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NCJW Honors Four Sheroes

Delayed by COVID, the annual fundraiser surpassed the group’s goals.

By Jan Jaben-Eilon | Atlanta Jewish Times

The COVID pandemic forced the delay of the second annual “Women Who Dare: Celebrating our Sheroes” fundraising program from last year to this month. And, instead of gathering together for a lunch, the Atlanta section of the National Council of Jewish Women delivered boxed lunches to participants who then viewed a professionally edited video April 16 that highlighted both the organization and the four honorees.

“We are overwhelmed with the generosity to NCJW this year,” said Atlanta section president Sherry Frank.

The response was “extraordinary,” said Sherry Frank, repeat president of the NCJW Atlanta section. The group surpassed its goal of raising $30,000. “We are overwhelmed with the generosity to NCJW this year,” Frank said. She added that the group found many new donors this year – partly due to its four honorees.

“These women were drawn from the whole community. These are grassroots sheroes,” Frank said. She credited Johnnetta Cole, president of Spelman College from 1987-1997, for coining the term.

In the video of nearly 45 minutes, hosted by CNN’s Holly Firfer, the four honorees told their own stories.

Libby Gozansky said her careers and volunteer work were “driven by my Judaism.”

Libby Gozansky started her career as a newspaper reporter before attending law school, followed by clerking for a federal judge and then spending 17 years as a lawyer for The Coca-Cola Co. She topped that line on her resume by becoming outside general counsel for Spanx for seven years.

Recounting her community involvement, Gozansky said she was “driven by my Judaism,” which she called a “logical religion.” She quoted the saying that “if you help one person, it’s as if you saved the world.” Gozansky helped found the Genesis Shelter in 1994 in response to the realization that many new mothers were leaving hospitals with their newborns, only to live in cars or on the streets.
Gozansky also has been active in the struggle for voting rights.

Watching party: A bat mitzvah project that started as Amy’s Holiday Party launched the career of Amy Sacks Zeide, watching video with family.

In 1995, Amy Sacks Zeide launched an annual party, known as Amy’s Holiday Party, to provide Christmas gifts to poor children. Years later, in 2011, she founded Creating Connected Communities to go beyond one day to a year-round organization that supports thousands of children each year through the volunteer efforts of teenagers.

“I was raised in a family with Jewish practices and observances,” Zeide explained. “To affect change and make a difference” in the world, she now works with Jewish teens, “teaching them to develop their Jewish identity.”

“I believe a woman can change the world, especially a Jewish woman,” said Alyza Berman Milrad, founder of The Berman Center.

In 2017, in response to the issue of addiction, Alyza Berman Milrad founded and became executive director and clinical director of The Berman Center. “There were plenty of treatment centers,” Milrad acknowledged, but she felt that they didn’t “look at people as full human beings.” And she decided that there was “nothing out there for Jewish people.”

Today the center offers individual and group therapy, yoga, personal training and a variety of creative-expression classes. According to Milrad, the center attracts people from all religions and cultures. “I believe that it’s a woman’s role to bring a family together.” Then you bring more families together and soon there’s a community, she said. “I believe a woman can change the world, especially a Jewish woman.”

Longtime journalist Gail Evans said she was always “somebody who raised my hand” when something needed to be done.

The fourth Sheroe honored, Gail Evans, has long been a pioneer. She has been involved in politics and journalism for decades. Going on board with CNN when it launched in 1980, Evans started as an editorial producer/guest booker. “I was somebody who raised my hand” when something needed to be done, she said. Evans cautioned her listeners not to be afraid of taking advantage of opportunities.

Evans’ community involvement has included volunteering with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, or anywhere she feels she is needed, she said. “Women need to help each other.”

She pointed out that in Jewish religious services, participants note that they live on in the acts of goodness they perform. “I am very rooted in this. How you live your life matters.” Evans joked that she still asks herself what she’s going to do when she grows up.

The four honorees were chosen from the original 29 nominees in 2019 plus a few new names, Frank said. The co-chairs this year were mother Susan Schwartz and her two daughters Laine Posel and Lori Peljovich. The latter told the AJT that the program had 165 unique viewers, some of whom shared their screen to watch.

Frank was enthusiastic about the mother-daughters team, suggesting that future “Women Who Dare: Celebrating our Sheroes” fundraising programs should also be hosted by similar teams.

She also pointed out that NCJW has a partnership with the National Coalition for Literacy. Prior to the pandemic, the groups helped provide jewelry that students from poorer schools could choose for their mothers on Mother’s Day. This year, the groups gifted packages for the students to present to their mothers.