My past two years as President of Greater Detroit Section, (NCJW/Greater Detroit) will always be my special memory. These years have been filled with fun, challenges, and successes. It was my honor and privilege to have been the President of NCJW/Greater Detroit 2014-2016. During this time, I have had the opportunity to work with so many compassionate, committed and caring NCJW/Greater Detroit women. As I look back, I have and will always have fond memories of how much WE, my NCJW Family, have accomplished together and of the experiences we have shared.
Keeping in touch with members and sharing with them many NCJW/Greater Detroit experiences became one of my priorities. Board Members (those who had left the Board due to our Bylaws that require those Board Members who have completed three consecutive two- year terms to leave for at least one year) became an important part of my monthly endeavors, for I sent those members monthly Board Highlights. My Friday Chat, Shabbat Shalom messages were another way to bring our NCJW family closer.
I remember our first Back 2 School Store in August, 2014 with our Honorary Chair, Suzanne Simon. It was a huge undertaking, but our section organized and brought about a success. Our second Back 2 School Store in August, 2015 was modeled upon the original and succeeded in bringing smiles to over 380 children who enjoyed “shopping” for their new outfits for school. Soon after the first Back2 School Store, our Fall Focus featured Theresa Flores, who spoke about her experiences as a victim of sex trafficking. That event and National’s initiative on sex trafficking motivated me to encourage our SPAs (State Policy Advocates) to create a Human Trafficking Awareness Committee with a plan for a Human Trafficking Symposium that is scheduled for October 30, 2016. In addition to our advocacy that includes Action Alerts, we formed a Public Affairs committee. Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor addressed our Fall Focus audience in October, 2015. Her focus was the rape kits she investigated.
I remember that some of our members were concerned that we do not do enough for our Jewish Community youth and elderly. Upon a visit to Jewish Family Service to investigate, I discovered the Orthodox day schools could use assistance. Thus, our tutoring in reading at Darchei Torah became part of our already well-established and highly regarded and successful program at Coleman A. Young Elementary School. Our Backpack volunteers packed almost 1000 backpacks for homeless children in Oakland County; they had been doing that for many years. However, we included more children in need from Jewish Family Service and began to distribute backpacks to Darchei Torah Elementary School.
I remember that our Wrapped in Love volunteers made 800 fleece blankets for children taken from their homes by Protective Services and for children receiving chemotherapy treatment in several hospitals. I remember partnering with Jewish Senior Life for a Nosh and Knowledge in February, 2016 where 36 Meer residents and NCJW members combined welcomed Rabbi Joseph Krakoff as the speaker, and we helped our seniors further with 12 welcome kits we contributed to the Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at Jewish Senior Life. I remember well our dedicated and caring Meals on Wheels chairs, packers, and drivers who prepared and delivered 26,000 Kosher Meals a year for the last two years.
I remember many conversations with the Executive Cabinet in which I discussed how important Education is in our endeavors. This year we planned a trip to Quicken Loans to see how Detroit has grown, our Public Affairs evening events on the Court System and Immigration, and our two new Book Clubs.
In addition, our Teen Yellow Pages, another educational source, became 4 pages thicker this year with some new information; we printed 10,000 and already more than half have been distributed. I remember the start of our Baby Yellow Pages, a resource guide for Detroit parents, one of the newest educational projects, began its research, lead by Liz Bank and Zina Kramer in the Fall of 2014 to establish a booklet, website, and perhaps an app. It has a new name now: 313 BABY. These pages will enlighten Detroit parents with the phone numbers and agencies to help them solve numerous problems a parent to-be and a new parent would encounter.
Partnership is a large part of NCJW, and in the last two years, I remember how we continued to make partnerships become a way of life for NCJW. We have partnered with Jewish Community Center’s Jewish Book Fair and the Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival both of which have brought two different aspects of education to our Section and the community. We have partnered with Jewish Senior Life’s Shelter for Senior adults with welcome packages for seniors admitted to their residence. We also held a Nosh and Knowledge for Meer residents and NCJW women and guests.
My memories of November and December of 2014 begin with the Board of Directors that set up two NCJW/Greater Detroit goals: increasing membership with at least 125 new members in a year’s time and making NCJW more visible in the community. Our membership co-chairs and their committee have been working to attract, increase, and maintain members, and they are succeeding. Our visibility has increased in the media; that came from our monthly Jewish News sidebars, news releases, TV coverage of our 2015 Backpack Project and the personal notes each new member receives from the membership co-chairs, Jan Goldfarb and Sallyjo Levine.
One memory that heads the list for 2016 is all the festivities focusing on our 125th Anniversary celebration. These have been capturing much of the present community attention. The High Tea on May 11th at Doreen Hermelin’s home was the highlight of our year- long celebration; it was beautiful, delicious, and so impressive to see our past presidents promenade into the room each carrying a rose. Corinne Stavish, the noted storyteller, told the story of NCJW/Greater Detroit and held everyone’s attention from start to finish. Another part of this celebration is our Memory Book that was carefully planned by our fantastic co-chairs of the 125th, Jacqui Elkus and Irma Glaser. They were responsible for this extended celebration that also included an excursion to the Reuther Library and NCJW archives; here we partnered with the Historical Society.
Relatively new younger branches of NCJW/Greater Detroit may well take on another spotlight in my collection of memories. GROW, Girls Reaching Outward, has taken on a new look with its capable advisor, Rachel Matz. It is planning an Art Expo that will be showcasing its winners at the Human Trafficking Symposium on October 30, 2016. The other memory involves Randie Levin, once President of NCJW/Greater Detroit’s Business and Professional Women, together with Carol Klein and me. We are spearheading this year, the 2016 come back of a Business and Professional Women’s Branch of NCJW/Greater Detroit. I have joined Carol as a co-chair of this committee, and many of the young women we have attracted were excited to be personal shoppers at our August 7th third annual Back 2 School Store.
I remember the difficult time the Domestic Abuse Awareness Committee members had in working to begin a new project: Court Watchers. They persevered and the Court Watchers’ Pilot Project, new to NCJW, will take (after a training session) its volunteers into District Courts and Circuit Oakland County to observe trends in the court- room to help preserve the dignity of domestic abuse victims. Although NCJW Children’s Advocates continue to be the “eyes and ears of the courts,” I witnessed their well-planned training meetings (2 each year) by co-chairs: Lori Abel, Liz Bank, Nanci Rami, and Libby Sherbin. Their goal was to add new information and up to date training that their Advocates could use when they carry out their interviews and give their recommendations to the judges concerning guardianship in order to protect the rights of children.
One of my fondest memories was our Women of Vision Fashion Show that brought over 300 people not only a fantastic show of fashions but also the knowledge of National’s Granting Program for Turning Tables, a vocational training and economic empowerment program for women in Israel exiting the cycle of prostitution and sex trafficking. Our Woman Of Vision events featuring Kate Edwards in 2014 and our Fashion Show in 2015 were successful fund raising events.
Another fond memory concerning our fundraising endeavors was the growth of our Fund Development Committee and their Hannah’s Heroine Campaign. Under the chairwomen, Marion Freedman and Sissi Lapides the revival of Hannah’s Heroines came about. We added 8 new Hannah’s Heroines (Dale Frankel,Carol Freedman, Marlene Goodman, Susie Jacob, Randie Levin, Marilyn Sabin, and Bluma Schechter) from June, 2014 to date whose funds for NCJW’s future will add to the already 20 women who had become Hannah’s Heroines at its inception in 2008. In addition, Carol Sue Coden became the chair of Name Funds, and she and her co-chairs, Sally Mayer and Myrna Edgar began making plans to solicit some of our members to begin a new NCJW Name Fund. They have added two new name funds: the Ruth L. Frank Project Friendship Fund and the Claire and Arthur Kretchmer Backpack Project Fund. The success of the Stay at Home Tea and Annual Support are other memories I have that will ensure the continuance of our programs, projects, and advocacy efforts here, in Washington and in Israel.
Perhaps, one of my fondest memories is my thrill to have begun a successful leadership program at NCJW. This past April, 2016, we graduated 9 leaders from our newly established leadership program: NCJW STRONG: Past, Present and Future. The goal of this program is to promote a culture of engaged and informed leadership in National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Detroit Section. The graduates thought the program was successful and suggested we continue it.
My memory of these two years would not be complete without my fond memories of the efficiency and dedication of our staff: Esther Weitzman, Tonia Hanlan, and Linda Rouff. Perhaps my fondest memory of my presidency is my association with Susan Gertner, our Executive Director. No section could be more fortunate than we. We have Susan Gertner who is always there for our section, for I have seen how she spends her time and efforts for NCJW/Greater Detroit. Susan has been my guiding light.
On a personal note, I will remember serving as President of NCJW/Greater Detroit; it is one of my most satisfying and rewarding experiences of my life: a memory I will never forget.