Enthusiasm, good planning and a fun group of women all helped to create The Jewish Women’s Club (JWC) in Livingston, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in January. JWC is a book club started by Ray Cohen, a member of Congregation Etz Chaim in Livingston. She shared her idea with me and we organized the club, reaching out to other friends from Livingston and the surrounding communities to form the group. JWC has had a meeting almost every month since January of 2008, with a few exceptions such as snowy days.
The group has read almost 100 titles, mainly novels, of Jewish and secular themes. It has continued with most of its original members, adding or reducing by one or two at various times, keeping the current group membership at 13 women, including Cara Altman, Bonny Areman, Randi Cohen, Rachel Glatt, Yifat Kedar-Mehl, Eliane Levy, Mira Mizrahi, Marion Mittelman, Juliet Rudy, Dalia Shleichkorn and Susan Yoskowitz.
Our most read authors have been Naomi Ragen, Ann Patchett, Dara Horn, Stephanie Meyers, Maggie Anton and Helen Simonson. Mizrahi has brought Anton and other authors to speak at our meetings.
We are a bunch of well-educated and professional women with an interesting variety of Jewish backgrounds. Members of the club have lived in Portugal, Egypt, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Israel, England and Lebanon. We have parents from all parts of the world, including Austria, Poland, Bukhara, Syria and Iran. We are immigrants, second-generation Holocaust survivors and Americans of longer U.S. history. We are Sephardic and Ashkenazi; we are traditional and Modern Orthodox. We speak various languages such as French and Hebrew. We represent much of the diaspora and the state of Israel. This diversity makes for various perspectives on what is read and discussed, and may be part of the success of the group.
“I’m so glad to have started this,” Ray commented. “We established tight relationships and friendships that I hope will last a long time.”
Each month one of the women picks a title and hosts the meeting, serving dinner in her home. Maybe that’s the secret to JWC’s success and longevity.
After partaking in the delicious food and catching up with each other, we outline the book discussions using reading group guides found online and go from there. Ray is the leader most months, and I use the Livingston library’s services to book clubs to accumulate the copies we need.
Attention is paid to the sensitivities and feelings of group members, sometimes avoiding a book altogether so as not to cause anyone discomfort. We’re a very polite group, either loving a selection or bearing through one we’re not quite fond of. Either way, we find there is always something interesting to discuss. We care about each other and share great friendships, and celebrate birthdays, holidays and special occasions together.
“And don’t forget our movie nights,” reminded Shleichkorn, whose beautiful home has been a great place to view films.
Each year, instituted by Ray, members choose a tzedaka project, making donations to various organizations suggested by club members, such as Thank Israeli Soldiers, Zion Orphanage in Jerusalem, AMIT and Saint Barnabas Medical Center. This year JWC will gather funds for the Chabad in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to help in disaster relief.
By Susie Mendelsohn