It is a confluence of prominent women in the Five Towns and surrounding communities who have been meeting for most of the last year regarding an idea. The project under discussion is the Jewish Women’s Leadership Council, and their agenda is to address the issues of the day. After months of conferring, the leadership council is ready to meet the community at their first event on February 1 at Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence.
The Five Towns Orthodox Jewish community deals daily with a plethora of issues that impact life, not unlike any other Jewish or even non-Jewish community in this day and age.
But this was the question posed to the women by Sepi Djavaheri of the Long Island United Jewish Appeal (UJA), who is bringing the program to the community. The event is being billed as “An Evening of Love and Laughter” that will feature presentations by Dr. David Pelcovitz and therapist Rachel Pill, as well as a performance by British comedian Ashley Blaker, all moderated by Rebbetzin Rookie Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere.
The event is free and open to all but it’s specifically geared to married couples. The 5TJT had the opportunity last week to speak with three of the council’s members about the formation of the group and how they arrived at the topic for the first communal event: “Marriage Relationships.”
Rookie Billet, the moderator, said that, first and foremost, a project like this is tapping into an underutilized resource in the community — prominent Orthodox Jewish women. “In my case, I’ve been living here in the Five Towns for 40 years,” she says. She explains that the new women’s group has been meeting and discussing the matters of most concern to the community, and after hashing out the issues that she and her colleagues regularly confront, the decision was made to feature a conversation about marriage.
Margie Glatt, an attorney and rebbetzin, says that using the topic of marriage as the leadoff subject for the JWLC does not necessarily mean that this is the most pressing of all the issues that could have been chosen to feature.
“The plan is to discuss and analyze how to make good marriages better,” Rebbetzin Glatt says. “One thing it is not is a forum for troubled marriages,” she adds. It is planned to be a light and fun evening that brings our community together and gives people the opportunity to interact with leadership and benefit from their significant combined experience.
The women involved who are members of the new council represent a number of different fields of endeavor. In addition to rebbetzins, there are a number of educators, doctors, attorneys, and other professionals. The members include Suri Lenore Davis, Rachayle Deutsch, Dr. Deborah Dienstag, Aviva Feiner, Stacey Feldman, Malki Feigenbaum, Debbie Greenblatt, Nancy Hain, Faigie Horowitz, Elisheva Kaminetsky, Shani Lefkowitz, Nava Orlian, Rachel Pill, Tova Polakoff, Paghit Ralbag, Shoshana Soroka, Leanne Taylor, Sori Teitelbaum, Malka Trump, Esther Wein, Mindi Werblowski, Myrna Weinberger, Debra Weinrib, Chanie Wolowik, Myrna Zisman, and Tzipporah Weinberger.
Dr. Aaron Rosnfeld, CEO of the Gural JCC, reflects, “This is such an impressive group of Jewish women leaders assembled to identify unmet needs of our community. More importantly, they follow through with action to help meet those needs. The Gural JCC is proud to host this special group and to be working closely with UJA Federation of New York to bring their ideas to life.”
Rebbetzin Billet, like Rebbetzin Glatt, pointed out that the fact that they chose to address relationships in marriage at this point does not mean that this is a subject that requires urgent discussion.
In that vein, other issues to be addressed at future events will include parenting, addictions, and shidduchim, all matters of great concern to the gamut of Orthodox Jewish families from just about every community.
One of the women on the council who is not a rebbetzin but an important member who energized the group is Village of Cedarhurst trustee Myrna Zisman. “I suppose you can say that I am the senior member of the group and that I was closely involved with Sepi in implementing the idea in this community,” she said.
“I think that it is important to take a step back and appreciate what it means to be able to organize such a distinguished group in a very busy community like ours,” said Zisman. The Five Towns are generally super-committed when it comes to charitable involvements. It’s usually difficult to make room for more as people are committed to their shuls, yeshivas, projects in Israel, and so on.
But when it comes to UJA-Federation and the Gural JCC, people just cannot say no. For years, both UJA and the local JCC have been attempting to make inroads into the constantly growing Five Towns community, and it looks like this time around they have finally taken that big step in a good and productive direction.
Both UJA-Federation and the JCC in Cedarhurst quietly and effectively play key roles in Five Towns life. Whether it is programs for the elderly or services for preschoolers or their all-important food pantry, the UJA and the JCC are there to lend a helping hand.
As Rebbetzin Glatt said, the evening is meant to be fun and entertaining but also informative at the same time. The Five Towns needs the input of these great organizations, and allowing the women leaders of the community from disparate fields to lead in a new and innovative direction is indeed something to anticipate.