Over 800 Children Shop Cost-Free at the NCJW/Essex Back 2 School Store

Bring on the Smiles!

“I can’t wait to get new shoes! I want sparkles on them!” exclaimed a young girl to her volunteer personal shopper as they entered the store with her new cheetah print backpack opened and ready to fill. Inside the gym, walls were lined with rows of brand new coats, sneakers, and clothing. This year NCJW/Essex celebrated its 11th year of the B2SS, outfitting over 800 children with the help of more than 600 volunteers. The children shopped for brand new clothing, school supplies and personal care items, encouraging a well-equipped and confident start to the new school year.

The day started with a ribbon cutting ceremony for dignitaries and supporters of the store led by NCJW/Essex President Lesley Greenstein of Summit, NJ. B2SS co-chairs Andrea Mintz, Stacey Laken and Laurie Schuftan, all Livingston, NJ residents, joined with dignitaries to cut the ribbon. What followed was a long line of excited children, eager to enter and pick out their new items. The children, referred by over 35 social service agencies, were each greeted by a volunteer personal shopper who assisted them through their shopping journey. This year’s event was held at Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, NJ.

While the children shopped, parents and guardians visited the onsite Gaelen Family Resource Center where they could speak with representatives from organizations such as Advocates for Children NJ, the Essex County Family Justice Center, the NCJW/Essex Center for Women, Planned Parenthood of Metro NJ and the Rachel Coalition. University Hospital, a major participant at the Gaelen Family Resource Center, offered free health screenings and health information throughout the day.

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 2018-19, parents paid an average of $637 on school supplies for elementary school children. In Essex County alone, 21% of households with children lived below the poverty level in 2017. NCJW/Essex believes that no child should start off the school year already behind, and has put together the B2SS for the past eleven years to meet this need. All of the items given away at the B2SS are free to children and their families.

“The entire experience was extraordinary from beginning to end,” said Debra Goldsmith, a volunteer personal shopper from North Caldwell, NJ. “Interacting with such eager children and being a part of the positive environment that NCJW/Essex creates at the Back 2 School Store is inspiring. I’m so glad to be a part of it.”

Ranging from college students to grandparents, the passion each volunteer brought was undeniable through the evident excitement expressed from hundreds of children who filled the store. With three shifts throughout the day, volunteers underwent specific training on how to optimize the shopping experience for each child. From picking out pens and calculators to help finding jeans with the perfect fit, the personal shoppers guided and encouraged each child through every step.

Each year the Back 2 School Store is supported by grants and generous financial contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations, enabling the children to “shop” cost-free but leave with million-dollar smiles!

Three Women Honored at the NCJW/Essex Annual Installation and Awards Evening

Three local women were presented with awards for their leadership, service and contributions at the NCJW/Essex Annual Installation and Awards Evening, which took place on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Cedar Hill Country Club in Livingston, NJ.

Leslie Lavinthal of Florham Park, NJ, was the recipient of the NCJW/Essex Service to Section Award, recognized as a member of NCJW/Essex whose generosity and resolute work as a volunteer has changed the lives of women, children and families. Lavinthal has been a steadfast and productive member of NCJW/Essex for 45 years. Initially drawn to the organization because she was new to her neighborhood, she found the women to be intelligent and committed to community service. She has held multiple leadership positions including Co-Chair of the Back 2 School Store, Vice President of the Center for Women, and currently Assistant Treasurer. She has loved the hands-on opportunities, such as helping women at the Career Closet. With her training as a special education teacher, she has especially enjoyed helping children attending the Back 2 School Store and supporting young children who have suffered losses through the peer support group, Rainbows.

Elisa Madorsky of Livingston, NJ, was the recipient of the Henrietta Weiser Emerging Leader Award, presented by NCJW/Essex to a promising member who has demonstrated leadership potential. Madorsky has worked tirelessly in her commitment to NCJW/Essex and demonstrated talent at taking on leadership roles. She first became involved at the Back 2 School Store in 2014 and has since increased her involvement with this event as well as others. She spearheaded a Lunch and Learn on gun violence prevention with Sandy Hook Promise, and later joined the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, working to bring art supplies to victims of trafficking housed at Covenant House in Newark. Additionally, she chaired Mitzvah-in-a-Minute (MIM), offering quick community service projects that make a difference, and in 2018 assumed the role as Vice President of Advocacy, a position she will continue in the year to come.

Marion Medow of Livingston, NJ, was the recipient of The Hannah G. Solomon Award, presented by NCJW/Essex to an individual who has changed the lives of others through leadership efforts and service on a community level. Medow has consistently stepped up to lend a hand during her many years in New Jersey – in her synagogue, Hadassah, the Livingston PTA and Jewish Family Service of MetroWest (JFS) where she recently completed her term as President from 2016-2018. A strong advocate for reducing the stigma of mental health issues, Medow first learned about JFS through NCJW’s participation in the launch of the Rachel Coalition, a division of JFS. Her work at NCJW/Essex has spanned a broad cross-section including chairing fundraisers as well as community service initiatives. From 2004-2006 she served as President, the culmination of her many years of active participation in the section.

Anthony Garubo Salon in Maplewood Partners with the Linda & Rudy Slucker 
NCJW/Essex Center for Women to Help Empower Women

For the sixth consecutive year, ten women from the Linda & Rudy Slucker NCJW/Essex Center for Women (CFW) were treated to a special pampering this spring, thanks to the generosity of the award-winning Anthony Garubo Salon in Maplewood, NJ.

Usually closed on Mondays, the Salon opened its doors and donated its time and talent to help empower the CFW clients with a new look. All services were donated and anything was possible, from a blowout to cut, color and even highlights, as the stylists consulted with each individual client.

Patty Kremen, Career Services Manager at the NCJW/Essex Center for Women, explains that this event is part of the CFW’s overall approach to help women feel a sense of confidence and at their best. “When you witness the transition in these women simply from the beginning of the day to when they walk out of the salon, it’s priceless seeing them feel so good about themselves,” she says. “The confidence they feel when they look in the mirror is inspiring.”

 “The Center for Women has been amazing,” says Dana Kuiper-Nauer of Pine Brook, NJ, a client at the Center for the past nine months. “With everything going on I rarely get time for myself. This has been ‘me’ time that is long overdue.

The Anthony Garubo Salon has graciously hosted this event for the past six years because of their desire to give back to the community and specifically to women in need. As Janine Garubo Austin, Managing Director said, “We love this tradition and it is the high point of our year. Spring feels like a good time to have a new beginning. My staff and I are honored to be a little bit of a catalyst for change.” Moises Cabides of the salon echoed these sentiments saying, “It is always rewarding to help out and give confidence to those who really need and want it.”

The Center for Women is a resource for women focusing on growth and self-improvement. The Center offers workshops on a variety of topics, computer classes, legal guidance, career services and peer support. Clients of the Center are learning skills to enter or re-enter the workforce, finding encouragement to cope with new or unexpected life situations, gaining the confidence to develop their own career path and improving personal relationships.

The Linda & Rudy Slucker NCJW/Essex Center for Women is located at 70 South Orange Avenue, Livingston, NJ. For more information, please visit www.centerforwomenNJ.org or call (973) 994-4994.

Three Essex County Students Win the Annual Nancy and Robert Eskow NCJW/Essex Volunteer Awards


The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) honored three extraordinary Essex County high school students with the Nancy and Robert Eskow NCJW Volunteer Awards. The recipients of the awards were recognized for their outstanding contributions to many different causes, including long-term volunteer efforts towards congenital heart defects, preventing and raising awareness of substance abuse, and creating a district program to assist children with Selective Mutism. This is the 16th year the award has been bestowed to deserving high school students.

                  The 2019 award winners include Curtis Mark of Orange High School, Giulia Russo of James Caldwell High School, and Allison Kofsky of Columbia High School. These high school seniors have shown a dedication to improving the lives of others locally and globally. This year’s winners of the Nancy and Robert Eskow NCJW Volunteer Awards each received a $500 scholarship and a commemorative certificate.

                  Curtis Mark, a senior at Orange High School, began volunteering with the non-profit organization Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team (ADAPT), where he was able to expand his knowledge about substance abuse in order to help his community. “To make a community-level change, we must involve the community in our efforts,” reflected Mark. “Once we do this, the room for growth is endless.” Through all of his efforts to prevent substance abuse, he was presented with numerous awards and was selected as the sole United States Delegate at the United Nations Youth Forum.

                  Allison Kofsky, a senior attending Columbia High School, was 15 when she started her own district program called “Playground Pals” to aid and spread awareness of children impacted by Selective Mutism (SM). The inspiration behind this program was generated from someone she knew battling SM, a rare childhood anxiety disorder that hinders people’s ability to vocalize in various settings. “Playground Pals assists children struggling with Selective Mutism with feeling included and less isolated during their lunch and recess periods. It quite literally, provides a voice to the voiceless,” she says proudly.

Giulia Russo, a senior attending James Caldwell High School, was twelve years old when she was informed that she had a large hole (atrial septal defect) in her heart that only open heart surgery could fix. Although this information would change Russo’s life forever, the positive path she followed stands out. She became involved with the Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Coalition and has led a journal drive for the past 5 years to distribute journals to patients during treatment.

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.

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.”

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 www.ncjwessex.org.

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 www.ncjwessex.org.

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

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.

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.