If there's one thing for certain about New Jersey it's that we have a wealth of charitable organizations many of which are powered by women. One such organization is the Essex County Section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW/Essex). The NCJW was founded in 1893 by Hannah G. Solomon in Chicago. Asked to organize the Jewish women for the Chicago's World Fair, she was dismayed when her duties included pouring coffee. Hannah walked out and left inspired to create an organization of volunteerism based on courage, compassion and pioneering.
NCJW/Essex President Interviewed
Garden State Woman recently had the opportunity to interview Karen Cherins, the newly installed President of NCJW/Essex. After moving into Essex County in the late 1970s, she saw a sign for an art show they were sponsoring and thought it would be a great way to meet people in the area. Karen has been involved ever since. She has held various roles throughout the years including President of the Livingston Division, Section Officer and Treasurer. As illustrated by Karen's longevity with the organization, one of the organization's strengths is that preceding presidents and officers remain involved past their terms insuring a continuation of history and knowledge as well as strong and supportive infrastructure for current officers.
Karen's presidency happens to coincide with the section's 100th anniversary; an impressive accomplishment for an organization with a praiseworthy focus to improve the quality of life for women, children and families. A lot is different from the organization's inception 100 years ago. In particular, the role a woman plays in a family has drastically changed. Today's woman is challenged to commit her time wisely. As a result Karen notes that keeping and attracting members may be one of the NCJW's biggest challenges in the upcoming years. This, of course, is coupled with the constant need for funding resources.
As a nonsectarian organization not committed to one cause, the NCJW/Essex is able to offer an extensive array of programs that range from knitting groups to legal services. They offer computer classes, job readiness programs for displaced homemakers, programs for children dealing with loss through divorce or death, teen dating abuse classes, financial services, self-empowerment coaching (Rise), and career assistance for Newark women aging out of foster care (Moving Forward) to name a few. They are also founding partners with the Rachel Coalition improving the lives of those affected by domestic violence and sponsor a Career Closet for women in need of appropriate clothing for job interviews and work.
The Back to School Store
The NCJW/Essex's latest success is their Back to School Store, a program which is in its fourth year was held on Sunday, August 5, 2012. Imagine the looks on the faces of over 500 economically disadvantaged Essex county children who get to "shop" for brand new school clothing, school supplies and personal care items with more than 300 volunteers at a one-day only 4,000 square-foot "department store" just for them! The NCJW/Essex donates all items and sets up the "store" to help prepare children to focus on learning on the first day of school. Volunteer personal shoppers accompany each child to "shop" for new clothing and school supplies. Each personal shopper spends an hour with a child, who gets to shop for a completely new outfit (shirt, pants, winter jacket and sneakers), underwear, socks, hat, gloves and scarf. Each child also receives a new backpack filled with school supplies and personal-care items.
How The Garden State Woman Community Can Help
The NCJW/Essex is always in search of new members and openly welcomes everyone to consider joining. Constant needs include clothing and accessory donations for the Career Closet, sources for clothing and school supplies for the Back to School Store and career speakers for their Moving Forward program in Newark.
Further information on the NCJW/Essex can be found on their website.