May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Federation’s Miriam Allenson Opens PR Firm, Completes Second Novel

Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to realize your dreams. For Miriam Allenson, that step came when she read about a woman who watched her child leave Germany on the Kindertransport and didn’t follow because she was afraid of change and what was on the other side. “After I read that article, I handed in my resignation,” said Miriam Allenson, former communications director for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. Six months later, her second novel is on an editor’s desk. And she has begun to sign new clients to her communications firm, MS Allenson & Associates.

Allenson hasn’t embarked on a totally new path. She already has one published novel under her belt: “For the Love of the Dame,” a romance combining two of her passions: baseball and opera. And JFNNJ is her client instead of her employer, along with a growing a roster of Jewish non-profits. But now she’s on her own, relying on self-discipline and self-promotion to get the job done.

After working for Jewish Federation for 13 years, Allenson is using her knowledge of the Jewish community here and in Israel to promote Jewish non-profits. Her boutique perspective is she can consult for federations and organizations that are too small to have their own marketing department but can retain her on an ad hoc and contractual basis. She is also very “Israel-centric,” and is beginning to work with a number of Israeli non-governmental agencies (NGOs) who have fundraising organizations in the United States. “Communications from Israeli NGOs are often written by people whose native language is Hebrew. Although they speak English fluently, sometimes their written English is not correct. I make sure the language flows,” she said. She also performs the traditional public relations function of helping clients tell their stories to the media. Her success comes from years of building relationships with both broadcast and print editors and reporters in the New York metro area, and now on social media as well.

But she’s certainly not all business, all the time. When Allenson is in novel-writing mode, she lets her imagination travel to a completely different place. She is now writing the second of a planned four-book series about “English dukes and the American women who drive them crazy.”

Born in Staten Island, Allenson formed a bond with her synagogue rabbi and his family. Her fondest early memories are of being with her grandfather in his Bayonne shtiebel. “I love the warmth of being Jewish. I can’t imagine being anything else; it’s a beautiful thing.” Her family later moved to Teaneck, first joining the Teaneck Jewish Center and then Beth Shalom. Allenson’s father was the president of the YM-YWHA in Hackensack, and the first Jewish president of the National Council of Christians and Jews.

Allenson married a boy she met at the Edgewood Country Club, where both families belonged. “It was hate at first site, but one date and I knew I was going to marry him,” she said. “He was cute, handsome and funny. He actually disrupted a conversation I was having with a boy I had a crush on.” Sounds like a good plot for a romance novel!

For several years after their marriage, the couple lived in the south where her father-in-law had garment factories. There, she felt compelled to defend her Jewish identity. “We were the only Jews in this tiny little town. Somebody actually asked me where my horns were. I don’t think there was any animus on her part; it was ignorance.”

The family moved back to New Jersey and Allenson gravitated to marketing and public relations at radio stations. After a stint working on a political campaign, she got a tip about a job opening at JFNNJ, and the rest, as they say, is history.

At JFNNJ, Allenson loved feeling that she was doing work that made a positive difference in people’s lives. She brought media attention, and therefore public awareness, to Federation programs such as support for Jewish day schools and the Bergen Reads program, which pairs adults with young students to give their literacy skills a boost.

Her best memories of JFNNJ are from the trips to Israel she led. “The two ‘First Responder’ missions I led to Israel were extraordinary,” she said. “I got huge pleasure seeing the admiration on the faces of these non-Jewish policemen, firemen and EMTs, and hearing how, once they saw Israel for what it really was, they understood what was behind the headlines.”

At a time when many of her contemporaries are thinking about retiring, Allenson is thinking about the next novel and the next client. She’s not alone. “Baby boomers are the biggest demographic group and most of us are healthy and have active lives. I like working. Why retire?”

Check out Allenson’s business page here: https://www.linkedin.com/profinder/pro/msallenson and her author page here: http://www.miriamallenson.com/.

By Bracha Schwartz

 

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