April 10, 2024
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April 10, 2024
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Project S.A.R.A.H. to Honor Key Volunteers at Annual Breakfast

On Sunday, April 7, Project S.A.R.A.H. will host its 13th annual breakfast at Congregation Keter Torah. This year’s theme is prevention, and the morning will highlight efforts to stop abuse before it starts.

Prevention has many faces at Project S.A.R.A.H., but they all have the common thread of education. Knowledge is power, and the more you are empowered, the more you can protect yourself. Project S.A.R.A.H. starts teaching children as young as pre-k age about proper relationships and safety. The staff shows children age-appropriate videos on potential abuse and warning signs of unhealthy relationships. They run cyber-safety sessions for middle school and high school students, and camp counselor and youth synagogue leader training sessions.

Rabbis, rebbetzins and mikvah attendants participate in training workshops as well so they have the tools to identify and help someone who is a victim of abuse. Community rabbis and rebbetzins are vital assets to prevention, since often “rabbis are the first line of defense that people confide in when they have a shalom bayis issue,” noted Michelle Wellikoff, director of business development at Project S.A.R.A.H. Wellikoff also shared that Project S.A.R.A.H.’s emphasis on education even ventures into the family setting. “To pick up on early signs of wrong behavior, we run a program called Fireside Chats, with small groups of parents, in a private home, to teach them how to talk to their kids.” The main goal, of course, is teaching awareness. “Research shows if you help kids sooner, they are able to have more success in prevention and longer success rates,” said Wellikoff.

This year’s breakfast honors Dr. Ephraim and Chava Casper as the Guests of Honor. Founding— and still active—members of Congregation Keter Torah, the Caspers are devoted to their family and to their professional careers. Chava’s relationship with Project S.A.R.A.H. began back in 1977 when she wrote the initial federal grant that really kickstarted the organization. She still assists Project S.A.R.A.H. with grant applications all these years later and has been an invaluable asset along the way.

Rabbi Menachem and Sarah Genack, of Englewood’s Congregation Shomrei Torah, are the recipients of this year’s Rabbinic Supporter honor. Despite their busy family and work lives, they make the time to partner with Project S.A.R.A.H. in a variety of ways. Sarah has been involved since the early days of the organization and takes pride in the dramatic development that Project S.A.R.A.H. has undergone since its initial inception.

This year’s Volunteer Award is being given to Mandy Richman. Richman, a one-time member of The Jewish Link team, has been an invaluable volunteer for Project S.A.R.A.H. Having moved to Bergenfield only seven years ago, she became involved with Project SARAH through a friend and never looked back, chairing the annual breakfast for the last four years while also juggling the demands of her daily family and work life.

The Project S.A.R.A.H. leadership is going in an exciting, new direction this year with a unique guest speaker. Saranne Rothberg is an award-winning health and happiness expert. She is herself a survivor of domestic violence and breast cancer, and founded the acclaimed ComedyCures Foundation during her bout with cancer in 1999. ComedyCures.org is a non-profit organization that brings joy, laughter and therapeutic humor to kids and adults living with illness, depression and disabilities. Rothberg will share her personal experiences and discuss how to use humor, laughter and play as guides in helping people overcome hardships and difficult life challenges.

There is no charge for attendance to Sunday’s breakfast, but donations are appreciated as this is the main fundraiser that enables Project S.A.R.A.H. to continue doing its very important work: work that goes well beyond our local communities. Project S.A.R.A.H. recently sent training groups to Boston, Toronto and Mexico, to name a few, raising awareness and helping other communities put abuse-prevention programs in place. Wellikoff said, “We enlist rabbis from other communities to publicize and acknowledge that this exists in our [Jewish] communities.” That is Project S.A.R.A.H.’s mission: Acknowledge. Educate. Prevent.

For more information, go to www.projectsarah.org.

By Michal Rosenberg

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