plan to move forward in their job search. She does it with expertise, compassion and understanding. Patty’s clients adore her as they should and greatly value the career services that she provides. ~ Barbara Sunberg, CFW

Three Local Students Honored with Nancy and Robert Eskow Volunteer Awards

The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) recently honored three exceptional Essex County high school students with the Nancy and Robert Eskow Volunteer Awards. In its 17th year, the recipients of the awards are recognized for their outstanding contributions to many different causes and for their long-term volunteer efforts.

The 2020 award winners are Jack Cunningham of West Essex Regional High School, and Renata Curcio, and Chloe Mathewson, both of Verona High School. These high school seniors have shown a dedication to improving the lives of others locally and globally. 

Winners of the Nancy and Robert Eskow Volunteer Award reflect the mission and values of NCJW/Essex through their commitment and dedication to community service projects and advocacy experienced during their high school careers. In recognition of their exemplary contributions, each received a $500 scholarship and an award certificate from NCJW/Essex.

Pictured from left to right: Jack Cunningham – West Essex High School; Chloe Mathewson – Verona High School; Renata Curcio Verona – High School

How to Host Your Own “Time of the Month” Collection for the Period.Project

Launched in November 2018, the extremely successful “Time of the Month” initiative (TOTM) has brought in new volunteers as well as increased awareness of the issue of menstrual equity with our membership, the public and the agencies we collect for. Since its inception, through the generosity of our volunteers, friends, family and colleagues we have collected and distributed over 2,200 packages of product (over 90,000 units).

To date, we have collected product for agencies such as Holy Trinity Food Pantry in West Orange, Morristown Community Soup Kitchen, Family Promise-Morris County Chapter, IFPO, Interfaith Hospitality Network, the Department of Child Protection and Permanency in Newark, Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey, North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NCJRI) and Rent Party Pantry in Maplewood.

A “Time of the Month” volunteer serves as a representative of NCJW/ESSEX and an ambassador of the project. Your role is to identify an agency, reach out to friends, colleagues, neighbors, family and collect product for an entire month to be donated to the agency you have selected.

It’s easy, fun, and life-changing to do a Time of the Month collection!

1) Choose an agency/organization/temple/church that is important to you for your collection. If you would like, we can supply you with an NCJW/Essex agency. If you do have an agency in mind, please let us know which one as we would like the opportunity to vet them first.

2) After you have selected an agency, contact them and let them know that you are a representative from NCJW/ESSEX Period.Project. Give them a little history about the TOTM (see above) and ask them if they would like to be the recipients of a month long collection of menstrual product. If you feel comfortable, you can ask what type of product they prefer (pads, tampons). You can also ask how many women/girls they serve each month.
3) After you have spoken with your agency, reach out to your contacts. Below are some examples of letters you can send or post on social media. Feel free to modify them, but please be sure to include that you are doing this collection for NCJW/Essex Period.Project.

Sample email:

Hello friends!

As part of an NCJW/Essex Period.Project initiative called Time of the Month, I will be collecting menstrual products for the (agency name) in (town) through the end of _(month)__.

Each month, there are women and girls in our neighborhood and all throughout the county and state that cannot afford, or do not have access menstrual product. Women are often forced to make difficult financial decisions and often times miss work. Girls frequently miss school…

I hope you will join me in this cause by donating new, unopened menstrual products to name of agency. I will be accepting pads of all sizes, tampons, mini pads and feminine wipes.

Please check out our website for more information https://ncjwessex.org/period-project/ and be sure to scroll down and watch our two minute video,
Please drop donations at my house (front door please) __address_____.

Thank you very much!! We so appreciate your generosity!!

PS- Pick- ups or other arrangements can be made as well
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Hi Facebook friends —

Did you know that there are women and girls who cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products? This month I am collecting menstrual products for _(agency name)_ in __(town)__ on behalf of the NCJW/Essex Period.Project. You can help raise awareness about this important issue and directly help women and girls living only a few miles away from us by donating products that will go directly to (name of agency).

I hope you will join me! Please PM me for more details (drop off location/day/time). To learn more about the Period.Project, visit www.ncjwessex.org/period-project. Thank you for your support!

4) Some people have chosen to purchase product on Amazon and have it sent to your house, rather than purchase product at a local store. This is an excellent idea and you can certainly mention it to your contacts. If they do chose do donate this way, please have them include a gift card so you will know who the recipient is.

5) As your collections start rolling in, please keep a tally of how many boxes or packages of pads, tampons, liners, etc., you receive as well as the total individual units broken out by type of product. Some people donate boxes of 96 or 120 (!!) and you don’t get a real scope of how much product is donated unless you figure the total number of units. As you can see above, we received 90,000 thousand units of product and 2,200 packages.

6) When you are finished with your collection, contact the agency and let them know that you would like to drop off the product. Please be sure to take lots of photos when you do! And finally, please send us your photos along with your completed tally. THANK YOU!

Thank you so much for your passion and dedication to this cause and for working towards menstrual equity for all women. Our goal is to erase period stigma, bring awareness to this issue that affects us all and make menstrual product available to all women.

If you are interested in collecting for a TOTM or have any questions at all, please feel free to contact us:

Laurie Kahn  lauriekahn25@gmail.com
Jeanne Gordon jsimon9500@hotmail.com