Elaine Meyerson of Hillsdale is a very busy woman.
In 2015, she retired from a 29-year-stint as executive director of the Center for Hope and Safety (formerly Shelter Our Sisters), intending to use her new freedom to become a volunteer and become more actively involved in the Jewish community. But as she puts it, she was “swooped up” almost immediately by the NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence, accepting the position of interim director.
True to her word, however, she indeed has become a volunteer, and she channels her considerable efforts through the National Council of Jewish Women.
“I’ve always been a member of National Council,” Ms. Meyerson said. “In fact, in 2015, I was honored by the Bergen County Section.” Now, as the group’s vice president for administration, not only is she helping to expand and modernize NCJW’s technical and database capabilities, but she also volunteers at the organization’s Waiting Room, which provides a safe haven for domestic violence litigants awaiting court appearances at the Bergen County Courthouse.
As “a strong advocate and diehard social worker,” she finds that working with NCJW allows her to combine her two major interests, working with victims of domestic violence and advocating on issues she considers important.
She has respected the organization for many years, she said. “I got to know them from sexual assault coalition meetings, human services advisory councils — there was always someone there from the National Council.” Indeed, she said, among women’s organizations, “They have been the strongest advocacy voice for women. These are very strong-willed, compassionate, professional women who want to do something in their retirement,” she said. “I’m proud to be part of it.”
She is also proud to be part of Governor-elect Philip Murphy’s Transition2018 team. She’s a member of its Human and Children Services Committee, which will be “setting out priorities we would like the government to address.”
This is not the first transition team on which Ms. Meyerson — a former chairperson and member of Bergen County’s Human Services Advisory Committee — has served. She also worked with Bergen County Executive James Tedesco.
As a member of Governor-elect Murphy’s transition team, Ms. Meyerson said she would like to see greater recognition of the severity of domestic violence and sexual assault and would like the expertise of organizations such as hers to be used more often. “I’ve been working in the field since the 1970s,” she said. “Sometimes what the state or funders look for is to bring in new blood, new resources, sometimes overlooking those who have expertise, can offer technical assistance, and have in-depth understanding of the needs.”
Crediting State Senator Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle of Englewood for their efforts to strengthen state legislation on issues affecting women and children, Ms. Meyerson noted that there is a need to follow up on legislation. For example, she said, in 2011 a law was passed requiring that the topic of dating violence be addressed in schools. “Who is following up on that?” she asked.
Among her other activities, Ms. Meyerson spends several hours a week as a consultant to nonprofits through her company EKM1 Consulting, LLC. In addition to her work with NCJW, she is a longtime board member of Project Sarah (Stop Abusive Relationships at Home), based at the Jewish Family Service of Clifton/Passaic. “I love that organization,” she said. “The founders recognized the problem in the early 90s.
“Abuse can take many forms — financial, emotional, psychological, or physical,” she added. “There is no way domestic violence can escape the Jewish community.”
Ms. Meyerson said she was brought up in a home “where you do for others. We were strongly Jewish, and cared about others in the community.” Raised in the Bronx and then in Yonkers, she attended SUNY Buffalo, spending a semester during her sophomore year in Israel “before it was ‘in.’” She earned both a master’s degree in social work and a bachelor’s in psychology and sociology at Buffalo. She also holds certification from the Academy of Certified Social Workers.
“We moved to New Jersey when my husband got into law school,” she said. “Cousins had bought a home in the 1950s off Paramus Road.” In fact, she recalled, “we watched the Alexander’s painting get painted.” (Readers of a certain age will understand this allusion to a brightly colored department store on Route 4.)
Her husband of 42 years, Lawrence Meyerson, as well as her two adult children also are committed to service, she said. Mr. Meyerson, a former municipal judge and Hillsdale councilman, is an attorney focusing on elder law and adult protective services. “He works with the most vulnerable, the elderly, and the disabled,” Ms. Meyerson said. Her son, David, is a child neuropsychologist, married to Elizabeth, who is a nurse. Her daughter, Rachel, has been in Puerto Rico for a month, working with FEMA to rebuild the island’s hurricane-demolished infrastructure.
“They’ve all been touched by the spirit of Judaism,” Ms. Meyerson said. “They all are trying to make a better world.”