Local women to be honored by JCC as Women of Valor

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — For the second year, the JCC MetroWest community will honor four women who have made an impact at the Women of Valor brunch on Dec. 7. Featuring guest speaker and writer Francine Klagsbrun, the four honorees will participate in a panel discussion about what they have accomplished at JCC MetroWest. The honorees include Barbara Birnbaum, of Livingston; Jessica Wolff, of Randolph; Annette Littman, of West Orange and Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, of South Orange.

“These women have given their time and their leadership to our community,” JCC MetroWest CEO Stuart Raynor said a phone interview on Nov. 30. “We want to say thanks.”

This is the second year the award has been given, and Raynor said the previous winners gathered to nominate this year’s honorees. The 2017 Women of Valor include Harriet Rosenthal, Felice Flitt, Caren Ford and Joni Cohen.

“We talked about people who have gone above and beyond,” Raynor said. “We try to have people from different generations to really encourage young people to get involved.”

Littman has lived in West Orange for 63 years and has been involved with the JCC since she was a teenager. All five of her children grew up going to the JCC.

“Our whole family was involved,” she said in a phone interview on Nov. 30. “I’ve always considered it a second home, there’s so much going on there. It’s nice to see the span of generations; there’s an amazing display of ages. And even though it’s the JCC, I think it’s a really valuable part of the community for everyone.”

After having been involved with the JCC MetroWest for so long, Raynor said honoring Littman was a no-brainer.

“She was one of the first names that came up,” Raynor said about Littman. “She’s been involved almost her whole life.”

Littman said that she is excited about the award and looking forward to choosing winners in the years to come.

“I was very honored and surprised,” she said. “It’s exciting. I think it’s a wonderful way to honor a woman. Valor is courage and honor and I think this is an amazing idea of what that is.”

Rosenthal has lived in South Orange for 29 years and, unlike Littman, became involved with the JCC later in life. She grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, a town that does not have a JCC.

“I grew up in a town that didn’t have one, so when we moved here my husband and I knew we wanted to get involved,” Rosenthal said in a phone interview on Nov. 30. “We’re lucky to have one here.”

She, like Littman, said that she loves the variety of generations she sees on a daily basis at the JCC.

“I love meeting with the seniors and speaking with them, I think it’s really inspiring to learn from them,” she said. “So I’m really glad to be honored with someone like Annette who’s had a different experience than me. We can create a community that way.”

Rosenthal has been a board member of JCC MetroWest and is a past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey. She said she gets to see many of the people who are involved in both organizations at the JCC.

“I see people from my community and my synagogue there and that’s really meaningful to me,” Rosenthal said. “We have so many wonderful people here and I’m looking forward to showcasing them in the future. It’s a really wonderful place as a whole.”

Raynor said that, while he doesn’t know her well personally, the work Rosenthal has done for the JCC MetroWest made her an easy choice to receive the award.

“She’s been here for so long and she’s been outstanding all the time,” he said. “I think this award resonates with people because they want to support women. They really respond to the fact that the JCC is recognizing women. They should be, because they’ve all been incredible leaders.”