A reprint from The Jewish Standard
“Jewish Women and Children Serving the Needs of Others”
by: Heidi Mae Bratt
Twenty-ﬁve years ago, a group of Jewish women in North Bergen County saw a need, and formed a grassroots organization that today has 100 women and their children participat-ing. The JCO, that is the Jewish Communi-ty Organization of North Bergen County, is based in Upper Saddle River, Woodcliff Lake, and environs, but volunteers its woman and kid-power to agencies and people throughout New Jersey. On Friday, March 2, the JCO joins with Make-A-Wish New Jersey in hosting a fun-draiser at the Edgewood Country Club in River Vale. This is the ﬁfth year that the JCO has partnered with Make-A-Wish New Jersey in raising $10,000 to send a young-ster on their dream trip. This year, the re-cipient is a 17-year-old Bergen County girl who has a brain malformation. The teen-ager is an animal lover, and especially loves big felines. Her wish is to see the big cats up close at Dade City Wild Things, a zoo in Florida that offers guided safari tours and up-close encounters with its animals. “We are responsible for raising the funds to send these youngsters on the trip of their dreams,” said Stacy Ceslowitz, co-president of the JCO, along with Lisa Halperin. “This is our single largest fundraiser of the year,” said Ms. Ceslowitz, a mother of two daughters, 8 and 9. But it’s not just the women who are helping the teenager get to Florida. The Junior JCO, that is, the children of its membership, are holding their own bowl-ing fundraiser on March 9 at Montvale Lanes in Montvale. Less the cost of bowl-ing, all the money raised will go toward the Make-A-Wish pot, said Ms. Ceslowitz.“We really want to teach our children to give back and we start them early, long before they do their bar and bat mitzvah projects,” she said. “We want to instill the values of giving back in our children.”The youngsters give back and then they get back.This year for the ﬁrst time, a young-ster will be recognized at the ladies luncheon. The JCO is awarding the JCO Leadership in Community Award to Ben Carter, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at George G. White Middle School in Hills-dale for his tireless volunteer effort.Said Robyn Carter, Ben’s mother and a member of the JCO, “He is a stand-up kid. He is always quick to volunteer and to make a difference. It’s his nature. He’s a doer and a helper.”Among his many volunteer efforts, Ben is a Big Brother, volunteers with se-niors at the Jewish Home in Rockleigh, is an assistant teacher at the Hebrew school at Temple Emanuel of Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake, and more.Said Ben, “It makes me happy when I help people.”“The JCO is doing such good work,” said Ms. Carter. “We’re very proud of Ben and appreciate that he’s getting this award. We encourage other kids to take the initiative as well.” The youngsters in JCO are kept pretty busy. Each spring the Junior JCO gathers to prepare Passover bags for commu-nity seniors. The bags are stuffed with Passover staples, decorated by the kids and delivered to the senior seder at the new YJCC.The JCO has also partnered with the Healthbarn Foundation, Healing Meals, to prepare nutritious meals for children and their families with serious medical issues.Each December, the JCO holds its annual Chanukah party, to celebrate the holiday and thank its members and their children for their efforts in giving back to the community. In conjunction with the party, the JCO participates in NJ Cares’ Frosty Friends program. Through this gift-giving program, last year the JCO fulﬁlled gift wishes for 150 children at the Second Street Youth Center in Plainﬁeld.On Mitzvah Day 2016, a group of JCO members and their children volunteered to help Safely at Home paint the interior of the Hackensack group home for the Alli-ance Against Homelessness. And each spring, the JCO holds a Lemonade Stand and Food Truck Fest to help raise funds for pediatric cancer re-search with the Junior JCO participating by serving lemonade to the crowd. This year’s event will be held on May 2 from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Lions Park, Upper Saddle River.
Heidi Mae Bratt is the editor of About Our Children