UNION COUNTY, NJ - Human rights leader Janice Caren Lilien, age 71, died peacefully in her home on May 3 after a long battle with lymphoma. She was a very active citizen of Union County, holding multiple leadership roles with human service organizations, according to her obituary posted by The Star-Ledger.
Lilien served as the CEO for the Girl Scouts of Greater Essex and Hudson Counties of 17 years, the assistant executive director for Community Access Elizabeth for 5 years, and most recently as the executive director of the YWCA of Union County for 12 years.
“After the fire at the YWCA Union County’s headquarters in Elizabeth in September 2019, Jan saw the opportunity to rebuild a modern facility that will take the YWCA into its next 100 years, providing more accessibility for our clients and room to grow our services. She was determined and tireless in this effort, leading the organization through a successful capital campaign and planning process to make this new building a reality,” the YWCA of Union County said in a statement. “Jan will be remembered as an inspiring leader in our organization, creating a culture of collaboration to move our mission forward. Her memory will continue as inspiration to all of us as we continue to carry out the work of our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women to which she dedicated her life.”
Several community leaders across Elizabeth and Union County expressed their condolences in statements.
“I would like to express my deepest condolences to Janice’s family and friends at this time of her passing,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “I have known Janice for many years, and she was a compassionate individual, dedicated to her profession and committed to helping the lives of others. This is a great loss for not only Elizabeth, but all of Union County. She will be deeply missed.”
“The sun is a little dimmer with the loss of Jan Lilien. She was not only a competent executive director of the YWCA, but a champion of justice for women and for racial justice. She didn't just say the words, her passion for these was in her soul,” said Linda Flores-Tober, executive director of the Elizabeth Coalition To House The Homeless. “Yet she was gentle, kind and a good friend. She will be dearly missed. It is up to us now to continue her legacy.”
“Jan will leave behind a legacy, one of hard work and dedication; one that gave voice to many who otherwise couldn’t speak or were not heard,” said Bill Jones, executive director for the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth.”
Catherine Hart, deputy director for the Housing Authority of Elizabeth shared the sentiment, “All that knew Jan will remember her as someone very special who made an impact on so many lives. We are grateful for having had the opportunity to have known and worked with her; we will follow her lead in the care and respect of the people we meet.”
During her professional career, Janice received many recognitions including: NJBIZ Best Fifty Woman in Business in 2019; Union County Women of Excellence Award from the Union County Commission on the Status of Women, and the Unsung Lifetime Hero Award from Historic Midtown Elizabeth.
Ms. Lilien is survived by her husband Richard, sons Jonathan and Michael, granddaughter Lilah-Rae, and her older sister Marcia.
A funeral service will be held on Wednesday, May 5th 2021 at 11:00 AM at the Beth Israel Cemetery, 1098 Woodbridge Center Dr, Woodbridge, NJ 07095.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in her honor to the YWCA of Union County.