Giving Back

National Council of Jewish Women Essex County Section Honors Livingston, North Caldwell and Cedar Grove women

Melanie Harrison Passes Gavel off to new NCJW President Shari Harrison Credits: Lisa Blumert
Shari Harrison, President  Credits: Lisa Blumert
Credits: Lisa Blumert
Credits: Lisa Blumert
Credits: Lisa Blumert

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Shari Harrison of Livingston, was recently installed as President of NCJW/Essex at the organization’s annual Installation and Awards Evening at Cedar Hill Country Club in Livingston. Also honored with awards for their leadership and service were Lauren Scher of Livingston, Robin Abrams of North Caldwell and Ellen Barocas of Cedar Grove.

For more than 20 years, according to Harrison, NCJW/Essex has been a place that has met her avid need to serve the public good and work with “intelligent and open-minded women of all ages.” Now Harrison brings her skills to a new leadership level.

“I am truly honored that NCJW/Essex – the premier, the smartest and the most professional volunteer organization around – has chosen me as its next president,” said Harrison, whose goal is to ensure NCJW/Essex remains relevant, vibrant and responsive to the needs of clients, members, supporters and volunteers. “It is my priority to maintain and expand upon NCJW’s willingness to always question the status quo, for both the benefit of the community we serve and for our valued volunteers.”

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Passing the gavel to Shari at her installation was her 24-year-old daughter, Melanie Harrison, a teaching fellow at the Rehouse Art Center in Syracuse, NY.

“My mom’s commitment to women’s issues is a constant inspiration to me as an educator and activist,” she said.

Standing in front of more than 200 guests and members Melanie said, “Mom, I always marveled at your seemingly genuine interest in attending eight performances straight of a community theater production where my role was no larger than a munchkin. Today I am wishing I could be there every step of the way as you continue to grow as an advocate and a leader. I can only hope that the knowledge I am with you in spirit will uplift and inspire you half as much as the knowledge you are with me drives me each and every day.”  

An attorney by training and a true progressive, Shari has been involved for more than 20 years in numerous capacities with NCJW/Essex and is committed to the goal of making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. In her role as president, she hopes to build upon advocacy efforts, particularly in the area of anti-human trafficking, and expand partnerships with like-minded organizations in the community.    

“I couldn’t be prouder or more certain that I am giving the reins to a truly special woman who will move NCJW/Essex forward by leaps and bounds,” said outgoing president Deborah Legow Schatz, who has served two years at the helm of the organization.

Lauren Scher, also of Livingston, was the recipient of the Henrietta Weiser Emerging Leader Award, which is presented to a promising NCJW/Essex member who has demonstrated leadership potential. For Scher, the opportunity to make a difference locally has been behind her evolving role within NCJW/Essex.

Scher began volunteering with the “Mitzvah-in-a-Minute” program and became a committed volunteer with the Teen Dating Abuse Project serving as an Assistant and a Presenter. She has since moved up the leadership ladder to Vice President of Volunteer Outreach. 

With hands-on responsibility for numerous volunteer initiatives including Mitzvah-in-a-Minute, VolunTeens/VolunTweens, Kids Emergency Closet, Empty Bowls No More and the Eskow Volunteer Awards, Lauren has found that at NCJW/Essex the chance to participate is infinite.

Scher will assume the role of Vice President of Programming for the coming year.

Robin Abrams of North Caldwell was the recipient of the Service to Section Award, recognized for her passion and dedication as a volunteer for 35 years. Abrams has served in numerous roles for NCJW/Essex including as a member of the Art Show Steering Committee, co-chair of Holocaust education and a participant in MLK Day activities.

More recently, Abrams has assumed leadership roles for several fundraising activities, including the Special Gifts campaign, the Golf Outing, House Tour and Card Party. Abram’s broad spectrum of activities and her tireless work as a volunteer earned her the Service to Section Award.

Ellen Barocas of Cedar Grove was the recipient of The Hannah G. Solomon Award, presented by NCJW/Essex to an individual who has changed the lives of others through leadership efforts and service on a community level.

Barocas said she is attracted to the mission of advocating for women, children and families. Both for NCJW/Essex and other advocacy efforts, Barocas has channeled her passions and made a difference on a community level, earning her the distinction of the Hannah G. Solomon Award. 

For NCJW/Essex, Ellen created the petition to lobby the state to designate February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in New Jersey. Her leadership helped expand the popular “Politics and Pastry” program and the growth and success of the “Lunch and Learn” programs.

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