In the News

NCJW/Essex Announces its Twelfth Annual Wonder of Women Film Festival Progressive Independent Films Portray the Universal Spirit and Courage of Women

LIVINGSTON, N.J., September 30, 2014 – A filmmaker seeks to uncover a secret about her heritage that had been masked by her family throughout her youth… The world’s oldest pianist and holocaust survivor shares her secret to a long and happy life despite inevitable hardship… An adolescent girl runs away to live with her grandmother after a brutal argument with her parents…

These captivating stories and several others, including an Oscar-winning documentary short, will be presented at this year’s Wonder of Women Film Festival, sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) on Sunday, November 2, 2014 at the Maurice Levin Theater on the Ross Family Campus of the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, 760 Northfield Avenue in West Orange.  The Film Festival showcases the universal spirit and courage of women of all ages, manifested through short films and documentaries created by independent filmmakers.  This one-day event will be held from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm.

Following are summaries of some of the planned films.  The final program, however, is subject to change.

  • Little White Lie: Producer/Writer/Director, Lacey Schwartz – Until she was eighteen, filmmaker Lacey Schwartz grew up as a white middle-class Jewish girl whose darker skin and black hair were attributed by her parents to a mysterious olive-skinned Sicilian ancestor. In time, she uncovers the lie that haunted their marriage and made her the secret that was hiding in plain sight. Embracing her African American heritage, Schwartz begins the journey to reconcile her past and her present.
  • OMG the movie: Director, Siobhan Devine – Fourteen-year-old emo-goth Kaylee thinks she is at the top of the food chain when it comes to being misunderstood. After a monster fight with her parents, Kaylee runs away from home to live with her understanding grandma. All is going well until Kaylee’s cell phone battery runs out. OMG.
  • Free Kick: Director, Bernabé Rico – Having turned 60, Adela is living a life she never wanted — no children, a husband who walks all over her and, worst of all, nothing to look forward to. But one day, Adela has the chance to win €300,000 and leave her old life behind. All she has to do is kick a ball from mid-field into an open goal during the half-time of a Spanish League football match. Accepting the challenge, Adela starts training for the big day.
  • The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life: Director, Malcolm Clark – The Lady in Number 6 is one of the most inspirational and uplifting stories of the year. As the world’s oldest pianist and holocaust survivor, 109 year-old Alice Herz Sommer shares her views on how to live a long and happy life. She discusses music, laughter and how to remain optimistic, come what may. The film features beautiful photographs and rare film footage that truly brings Alice’s extraordinary story to life.
  • Wherever You Go: A Seventh Art Releasing, Director, Rony Sasson Angel – Years after cutting herself off from her Orthodox family, Zohara (30) decides to show up at her younger sister’s wedding. On her way from her home to the wedding she meets Neriman (20), a young Bedouin woman, who is escaping an arranged wedding forced upon her with her cousin. Zohara finds herself becoming an unintentional accomplice in Neriman’s escape. Zohara and Neriman’s crossing paths creates a powerful encounter between two worlds, reflecting each woman’s struggle with self-definition and the expression of self in a “predetermined world.”

“Each year the film festival brings to the screen thought-provoking, relevant and entertaining films by women that shed light on many aspects of women’s lives,” says NCJW/Essex President Deborah Legow Schatz.  “We are extremely proud of our line-up this year.”

The fee for all day admission is $45 per person for NCJW members and $60 per person for nonmembers.  Nonmembers wishing to join NCJW/Essex can apply $15 toward a new yearly membership of $50.  Included with the cost of admission is a box lunch.  Reservations are required.  Seats will be available on a first-come basis on the day of the festival. For tickets and directions, please call NCJW/Essex at 973-740-0588. Registration is available online at, or you may mail a check to NCJW/Essex, 70 South Orange Ave, Suite 120, Livingston, NJ 07039.

The film festival has been made possible through the generous support of Audrey and Norbert Gaelen. 

NCJW “Lobbyist-in-Chief” on Capitol Hill Draws Crowd at NCJW/Essex Lunch & Learn

LIVINGSTON, N.J., October 8, 2014 – Jody Rabhan (pictured) captivated an audience of over 100 people on Tuesday, October 7, at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange as part of a Lunch and Learn event sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex). Rabhan, Director of Washington Operations for NCJW in Washington, DC, shared insights on many legislative issues of importance, from cases being considered by the Supreme Court to bills being debated in Congress, including voting rights, reproductive justice, judicial appointments and more. “We want to ensure that our future is just and safe for women, children and families,” she said. Rabhan encouraged attendees to get involved in advocacy efforts. NCJW/Essex takes a progressive stand on issues of importance to women, children and families and urges you to stay informed and get involved. For more information, please visit

NCJW/Essex To Honor Natalie and Richard Peck of Essex Fells, NJ

LIVINGSTON, N.J., October 13, 2014 – The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) will pay tribute to Natalie and Richard Peck at a Celebration Event, “NCJW & NJ – Perfect Together!” on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at Mayfair Farms in West Orange, NJ. The Pecks have embodied the spirit of NCJW/Essex with their continuous contributions of support, involvement and leadership, making a difference in the lives of women, children and families throughout Essex County and New Jersey. For information on attending the event or to make a donation in support of NCJW/Essex, contact NCJW/Essex, 973-740-0588.

Elizabeth Smart, Poised and Reflective, Recounts Her Story to a Packed Audience at the NCJW/Essex Opening Event

LIVINGSTON, N.J., October 29, 2014 – NCJW/Essex enjoyed a packed house at the 2014 Opening Event on October 28, 2014 featuring Elizabeth Smart, an American activist who gained widespread attention at the age of 14 when she was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City and rescued nine months later. The abduction of Elizabeth Smart was one of the most followed child abduction cases of our time.

Smart recalled that at the end of her middle school years, eager to start high school in the fall, she was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom while her sister slept next to her. In the days that followed, she endured rape and abuse at the hands of her captors while living hidden in the mountains of Utah. “They tried to destroy the person I was,” she said, “but I decided my family was worth surviving for.” Smart reassured the audience of nearly 600 attendees at Brooklake Country Club in Florham Park that despite the intolerable hardship she endured, she still believes there is good in the world and encouraged women to face whatever hardships they may have and try to move forward. “We have a choice,” she said. “We can allow our problems to consume us or we can live our lives.” In the aftermath of her ordeal, Elizabeth began the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to prevent crimes against children and is now working on an international scale to prevent human trafficking.

“Elizabeth Smart offered a poignant look at what it means to have hope in a difficult situation,” said Deborah Legow Schatz, president NCJW/Essex.  “Her incredible story of perseverance in the face of unimaginable hardship is a reminder to us all to not allow our past to dictate who we become in the future.”

NCJW/Essex Teen Dating Abuse Project Celebrates Milestone

Livingston, NJ October 30, 2014 – NCJW/Essex’s Teen Dating Abuse Project (TDA), a community awareness program for teens, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. TDA offers a comprehensive classroom experience for high school students in Essex County to make students aware of the warning signs of abuse in teen relationships, safely end the relationship and learn about healthy relationships.

The NCJW/Essex Center for Women identified the need for domestic violence services in suburban communities back in the 1980s. TDA founders Myrna Wertheimer and Ellen Klein, along with their committee, spent a year developing the curriculum models and training modules for presenters to focus on prevention of domestic violence through education. In 1994, presentations on prevention of relationship abuse began, targeting high school juniors and seniors.

Today, the program is presented to ninth graders and is a two-day multimedia presentation offered in approximately 17 public and private high schools. The students are educated to recognize the warning signs of emotional, verbal, sexual, and/or physical abuse early in their relationships, because abuse starts slowly and is often difficult to identify in its initial stages.  In addition, TDA volunteers under the umbrella of the Linda and Rudy Slucker NCJW/Essex Center for Women, present to parent groups and do staff development workshops.

According to TDA chairperson Sharon Falkin, the program has changed with the times and now includes information on how technology and social media can be used as a weapon to abuse.

Although it has been twenty years since its inception, founders Myrna Wertheimer and Ellen Klein still hold TDA close to their hearts. “We are proud of all who have continued to help the program grow and evolve,” reflected Myrna. “It is heartening to see that TDA is still thriving. Obviously the need is still there,” added Ellen.

TDA is one of the signature programs of NCJW/Essex, educating 3200 high school students each year. Abusive relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and escalating violence.  As Sharon explains, “We want to educate students and adults about this social problem before it becomes a problem in their own lives.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Teen Dating Abuse celebrates its 20-year milestone, offering a classroom experience for high school students in Essex County to raise awareness about the warning signs of abusive relationships. Pictured (l to r) are co-founders Ellen Klein and Myrna Wertheimer of Livingston, and current co-chairs Sharon Falkin of West Orange and Cindy Charney of Livingston.

NCJW/Essex 12th Annual Wonder of Women Film Festival

LIVINGSTON, N.J., November 4, 2014 –The  NCJW/Essex 12th Annual Wonder of Women Film Festival took place on Sunday, November 2, 2014 at the Maurice Levin Theater on the Ross Family Campus of the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC in West Orange, NJ. The event, attended by approximately 200 people, provided an inside look into the spirit and courage of women, portrayed through the lens of the camera. This year’s line-up included the 2014 Oscar-winning documentary short, “The Lady in Number 6: Music Save My Life,” about the world’s oldest pianist and Holocaust survivor. In addition, filmmaker Lacey Schwartz, writer, producer and director of “Little White Lie” spoke with the audience about her story and the making of her film via Skype. Pictured are co-chairs of the 2014 WOW Film Festival, Rebecca Eisen of Towaco, NJ and Nadine Milberg of Morristown, NJ.

The film festival was made possible through the generous support of Audrey and Norbert Gaelen.

NCJW/Essex Presents “The Moms” Sirius XM Radio Hosts Melissa Gerstein and Denise Albert: A Frank and Funny Discussion about Parenting, Pampering and the Quest to Juggle it All

Livingston, NJ November 11, 2014 – Melissa Gerstein and Denise Albert will bring their “Sirius” side to Cedar Hill Country Club in Livingston, NJ, on Thursday evening, November 20, 2014 at 8 pm. As radio hosts and self-described mommy bloggers, they  will take the parenting conversation to a whole new level when NCJW/Essex presents An Evening with “The Moms” – A Frank and Funny Discussion About Parenting, Pampering, and the Quest to Juggle it All. The event promises to tackle topics both big and small that resonate with moms today.

Melissa Gerstein and Denise Albert, are co-founders of the social media platform, Strut, the Fashionable Mom Show, regular contributors to the Huffington Post and creators of the nationwide Mamarazzi® event, and each have a funny and unique approach to parenting. Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity for a fun ‘girls night out’ to see this dynamic duo in person. In addition to fun and laughter, you’ll get first-hand tips and insightful methods to juggle it all.

The event will also feature boutique shopping beginning at 7:00 pm. Registration opens at 7:00 pm and pre-registration is required. The fee is $18 per person and includes wine, cheese, tapas bar and dessert. To register visit or call 973-740-0588.

The RISE Program
 Reaching Into Self-Empowerment Debuts at Camp Happy Times for Children with Cancer

Livingston, NJ November 12, 2014 — This past August, NCJW/Essex volunteer Karen Feinblatt of West Orange, NJ, facilitated the NCJW/Essex RISE program (Reaching Into Self-Empowerment) at Camp Happy Times, a weeklong overnight summer camp experience for children ages 5-22 who have or have had cancer. This free camp program, operated by the non-profit organization The Valerie Fund, is a cause close to Karen’s heart because she has seen how the children and young adults who attend camp put their cancer on the back burner and just have fun. It is also an opportunity for family members to have a respite from medical concerns and just relax, often with their other children.    

Camp Happy Times, located in Pennsylvania, was founded 31 years ago and focuses on providing campers a recreationally therapeutic environment that helps to build self-esteem, friendship and independence. Throughout the week, the campers are encouraged to take on the challenges of all the activities the camp has to offer while building confidence and self-assurance. Karen, a long-time volunteer with NCJW/Essex and Camp Happy Times, saw an opportunity to bring the RISE program, which shares many of the same goals, to the young adults at camp. “I really felt that the Leaders in Training (LITs) would benefit immensely from the RISE workshop which focuses on viewing life in a positive light. Many of the young women started out in Cabin 1 as my campers, and it was a pleasure to see how they have matured and blossomed.”

The program was offered to the LITs, ages 19-22, many who have been campers since they were six and seven years old. In one exercise, participants selected and read a positive quote and introduced themselves explaining the quote’s relevance to their lives. They also wrote their own positive self-affirmations and were encouraged to read and repeat them out loud each day. Said one participant: “This program encouraged me to focus on the positive aspects of my life and not dwell on my illness.”

This was the first year RISE has been part of the Camp Happy Times schedule, and its success certainly indicates it will continue in the future. “The program was so worthwhile and the workshops really resonated with the campers,” reflected Karen. “I hope we can increase the program next year. RISE is a great NCJW/Essex program and it is wonderful to see it being utilized at Camp Happy Times where it can have a positive influence on young adults who are or have been coping with cancer.”

Natalie and Richard Peck of Essex Fells, NJ, 
Honored at NCJW/Essex Celebration Event

LIVINGSTON, N.J., November 17, 2014 – NCJW & NJ – Perfect Together! was the theme of a fundraising Celebration Event held at Mayfair Farms in West Orange on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, honoring Natalie and Richard Peck of Essex Fells, NJ. The Pecks have shown unflagging support and involvement in the National Council of Jewish Women’s mission to improve the lives of women, children and families in New Jersey.

“We are so fortunate that Natalie and Richard care so deeply about their community and agree that giving both time and money to an organization such as NCJW is easy when you believe in the mission and know that what you give has an impact,” said NCJW volunteer Ellen Lynette who offered an introduction. “Their actions speak loudly, their commitment is steadfast and their support is ongoing.”

The evening also included a special presentation of the Helen D. Schwartz Memorial Crystal Award to SaxBST. This award honors an individual, agency or corporation who has made an impact in the community and who exemplifies 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.

The casual cocktail hour rocked to the sounds of New Jersey, highlighting music about the Garden State and featuring local recording artists. New Jersey-themed centerpieces adorned the dining tables, and the food had a Jersey flair with farm stand vegetables, Sopranos-style Italian food, and old fashioned deli. At the end of the evening, attendees were treated with some “Down the Shore” favorites to take home.

Over 200 benefactors, volunteers, friends, family and staff were proud to pay tribute to NCJW/Essex which has been an advocate for social change in Essex County for over 100 years.

PHOTO: Event co-chairs Marion Medow (far left) and Sharon Falkin (far right) are pictured with honorees Natalie and Richard Peck of Essex Fells, NJ.

SaxBST Honored at
 NCJW/Essex Celebration Event

LIVINGSTON, NJ, November 19, 2014 – NCJW/Essex presented the Helen D. Schwartz Memorial Crystal Award to the accounting firm SaxBST at a special event on November 12, 2014 at Mayfair Farms in West Orange – NCJW & NJ – Perfect Together!  This award honors an individual, agency or corporation who has made an impact in the community and who exemplifies 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 are thrilled to celebrate the pros who crunch the numbers,” remarked Karen Cherins, past president of NCJW/Essex who presented the award.  “But more importantly, their not-for-profit group understands the unique challenges facing non-for-profit organizations and provides them with the expertise necessary to help such organizations flourish and grow.”

SaxBST has supported the Section’s volunteer efforts and participated in the annual Back 2 School Store. In addition, they have made a commitment to volunteerism within their own organization, sponsoring an annual winter clothing drive for professional attire, a yearly charity run-walk event to benefit St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, and their ‘Fist to Five’ seminars to benefit non-profits.

Josh Chananie, SaxBST partner in the not-for-profit group, accepted the award on behalf of SaxBST along with his colleagues Todd Polyniak and Marqus White.

PHOTO: Josh Chananie of SaxBST is pictured with Karen Cherins, past president of NCJW/Essex, accepting the Helen D. Schwartz Memorial Crystal Award in recognition of their commitment to NCJW/Essex and improving the quality of life for women, children and families.