In the News

Annual Back 2 School Store Receives Grant from Investors Foundation

NCJW/Essex received a $2,500 grant from Investors Foundation in support of its 10th Annual Back 2 School Store (B2SS), a yearly event where economically disadvantaged children are able to shop cost-free for brand new attire, school supplies and personal care items, encouraging a well-equipped and confident start to the new school year. The event, on Sunday, July 29, 2018, outfitted 860 children with the help of 550 volunteers.

“The support from Investors Foundation is important to the success of this community-wide event,” said Lesley Greenstein, President, NCJW/Essex. “We rely on the generosity of many individuals, foundations and corporations to enable us to purchase brand new items for the children including pants, shirts, winter coats, gloves, socks, undergarments, hats and backpacks.” Greenstein explains that the children are referred by over 30 social service agencies and are escorted through the store with a personal shopper. While the children shopped, parents and guardians visited the onsite Gaelen Family Resource Center, which offered information from numerous community service agencies as well as health screenings and information.

The cost of school supplies is often overlooked as a major annual expense. Families that are living in poverty struggle with the rising cost demands of public education. In Essex County alone, 24% of households with children lived below the poverty level in 2015. NCJW/Essex believes that no child should start off the school year already behind, and has put together the B2SS for the past ten years to meet this need.

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NCJW/Essex Receives Highest Honor by Charity Navigator

The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) was honored with a coveted four out of four stars by Charity Navigator, the leading charity evaluator in the United States.   NCJW/Essex has received the highest rating possible by the esteemed charity evaluator because of its sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.

According to Charity Navigator, NCJW/Essex has successfully adhered to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and constantly execute its mission in a fiscally responsible manner.   Less than one percent of the thousands of charities rated by Charity Navigator have earned perfect scores thus making NCJW/Essex a member of an elite group, outperforming most charity organizations nationally. “It is important that our donors trust that we are using our funding wisely to sponsor programs that benefit women, children and families,” said NCJW/Essex Executive Director Cathy Silverman. “We take our fiduciary and governance responsibilities very seriously and our 4-star Charity Navigator rating demonstrates to our supporters that we continue to strive for the best.”

Rating information for NCJW/Essex is available free of charge on

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Jennifer Weiner, Best-Selling Author, to be Keynote Speaker at Opening Event #WomensVoices: Adventures in Life, Love & Writing

The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) announces its 2018 Opening Event on Tuesday evening, October 23, 2018 featuring the charming and witty best-selling author, Jennifer Weiner.

Jennifer Weiner’s books have spent over five years on The New York Times bestseller list with over 11 million copies in print in 36 countries. Among her novels is In Her Shoes, which was turned into a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine. In addition to her many novels she has written The Guy Not Taken, a short story collection, The Littlest Bigfoot, the first in a trilogy of middle-grade novels, and Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing, a nonfiction collection.

With a wide fan base on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Weiner uses her social media platform to encourage women’s voices, self-esteem, and body positivity. She has appeared on Time magazine’s list of “140 Best Twitter Feeds,” and Forbes magazine put her on their list of “25 Working Moms to Follow on Twitter,” writing “tune in for hilarious shards of brilliance.”

Weiner also is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times Op-Ed and Sunday Review, and her essays have been reprinted in newspapers and media outlets across the world. She has appeared on many national television programs, including The Today ShowGood Morning America, CBS This Morning, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her work has been published in dozens of newspapers and magazines, including Seventeen, RedbookGlamourCosmopolitanElle, Allure, Ladies Home Journal, Time and Good Housekeeping.

“Jennifer Weiner’s writing speaks to women’s lives and the importance of their stories,” says Lesley Greenstein, President, NCJW/Essex. “We are looking forward to kicking off the upcoming year with her frank and funny take on the world.”

Registration is required for the Opening Event which is open to the public. The event is free of charge to NCJW/Essex members and $20 for nonmembers. Boutique shopping, coffee and dessert are available from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm; the program begins at 7:30 pm. Those nonmembers wishing to join NCJW/Essex can apply $20 toward a new yearly membership of $54. Attendees can register for the event by calling (973) 740-0588 or online at

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NCJW/Essex Presents a Lunch and Learn #MeToo: What’s Next?

A panel of experts will be featured at an upcoming NCJW/Essex Lunch and Learn addressing #MeToo: What’s Next? The panel will discuss the #MeToo movement which has ignited a revolution, how we got here and how we move forward. The program will take place on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm at Temple B’nai Abraham, Livingston, NJ.

According to a national study on sexual assault and harassment conducted in January 2018, 81 percent of women have experienced sexual assault or harassment over their lifetimes. “As we are always attempting to stay current with women’s issues, this Lunch and Learn is extremely relevant to what is happening across the country,” says Lesley Greenstein, President of NCJW/Essex. “We have created a panel of local professionals who are authorities on the important issues surrounding #MeToo, and we are proud to facilitate moving the conversation forward.”

The distinguished panel will include: Helen Archontou, MSW, LSW, CEO of YWCA Bergen County, who has helped establish the Time Is Now Action Coalition with Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to formulate an action plan to end sexual harassment, discrimination, and sexual violence in our communities; Stanley L. Goodman, JD, one of the leading labor and employment attorneys in New Jersey who represents management clients on issues of labor relations, employment discrimination and wrongful termination. He is experienced in sexual harassment litigation and has created and led sexual harassment trainings for many of his employer clients; and Patricia Teffenhart, MPA, Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, working to elevate the voices of sexual violence survivors and service providers by advocating for survivor-centered legislation, training allied professionals, and supporting statewide prevention strategies that work to address and defy the socio-cultural norms that permit and promote rape culture.

Throughout the year, NCJW/Essex Lunch and Learn programs provide an opportunity to hear interesting speakers in an informal setting. Pre-registration is required. The fee is $20 for members, $25 for nonmembers, and includes a buffet lunch. To register for #MeToo: What’s Next, please call (973) 740-0588 or visit

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University Hospital Honored at Opening Event

University Hospital in Newark, NJ, was presented the Helen D. Schwartz Memorial Crystal Award at the NCJW/Essex Opening Event on October 23, 2018 at Brooklake Country Club in Florham Park, NJ.  This award honors an individual, agency or corporation making an impact in the community and exemplifying the goals and purposes of the National Council of Jewish Women through outstanding vision and contribution to the community in education, social action and service.

“We have forged a wonderful relationship with University Hospital that began 10 years ago through the NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store,” commented Lesley Greenstein, President of NCJW/Essex. “University Hospital was one of our original service providers for the Gaelen Family Resource Center and has provided countless families who have attended our Back 2 School Store with invaluable information and health screenings they otherwise may not have been able to access.”

Accepting the award on behalf of University Hospital were Annette Hastings, Chief Administrative Officer, Michelle Hepburn, Director of the Emergency Department and Mary Maples, Esq., Chief Legal Officer. “The future of Newark is in its children,” said Hepburn, “and we are privileged to work each year at the NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store where the atmosphere is inspiring. It is great to be able to help the community in this way.”

PHOTO: Pictured (l to r) are Mary Maples, Esq., Chief Legal Officer, University Hospital, Annette Hastings, Chief Administrative Officer, University Hospital, Lesley Greenstein, President, NCJW/Essex and Michelle Hepburn, Director of the Emergency Department. University Hospital accepted the Helen D. Schwartz Memorial Crystal Award in recognition of its commitment to NCJW/Essex and improving the quality of life for women, children and families.

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Cathy Silverman, NCJW/Essex Executive Director, Honored at Crown Jewels Gala along with Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Back 2 School Store

The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) honored Cathy Silverman of Roseland, NJ, at a Crown Jewels Gala in recognition of her dedication and leadership during 18 years serving as Executive Director.

The Crown Jewels Gala was held at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston, NJ, on Thursday, November 1, 2018, to honor Silverman and celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of the signature programs of NCJW/Essex, the Back 2 School Store. As Executive Director, Silverman has sparked the growth of NCJW/Essex with many new and innovative programs and initiatives such as 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 to name just a few. She has doubled the organization’s professional staff, tripled the budget, and quadrupled assets. With Silverman at the helm, NCJW/Essex, has made a difference in the lives of women, children and families throughout Essex County and New Jersey.

Silverman, a lifetime member of NCJW, commented, “For 20 years as a volunteer and then 18 years as Executive Director, one thing has never changed in the way I feel about NCJW/Essex – there is no other organization more special than this one. Every day I look forward to my job and the work we do which enables me to experience the pure joy of the women, children and families whose lives we improve with our services.”

NCJW/Essex has been an advocate for social change in Essex County for over 100 years.  Nearly 300 benefactors, volunteers, friends, family and staff were proud to pay tribute to Silverman at the Crown Jewels Gala.

“Throughout her tenure Cathy has demonstrated a constant desire to grow and nourish our organization, supporting creative ideas and innovative possibilities every year,” said NCJW/Essex President Lesley Greenstein. “Her continued efforts in fundraising have been instrumental in our ability to meet the needs of our community with new events and programs. We are so very lucky to have her.”

In addition, the evening featured recognition of the 10th anniversary of the NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store, a one-day pop-up store that outfits economically disadvantaged children in Essex County with brand new clothing, school supplies and personal care items to help them start school on a positive note, and a special performance by mentalist Oz Pearlman who left the audience speechless with his mind-reading skills.

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Commemorating the Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Decision Breaks Down the Stigma of Abortion

Fighting for reproductive rights is usually no laughing matter, especially when it requires examining the growing number of infringements on access to healthcare, the ways sexuality education is limited, and the dangers involved in being an abortion provider.

But this year at the NCJW/Essex special Lunch and Learn, “Ending the Stigma of Abortion,” more than 200 attendees learned how the Lady Parts Justice League, a team of comedians, writers, and producers, use humor to break down barriers in their efforts to protect reproductive rights. The group, founded by Lizz Winstead, co-creator and head writer of The Daily Show, examined the stigma attached to abortion as too often people are uncomfortable talking about the subject (even saying the word!) and the challenges of obtaining care. This has made it tough to expose myths, raise awareness and turn the tide on the attacks on access to care.

“We talk about abortion in silence and secrecy and we are trying to change that,” said Winstead. “Abortion is safe and necessary and we shouldn’t feel shamed by it.” Winstead was joined for a panel discussion by Jen Moore Conrow, MFS, who serves as the Director of PEACE at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where she oversees the Fellowship in Family Planning and the residency education program, training the next generation of abortion providers; and Solange Azor, a New York City-based comedian, writer and activist for reproductive justice.

This special event commemorated the 46th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that ensures a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. Attendees participated in a “call to action,” sending letters to New Jersey legislators in support of Bill A1861: Address Confidentiality Program for Reproductive Health Services Employees and Clients. This legislation would offer both staff and patients the option of confidentiality of their address, thus granting them safety and security for themselves and their families.   The following organizations were co-sponsors:  ACLU-NJ, Catholics for Choice, Center for Reproductive Rights, Hadassah of Northern New Jersey, Jewish Women’s Foundation, Jewish Family Service of MetroWest New Jersey, League of Women Voters of New Jersey, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Institute for Reproductive Health, NCJW Bergen, NCJW West Morris, NCJW Union, Network for Responsible Public Policy, New Jersey Abortion Access Fund, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ Drug Policy Alliance, NJ Sierra Club, NOW NJ, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan NJ, Rachel Coalition, S.O.F.I.A.-Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates, Stanton Strong, The Reproductive Justice Committee of the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood, The Women’s Centers, Unitarian Universalist Faith Action New Jersey

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Start Your Engines … Join NCJW/Essex for the Launch of “Carpool Conversations”

Have you ever been caught unprepared for the questions your children ask or wondered what they talk about when they think you’re not listening? The newest NCJW/Essex project, Carpool Conversations, aims to provide parents with the tools necessary to engage in conversations with their children about difficult and sensitive topics – before they face issues – allowing them to grow up strong, kind and safe. The project’s launch event will take place on Thursday April 4, 2019 from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills, NJ.

Carpool Conversations arose out of an NCJW/Essex production of SLUT: The Play in 2017, a provocative drama that sparked a conversation about consent, sexism and sexual violence as well as how to parent children in a particularly challenging environment influenced by social media. Acknowledging that conversations often start when parents are taking their children to and from activities, when they are not expecting or prepared for them to happen, NCJW/Essex created Carpool Conversations as an opportunity to help educate parents on how to navigate through these sensitive conversations with their children.

The launch of Carpool Conversations will include a panel of local experts: Donna Ellenbogen, M.S. Ed., LCSW, Jacqueline Mesnik, PhD, Andrea Sherman, LCSW, and Abby Silverman, MD. With their unique perspectives, they will provide parents with the tools to engage in important conversations with their children as well as educate attendees on sensitive topics so they have a better understanding on how to address them in a discussion.

The goal of Carpool Conversations is to breakdown walls between parents and children and open up opportunities for dialogue and understanding. Following the launch event, NCJW/Essex will continue Carpool Conversations with small group discussions facilitated by professionals in private homes or at the NCJW/Essex office about such topics as consent, sexuality explicit material, social media, body image and gender expectations.

The fee to attend the Carpool Conversations launch is $10 for NCJW/Essex members and $15 for nonmembers. For more information or to register, please call (973) 740-0588 or visit

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NCJW/Essex Lunch and Learn Featuring Experts in the Field of Journalism

Never before has a discussion about navigating today’s media been more critical. The press has been under attack and news sources are polarized. The news cycle is unrelenting and unpredictable. As traditional newsrooms shrink and stories are liked, shared and tweeted a million times a day, anyone with a phone can be a journalist.

What is real and what is truly important in the daily news cycle? NCJW/Essex is sponsoring a Lunch and Learn program – Breaking News: Navigating Today’s Media – which will examine these issues with a panel of leading experts in the field of journalism and news. The event will take place on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, NJ.

The expert panel examining the current state of news reporting will include Stephanie Clifford, Investigative Reporter and NY Times Contributor; Kevin Lerner, Professor of Journalism at Marist College; Rob Nelson, WABC-TV Anchor and Reporter; and CNN Reporter and Producer, Marshall Cohen.  The panel will provide media literacy guidelines for today’s changing world – a must-attend for anyone who cares about the future of free press. Breaking News: Navigating Today’s Media will be held at Temple B’nai Abraham, 300 E. Northfield Road, Livingston, NJ. Pre-registration is required by May 1, 2019.
The fee is $20 for members; $25 for non-members and includes a buffet lunch. To register, please call (973) 740-0588 or visit

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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.”

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