Local shuls seek to bring women together

Local shuls seek to bring women together

Members of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center’s sisterhood include, from left, its president, Gail Rottenstrich, Ann Golick, Avital Ron, Dr. Nin Gold Ron, Pauline Mont, and Leslie Frucht.

Several years ago, the sisterhood of the Glen Rock Jewish Center ceased to be.

“We were scrambling to find a president, but no one came forward to do the job,” said Jane Spindel of Fair Lawn, a vice president on the synagogue’s board.

“After the sisterhood folded, we tried to organize a women’s initiative, loosely run by a few of us,” she said. “We did crafts sessions together, made jewelry, and had a speaker on holistic health. We had a pretty good turnout, but it was so loose and unorganized that it didn’t go anywhere.”

This September, things began to change. Two new synagogue members, who were interested in joining a women’s group, said they would step up and take the helm.

“But we decided not to stick with the same old model,” Spindel said. “It wasn’t working for us. I think that people were burning out.

“It was not so much a matter of programming as loss of interest. People get involved in so many organizations and volunteer groups and they move on.”

Under the leadership of Fern Goldstein of Fair Lawn and Marilyn Gordon of Paramus – who say they are happy to do the work but eschew formal titles – the synagogue once again has an organization “to get the women in the community together.”

The organization hopes to appeal to all age groups, Spindel said.

“In the past, sisterhood was mostly middle age and up,” she said. “We are looking to include the nursery moms, women in their 30s.”

Activities may include lectures, social action projects, hands-on activities, and day trips.

“We’re looking across the board,” Spindel said. “We’d also like to have speakers on a wide range of topics who can give advice on all kinds of things – health, education, financial.”

Spindel, who serves as liaison from the board to the women’s group, pointed out that 25 women attended the first meeting “and there were another 25 who were interested but couldn’t attend.” Some of those who came were young moms, she said.

The new group, called the Women’s Community, “seeks to embrace Jewish women across all generations who want to connect with each other for fun, education, and social action,” according to a publicity statement inviting women to a “Meet and Greet Wine and Cheese Night” on March 5.

Spindel said $36 dues will be collected at that time “to get some money into the coffers.” Next year’s dues will be collected in September.

A chocolate seder is planned for March 14, and “any member of the temple, as well as nursery moms who are not members, will be welcome,” Spindel said, noting that Rabbi Neil Tow is strongly behind the new initiative and that his wife, Rabbi Rachel Schwartz, will be involved actively in the new group.

“The Women’s Community will be good for the shul since we want to open as many doors as possible for our community members to get involved in Jewish life,” said Tow. “We now have a new slate of committed and active leaders who are already working on several projects. There is interest in restarting our monthly women’s Rosh Chodesh group.”

In addition, he said, “with the first meetings and new projects under way, there is a special sense of ownership and energy from GRJC participants [in] choosing a name and a mission for the group.”

Spindel said the new entity will work “to make as many people happy as we can.” Presently, they are hoping to do something every other month.

“But if it works, we may go on to monthly,” she said. She noted as well that younger mothers seem particularly interested in social action projects and have already organized meal delivery to volunteer groups helping with cleanup efforts in Moonachie and Little Ferry in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“They’re interested in long-term social action projects that make you feel you’re teaching something to your children,” she said.

The Women’s Community will fill a need in the synagogue since “women like to be together, to share different activities, to schmooze,” Spindel said. “It’s a natural thing to do.” Besides, she added, “Jews like to learn, and this will be another opportunity to share experiences and teach people things.”

At the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel, the sisterhood is still going strong, according to its president, Gail Rottenstrich. But there’s always room for something new.

The group’s new project, the Professional Women’s Network, began to take shape when sisterhood members Lisa Zyndorf, Shirley Liebowitz, and Bettina Kaplan were waiting for their children to finish Hebrew school on a Sunday morning.

“We started talking about work, work-life strategies, and balance,” Zyndorf said. “We said we should get more women talking about this, so we decided to start a network.”

After pitching the idea to Rottenstrich, who was very receptive, the three women facilitated a session on Feb. 7 that drew about 30 women.

“We discussed issues such as networking, whether embarking on a first job, on-ramping, or off-ramping. We talked about children, mandatory retirement, jobs that are becoming obsolete,” Zyndorf said, pointing out that many center members are business owners “who have made changes in their lives and are finding new things to do, including volunteer positions. There was a mix of knowledge and inspiration.”

Zyndorf said attendees were asked in advance what they wanted to learn. Some, she said, sought practice interviewing or help in writing resumes. Others needed information on how to look for jobs and do social networking.

“People wanted to know how to build LinkedIn profiles and learn more about marketing themselves,” she said. “They also wanted to find out how to learn about opportunities and develop skills in public speaking and computers.”

For now, she said, the group is planning sessions every two months. The next one – to be held in either March or April – will feature a panel of women discussing topics ranging from “taking a leap and starting your own family business” to engaging in job training when your position has become obsolete.

“It’s open to people outside the synagogue,” Zyndorf said, noting that she had reached out to other sisterhoods before the group’s first meeting. The Fair Lawn PWN also has set up a Facebook page.

Mostly, said Zyndorf, people interested in the new group have been forced into part-time positions or retirement. But, she added, there also are people in mid-career “who feel stagnant and want to relaunch.” Among the women at the first meeting were some who felt they were underemployed, as well as an empty-nester looking to work outside the home. In addition, there were others who had their own business and wanted to “network and get the word out.”

Zyndorf, a longtime Fair Lawn resident who has experienced job transition, moving from Wall Street to a job in the publishing industry, said that a budget from the sisterhood will allow the group to bring in outside speakers.

“It’s an opportunity to have a very welcoming environment and to make connections – to feel that you’re learning and being active and meeting people along the way,” she said. “There aren’t that many places where you can ask, ‘How can I find that out?'”

For more information about the group, email fljcpwn@gmail.com.

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