UJA women celebrate their achievements
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UJA women celebrate their achievements

Nora Ephron — journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and director — told 500 women at last Thursday’s spring luncheon of the Women’s Division of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey that "women have a secret advantage."

Explaining that in becoming a screenwriter she required "a steep learning curve," she said women "have more chances to reinvent ourselves, to [take on] something hard and learn to do it."


Keynote speaker Nora Ephron told federation volunteers that women can "reinvent" themselves. PHOTO&#8’00;by ken hilfman

According to Ephron, many of her friends are doing something different than they set out to do when they were younger. Quoting Yogi Berra, she said, "’If you see a fork in the road, take it.’ We get to do that."

Honored at Thursday’s event were Nancy Epstein, Susan Sher, and Dana Post Adler — women who clearly would second Ephron’s message.

Epstein, a resident of Tenafly and founder and CEO of Artistic Tiles, told the guests that women today control 57.3 percent of the wealth in the United States and will be the biggest beneficiaries of the generational transfer of wealth over the next 50 years.

"We’re poised to make a major philanthropic impact," she said. "We’ve got the power to change the world."

Sher, from Franklin Lakes, said volunteering "has been my career … a lifelong learning program and a connection between my heritage and my legacy."

"It’s all about the people," she said, urging her listeners to "have dialogues and learn from one another."

Adler, who grew up in Englewood Cliffs and lives in Tenafly, spoke about the importance of role models and of setting a "tangible example for our children."

"Women shape our communities and mold our children," she said. "We need to model both action and giving."

Women’s Division throws itself a big party every year. This year, the luncheon — described by Women’s Division Co-Chair Sue Ann Levin as "a way to say thank you" — was held at the Rockleigh Country Club.

Delivering the campaign message, Paula Shaiman urged the 500 women to consider two gifts this year, with one going to Operation Promise, a national effort to improve the plight of Ethiopian Jews and Jews in the former Soviet Union.

Shaiman noted the desperate situation of Jews remaining in Ethiopia and pointed out that money was also needed to "prevent the Ethiopians from become a permanent underclass in Israel." In the former Soviet Union, she said, funds were needed both to sustain elderly Jews now living in poverty and to create Jewish educational programs targeting the younger generation.

Ephron, the keynote speaker, discussed "the journey" she has taken to get where she is today.

She said a favorite game of hers is to "describe myself in five words."

Going decade by decade, she demonstrated how, over the years, those five words would have differed. For example, she said, she would have described herself as "a girl" in her ‘0s, but as "a woman" in her 30s. Citing the impact of the woman’s movement, she quipped, "Girls’ were abolished."

The speaker noted her early love of journalism and her strong desire "to be like Lois Lane…. I thought being a reporter was the best job in the world."

Later, she said — spurred by the women’s movement and no longer content simply to "write about things" (or, as she added, to be "the wallflower at the orgy") — she began to write about herself "in response to these things." She also "found her voice," she said, "and it was a funny voice."

Ephron, who after several divorces is now ("finally") happily married, wrote the best-selling novel "Heartburn" in 1983, chronicling the breakup of her marriage. The book was made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

Turning to screenwriting, which, she said, "paid for the babysitter," she earned an Oscar nomination for her first film, "Silkwood," and a second nomination for "When Harry Met Sally."

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