Ina Miller-Silverstein of Teaneck, 85, has volunteered for more than 60 years for the Bergen County section of the National Council of Jewish Women and other community causes.
Ms. Miller-Silverstein, a retired educator, is one of six women who will be honored at the NCJW centennial celebration on June 15 as “Women of the Century.”
The other honorees are Ruth Cowan, who now lives in Dallas but spent most of her life in Bergen County; Nina Gottesman of New York City; Ann Levenstein of Teaneck; Marcia Levy of Englewood; and Bea Podorefsky of Teaneck. The celebration will include the installation of new officers. Sheila Katz, the international CEO of NCJW, will be the guest speaker.
The honorees are being recognized for their pioneering work in starting programs that still are being carried out by Bergen County NCJW volunteers. The chapter has 1,000 members.
Ms. Miller-Silverstein is completing her second stint as chapter co-president; the first was from 2010 to 2011. She volunteered early on for a home instruction program for parents of preschoolers, working with the Bergen Family Center in Englewood, and she helped start an aquatics program for people with multiple sclerosis at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly.
Ms. Miller-Silverstein also helped create a plaintiffs’ waiting room in the Bergen County Courthouse so victims of domestic violence do not have to wait in the same room as their abusers until their cases are called.
She continues to volunteer with NCJW programs she helped start. “I stay active with NCJW because their mission speaks to me — improving the lives of women, children and families,” she said. “They reach the community on a volunteer level and do a tremendous amount of advocacy, locally and nationally.”
Ms. Miller-Silverstein also has advocated for reproductive rights and stricter gun control, marching in Washington with her grandchildren.
She serves on boards of other organizations including Bergen Family Center. That Englewood-based organization honored her recently for her support of a program that trains parents to become their child’s first teacher.
Ms. Miller-Silverstein began as a teacher after graduating from New York University. She was quickly drawn to special education and returned to school to get her master’s degree. Early in her career, she became a special education resource room teacher in the Leonia public school system; she retired after many years as a teacher and administrator there, including as principal of the Anna C. Scott elementary school.
“Teaching was my calling,” she said. “You don’t get a whole lot of monetary compensation. But you see people grow.”
She also worked for the Bergen County Developmental Center as a learning disability consultant, an accreditation she picked up during her post-graduate studies, and as its director. She also worked for five years in New York City at Bank Street College, a school for educators.
Ms. Miller-Silverstein married young and had three children. Her husband, Marvin Miller, an optometrist, died young; she remarried and gained two stepchildren. She now has 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Her husband, Michael Silverstein, who retired as a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, joins her in many volunteer activities.
No matter how busy she was at work or at home, she always made time for volunteering.
“Giving of yourself to somebody to make their life better is so dear to me,” she said. “I get good feelings from it. There’s nothing like connecting to somebody that’s underserved for whatever reason.”
She is most moved by the aquatic program for people with MS. “They have no other place where they can get that feeling of walking on the ground,” she said. “It’s amazing. My heart swells from that.”
Ms. Miller-Silverstein also recently celebrated a woman who graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in social work. She had tutored the little girl many years ago. “It was pretty exciting to see somebody who struggled so badly and is now helping other people,” she said. “That’s very important to me. I’m happy about the work I do, so I will continue to do it.”
Elizabeth Halverstam of Tenafly, co-president-elect of the local NCJW section, said that Ms. Miller-Silverstein “is an amazing volunteer. I don’t know how she fits everything in.” She recalls the many times Ms. Miller-Silverstein served meals in parking lots outside food pantries during covid.
“She’s made a tremendous difference to the underserved people in Bergen County — women, children, and families,” Ms. Halverstam said.
For information about the NCJW centennial luncheon at Seasons in Washington Township, or to buy a ticket for it, email email@example.com