WEST ORANGE, NJ – The National Council of Jewish Women held its sixth annual Back 2 School Store at Temple B’Nai Shalom on Pleasant Valley Way on Sunday, welcoming a record-breaking 650 Essex County children to select coats, clothing, shoes, backpacks and much more.
Over 35 agencies and organizations helped to identify the children eligible to shop at the store, and retail organizations, along with private donations, provided all the clothing and supplies for the children.
“The Back 2 School Store embodies the mission of the NCJW,” said board member Karen Cherins. The Essex County section of the National Council of Jewish Women is the largest in the United States with more than 3,200 members.
“It takes an army of volunteers,” said Back 2 School co-chair Ellen Legow. “Over 400 volunteers have put this event together, starting with 30 people working since last September.”
“We’re a little less nervous going in to our sixth year,” she noted, “and all the kids will have smiles on their faces.” Since its inception, over 1,800 volunteers and 3,000 children have been part of the NCJW’s largest event of the year.
On hand for the ribbon cutting was Congressman Rodney Freylinghusen; Essex County Freeholder Vice-President, Patricia Seibold; James Gonzalez, President and CEO of University Hospital, Deputy Mayor of Livingston Michael Silverman (who was also a volunteer), and Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson. Representatives from the state and Governor’s office were also on hand to see the ribbon cutting, which was preceded with a prayer by B’Nai Shalom Rabbi Robert Tobin.
“The whole idea is absolutely marvelous,” said Essex County Freeholder Patricia Seibold, who lives in Livingston and taught at West Orange High School for twenty years.
“It’s incredible how this event helps so many people. I’ve been coming every year since it started.”
While the children were selecting their choices with their own “personal shopper,” parents and guardians were invited into the Gaelen Family Center where social services information, blood pressure screenings, eye exams, glucose, cholesterol testing and more were available.
Tap Into West Orange tagged along with Sophia, 8, and her personal shopper Hedy, as she shopped in the 4,000 square foot “department store” at B’Nai Shalom. After selecting a zebra patterned backpack and picking out a turquoise colored coat – “green is my favorite color,” said Sophia, who speaks both English and Spanish, it was on to select a pair of pants and a top. Sophia and Hedy then headed over to the shoe department to be fitted for a new pair of shoes. Once the ‘larger’ items including socks, underwear , hats, and gloves were secured in a bag, Hedy helped Sophia fill her backpack with all her school supplies and personal care items.
Judging by the smile on Sophia’s face, it appeared that the National Council of Jewish Women had again fulfilled their mission statement at the Back 2 School Store.