EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Krisitn Fless, Division Chief for Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, has been added to the list of women honored during this event for her dedication as a pulmonologist in the care of critically ill COVID-19 patients. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Livingston resident Jeanne Silberman, known locally for helping hundreds of residents register for the COVID-19 vaccine, has been added to the list of women honored during this event. 

LIVINGSTON, NJ — During the first annual Inspiring Women of Livingston awards ceremony held virtually on Sunday, the Livingston Committee of Diversity and Inclusion (LCDI) and Livingston Township Council honored 16 local women who have made a difference in various categories, including education, medicine, art, public service, volunteerism and future leaders.

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LCDI co-chairs Alyse Berger Heilpern and Saba Khan as well as members Sara Goldstein and Asha Samant described the feats of each of honoree as she received a plaque for her contributions to the community. Mayor Shawn Klein, who attended the event along with Deputy Mayor Ed Meinhardt and Councilman Michael Vieira, expressed during the ceremony that these women “deserve to be honored all the time for all they do.”

According to the LCDI, the Inspiring Women of Livingston Awards will be held annually as the township’s culminating event for Women’s History Month to honor women who make the Livingston community a better place in unique ways. A list of the 2021 Inspiring Women of Livingston and a summary of why each was selected can be seen below. (Photos of honorees who have been previously featured on TAPinto Livingston can also be seen above.)


Cynthia Healy recently retired as principal of Harrison Elementary School after many years of dedication to the education of Livingston students.

Dr. Dakashna Bahadur Lang, a language arts teacher at Heritage Middle School, was named 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year for her commitment to her students.

Barbara Bye was selected for her extraordinary efforts as treasurer of the board of trustees at the Livingston Public Library.


Dr. Maninder “Dolly” Abraham, MD, a physician and Chief of Hospitalist Medicine at RWJBarnabas Health, has spent the last 13 months treating patients with COVID-19 and helping the hospital system adapt to the influx of patients.

Marjorie “Margie” Heller, Vice President of Community Health and Strategic Global Partnerships at RWJBarnabas Health, works hard to address healthcare disparities and has spent much of her career working with underserved communities in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and more.

Dr. Krisitn Fless, Division Chief for Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, has more board certifications than nearly any two or three other physicians, yet it was her role as a pulmonologist in the care of critically ill COVID-19 patients that gave hope and then relief for so many of these people and for their families who were suffering in their absence.

"Dr. Fless' skillset and instinctual appreciation of the condition, circumstance and trajectory of these patients, who readily progressed at a frighteningly quick pace from conversing to critical allowed her to anticipate and act in a manner that others quickly learned to follow and then emulate," said Heilpern. "Recognized and deeply respected not only by physician colleagues but by respiratory therapists with whom she practices shoulder to shoulder; by hospitalists and infectious disease physicians who battled with her; by nurses, social workers, clergy and residents, Dr. Fless was the person to whom many turned for support, advice and leadership."


Eleanore “Ellie” Cohen, a former Livingston mayor and Livingston Board of Education, was honored for her contributions as a champion of the local arts community.

Vivian Olshen, a gifted wildlife artist, was honored for her contributions to the Arts Council of Livingston as the organization’s vice president.


Officer Joy Klapal, a member of Livingston’s Community Policing Unit and known to Livingston students as “Officer Joy,” has protected and educated Livingston residents for 20 years, spending a great deal of her time at local schools as a leader of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.

Melissa Caspar Holub is a dedicated member of the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department who began volunteering at age 18.


Martha Clark Ackermann, whose community service efforts have been recognized multiple organizations for many years, currently serves as secretary of Livingston’s Healthy Community, Healthy Youth (HCHY), founder of the Children’s Theatre of Livingston, a member of the Arts Council of Livingston and a champion of all-things education for Livingston’s youth.

Stacey Block Rubinstein serves as president of Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which works year-round to provide financial assistance to families in need and keep the shelves stocked at the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, Livingston’s local food panty.

Christy Sanborn was honored for infusing Livingston with anonymous flower bouquets that she arranges and delivers on behalf of residents at no charge to the sender, who typically remains anonymous.

Jeanne Silberman was recognized for her family's efforts to help hundreds of senior citizens, teachers and others register for the COVID-19 vaccine. 


Naomi Bekuresion, a Livingston High School (LHS) senior, currently serves as LHS Student Body President and is the co-founder of the LHS Black Student Union.

Molly Cantillon, a Newark Academy student, is a Coca-Cola Scholar as well as the founder and chief executive officer of Techshare Project and GirlTechBoss.

Gabby DeFilippo, a two-time cancer survivor and Montclair State University student, has earned bronze, silver and gold awards through Girl Scouts of America for the Adopt-a-Grandparent program, a pediatric cancer awareness campaign and a toy drive for immune-compromised hospitalized children.

Heilpern concluded the ceremony by expressing the LCDI’s gratitude toward the township council members for their support of the inaugural event and specifically thanked Vieira for having plaques made for each honoree. She also encouraged residents to begin nominating candidates for the 2022 Inspiring Women of Livingston awards.

To nominate a resident for the 2022 awards, contact the LCDI at lcdi.livingstonnj@gmail.com

The full 2021 Inspiring Women of Livingston awards ceremony can be viewed any time on the LCDI Facebook Page BY CLICKING HERE.

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