Essex County honors local leaders at Jewish Heritage Celebration

Photo Courtesy of Glen Frieson
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., center, honored John Schreiber, left, and Maya Lordo, right, at the county’s annual Jewish Heritage Celebration on May 31.

NEWARK, NJ — The annual Essex County Jewish Heritage Celebration on Tuesday, May 31, recognized the influence and positive impact that Jewish people have had, and continue to have, on the economy and culture of Essex County. During the ceremony, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. presented Star of Essex Awards to Essex County health officer Maya Lordo, and New Jersey Performing Arts Center President and CEO John Schreiber.

“Maya Lordo and John Schreiber have both been influential members of our community having had great personal success in their respective careers,” DiVincenzo said. “Their commitment to serving the Jewish community and improving the lives of Essex County residents, their leadership, and dedication to public service is to be praised.”

Lordo, born Maya Rabinovich, immigrated with her family to the United States in 1991 from the former Soviet Union. Her family originated from Ukraine and later moved to Uzbekistan during World War II to escape the persecution of Jews. In 1991, Lordo arrived in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was brought up in the Bensonhurst neighborhood, where she not only learned about Italian American culture, but about her Jewish religion, as this was not an allowed practice in her former country. She later moved to New Jersey, where she attended William Paterson University, earning a Bachelor of Science in public health, and New Jersey City University, earning a master’s degree in health administration. She has her state license as a registered environmental health specialist and is a nationally recognized master certified health educator. In 2017, she earned her N.J. health officers license, which allows her to lead a public health agency in the state of New Jersey.

Passionate about yoga, Lordo became a certified yoga teacher in 2016 and continues to live by the mantra, “You cannot always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.” This particularly allowed her to take on the challenge as Essex County public health officer in 2019. Four months after she began her career in Essex County, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area. She still managed to create a health department that promotes emotional and physical resilience in the community. The department aims to prevent, detect and educate about diseases while developing new policies to advance the well-being of Essex County residents. Lordo moved the department to become the state recognized Local Information Network and Communications System agency and emergency response coordinator with the New Jersey Department of Health.

“When I came to the United States in 1991 at the age of 7 with my mother, I didn’t know what being Jewish was because we were not allowed to practice our religion in Russia,” Lordo said. “We should be compassionate for those who are not the same as us.”

Schreiber grew up in Queens and lived at the last stop on the subway. Starting at the age of 9, his parents gave him $5 and let him take the subway into the city so he could buy a seat in the balcony at a Broadway show. From those experiences, Schreiber fell in love with the theater and thought, “I don’t know how, but I want to be part of that.” He became the second president and CEO of NJPAC on July 1, 2011. In a typical season, the arts center presents more than 650 events, serving more than 575,000 patrons. Its acclaimed arts learning programs reach more than 100,000 children and families annually.

Termed “a visionary producer” and America’s “impresario of brand names” by The New York Times, Schreiber’s career has encompassed award-winning theater, television, concerts, festivals, documentary film, branded entertainment, and a host of other cultural and cause-related events. Schreiber is a board member of the Newark Alliance and is an advisory board member of First Book and Rutgers University–Newark. He served as programs chairperson for the year-long 350th celebration of Newark’s founding. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts from Montclair State University.

“I am surprised, honored and thrilled to be recognized by the county executive, who is always thinking about what can be done for Essex County,” Schreiber said. “From my mother, Irene, I observed the importance of serving the community. She was always trying to be of some service to the community and that’s what I thought about when I came to NJPAC.”