September 21, 2018

Social Justice Committee Reports on JFS Giving Circle Project

Fall /Winter 2017

Through the generosity of our members, in late October we fulfilled the Fall/Winter Wish List of
our Jewish Family Services (JFS) Giving Circle family. As you know, our family consists of a
single mom, twin boys who are now two years old, and their four-year- old brother, who is on the
autistic spectrum. The family is enrolled in the Family Mentoring Program of Jewish Family
Services of Somerset, Warren, and Hunterdon Counties.

The JFS social worker said Mom was so grateful and excited when she delivered our donations,
which included clothes for her boys and herself, toys, art supplies, and two costume jackets for

Through our generosity, the family will have the necessities they need for the winter
season. The social worker said, “This summer was particularly difficult for the family, Mother
lost her job and was stressed not knowing how she would provide for her family. She
worked very hard and successfully to get another job that is better than her previous one.“

 As JFS shared in a “Thank You” letter, “Even though there have been difficult times, Brandeis
has been a reminder of kindness and generosity for the L.W. family. JFS appreciates  your
(Brandeis’s) consideration … in making this donation  through Jewish Family Services.”


A “Thank you” letter from Interfaith Hospitality Network

(On Tuesday, October 17, chapter members made dinner for the homeless who are in the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) program. They were housed at the Middlebush Reformed Church (MRC) here in Somerset. This letter comes from church member Sallye Poff.)

I want to thank you and your wonderful ladies for the absolutely elegant banquet you all prepared for the IHN folks on Tuesday evening.  I only wish you could have seen how much they enjoyed it.  Christina, the intern, joined them for dinner and was delighted to be part of such a special evening meal.  It was so great of you all to volunteer your time and labor to us for MRC’s IHN week.  You know that it’s sometimes difficult to cover all the evenings needed, so you really helped us complete what we needed for the week.

Please convey our gratitude to the ladies and let them know how their delicious food was so completely utilized.  They took leftovers from dinner into the center the next day for everyone.  I spoke with Karen in the morning and she was just amazed at the quality and quantity of your offerings.  The muffins were a big hit, and I even left them a note for that morning so they would remember to take them.  They have been a good and very appreciative group, and we all hope and pray for good things to happen in their lives.

Jewish Family Service’s Giving Circle Project

Thanks to the generous contributions of our Somerset Brandeis members, our Jewish Family Service’s Giving Circle family was able to buy much-needed spring/summer clothing and food and use the donated items that we gave them.

JFS’s Family Mentor Program Coordinator acknowledged our efforts, saying, “For a single mom raising three boys with very limited resources, your Giving Circle has been instrumental in improving their lives. Mom, Lauren, was so grateful she wanted to share her name as did the family mentor, Randy A.”

Here are the thank you notes we received from Lauren and JFS’s family mentor:
From Mom:
“To My Giving Circle:
I wanted to thank you so very much for not only the gift cards and cash, but the diapers, beautiful scarves and
body wash! I will definitely be using every single thing! With thanks, love Lauren.”

From JFS’s Family Mentor:
“To Lauren’s Giving Circle:
Thank you so much for your generosity to Lauren. It means so very much to her and the boys!
Randy A.”

Thank you again for your generous contributions, time, and effort. We anticipate collecting additional
items for our family in late summer for their fall/winter needs.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact:
Margo Siroty at 973-366-4883 or
Marilyn Altman at 732-868-5463 or

Marilyn Altman and Margo Siroty
Social Justice Committee Co-Chairs


A “thank you” from “The Center of Great Expectations”

We’ve got a very warm “thank you” letter from “The Center of Great Expectations”!

To read it click here:  CGE Letter


A “thank you” note from the social service agency

Dear Members of Brandeis National Committee, Somerset Chapter:

I want to express the deep gratitude we are feeling here at Jewish Family Service when you found it in your hearts to be a Giving Circle for the W—— family. Mother was thrilled and so grateful when I delivered jackets and shoes for her boys.

This winter has been particular difficult for the family. Her children were sick often and the mother had to miss work whenever they could not go to daycare. Mother struggles raising her three children alone while working full time with very limited resources and support. Thoughtful and generous gifts allow us to better serve her family. I was able to witness smiles and a deep reaction when I delivered the gifts.

We appreciate your consideration of the needs of other families in making this donation through Jewish Family Services. The family has requested that I extend their great appreciation for your generosity.
Thank you.

Warm Regards,
Young-In Shin, LSW
Family Mentor Program Coordinator

What Gives You Hope?

paulinaBrandeis students like Paulina Kuzmin ’17 give us hope. A BNC Scholar from Tucson, Arizona, Paulina  is double majoring in neuroscience and biology. She works as a community advisor (CA) for two freshmen halls where she  helps residents discover their passions and inspires them to get the most out of their college experience. Paulina also works in the Lovett lab as a biology technician. She credits her own Brandeis experience to members of the BNC who have helped her realize her goals and dreams through the  endless opportunities afforded to her as BNC Scholar. Paulina plans to graduate ahead of schedule, in December 2016, to pursue a career in medicine and also earn a dual master’s degree in public health (MPH).

Read Paulina’s thank you letter where she describes the lasting impact your support has made on her life and those of other BNC Scholars.

Since 1948, BNC members have raised more than $131 million to support Brandeis students, faculty, the library and cutting-edge research in neuroscience. Please consider making a gift today to ensure students like Paulina continue to fulfill their potential through a Brandeis education.


Liebowitz inaugurated as Brandeis’ ninth president


Ronald D. Liebowitz, former president of Middlebury College, was inaugurated the ninth president of Brandeis. Photo/Mike Lovett

Ronald D. Liebowitz, former president of Middlebury College, was inaugurated the ninth president of Brandeis University on Thursday November 3, 2016.

His inaugural address emphasized Brandeis’ Jewish roots and openness to all, as well as its commitment to academic excellence in the liberal arts and world class knowledge-creation from its outstanding faculty. And Liebowitz called for a new era of transparency, decisiveness, and accountability in governance and administration.

Read more here



Watch online the inauguration of Ronald D. Liebowitz as the ninth president of Brandeis University

RonaldDLiebowitz - BrandeisPresidentThe inauguration of Ronald D. Liebowitz as the ninth president of Brandeis University will be livestreamed beginning at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3. BNC members are encouraged to tune in and watch the event.

Anita F. Hill, University Professor of Social Policy, Law and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, will serve as grand marshal for the inaugural procession. In addition to Liebowitz and Board of Trustees Chair Larry Kanarek ’76, speakers will include Middlebury humanities professor Stephen Donadio ’63; Christine Ortiz, MIT’s Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; and Brandeis Provost Lisa M. Lynch, the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy.

Over the course of the program, the Brandeis Chamber Singers, the University Chorus and the University Orchestra will perform the three movements of Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.”

The inauguration will begin at 2 p.m. at the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center with a procession of dignitaries. Inauguration is a ticketed event for the Brandeis community and friends.  For more information, visit

BNC Executive Director visits NJ Region

IMG_1495(On September 20, BNC Executive Director Beth Bernstein visited our NJ Region, which is composed of the Clearbrook, Concordia, Harmony, Middlesex, Somerset, Tri-County, and Westlake chapters. Our luncheon and presentation by Dr. Tom Doherty, Professor of American Studies, were preceded by Beth’s remarks, which are reproduced here in toto.)

I am always so happy to come to New Jersey and be part of your wonderful University on Wheels programs. We want you to come to Brandeis and visit us, and we want to bring the best of Brandeis to you—our Brandeis faculty.

I want to begin by thanking each of you for supporting Brandeis—thank you for your time as volunteers, your talents, and for sharing your resources that helps us accomplish great things!

As you may know, two-thirds of our Brandeis students receive financial assistance and we work very hard to ensure deserving, talented students are able to study at Brandeis. I am thrilled to share that we have raised $622,000 toward our goal of $1 million for our new BNC Scholarship Campaign. We only have $378,000 left to reach our campaign goal. I hope you will help us accomplish this.

Remember that the students who come to Brandeis on scholarships are given the opportunity to study in the sciences and receive science scholarships through Sustaining the Mind fund. And they then work side by side with our acclaimed Brandeis researchers on understanding how the brain works—finding the key to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s or ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases. When you invest in a Brandeis student you are investing in the future. These are the kind of students you want to be leaders and who work hard to make a difference in the world. They may be the person to find a cure to a neurodegenerative disease, negotiate peace in our conflicted world, write an award-winning novel, or create new technology to improve our lives. The best is still to come!

I’d like to share a few points of pride with you about Brandeis:
• How many of you use Siri on your iPhone? Did you know that SIRI was co-founded by Brandeis alum Adam Cheyer? When he addressed a group of technology students recently he said to them, “I am not a college dropout: I’m a proud graduate of Brandeis!” One of his fondest memories was taking a computer science class at Brandeis and he said, “every time I walked out of every class with my mind blown.” This is a great example of a Brandesian who wanted to create technology that would make our lives easier.

• Princeton Review recently ranked Brandeis as the number-one university in the country for community service. From day one, our students live out social justice and do their part to give back to the community—to repair the world.

• Avi Rodal is one of our exceptionally accomplished scientists. She just published groundbreaking research on ALS—a neurodegenerative disease. Avi works with fruit flies and her research found and fixed an abnormality in flies’ nervous systems that had symptoms of ALS, restoring their ability to crawl. The significance of this is that we may be able to find a way to help human patients and help return their neurons to a healthy state. Brandeis has one of the top neuroscience programs in the country- we have some of the best scientists in the world.

• Eve Marder, world-renowned neuroscientist and both a Brandeis alumna and head of sciences at Brandeis, was in Norway last week because she received the very prestigious Kavli prize. Her research on lobster and crayfish revealed that brain circuits are “sculpted” from long before birth through adulthood. The research also explained how the brain achieves such a fine balance between the adaptability that allows us to learn
and to heal, and the stability that maintains our abilities and memories for a lifetime.

Dr. Marder answered a question about the brain’s ability to maintain stability even as it undergoes constant change. She said: “It’s magical how brains can incorporate changes without destroying function. Just think about it. Every time you have a long-lived cell, you’re constantly replacing the components. This turnover allows for plasticity but it also has to be kept in check. That is at the cellular scale. At a larger scale, you don’t want to train a brain to do something better at the risk of losing its ability to do something else that’s really important.”

We welcomed Brandeis’s 9th President, Ron Liebowitz. Time Magazine named him one of the top 10 college presidents in the country. He has an impressive track record with 31 years in higher education as a tenured Professor, provost, and he served 11 years as President of Middlebury College. He has stated that he supports Brandeis’s commitment to social justice and our strong Jewish heritage.

Brandeis is able to accomplish what it does thanks to your support. I hope you all feel a sense of pride at being part of the Brandeis family and that you all feel appreciated as friends and members of the BNC.

I look forward to showing you the Brandeis campus.


Report on Leadership Event at Brandeis University

No one from our chapter had ever attended a BNC event on the Brandeis campus. As part of the new leadership group of our Somerset chapter, three of us signed up to go. On May 2, Marilyn Altman, Chris Retz, and I set off for Waltham, curious about what was in store for us.

After settling into our hotel rooms overlooking the Charles River, we had our first group dinner. From the start, everyone was so welcoming and interested in us as individuals. We were assigned tables apart from our friends that so that new bonds were immediately forged. This occurred at each meal so we continued to meet other chapter leaders and connect as a group. In addition, at each meal, there was a Brandeis student, BNC Board member, or a member of the BNC professional staff at our table. We were able to have in-depth conversations with each.

Everywhere we went on campus students, teachers, and other professionals were so enthusiastic about their positions and the feeling of community and inclusivity to all on the campus was manifest. Students who were the beneficiaries of BNC scholarships were so very appreciative and had amazing aspirations, and we are helping to make these aspirations a reality. At our recent installation, the father of one of the students we met came to address us. He was very charming and put a face on a family that received scholarship funds from BNC. He expressed how extremely grateful his family was. His daughter had a fabulous experience and hopes to enter medical school in the near future.

If I had one wish to be granted for my chapter, it would be to magically transport us all up to the Brandeis campus for one day. I would love to have all BNC members be infused with the enthusiasm and scholarship pervasive everywhere on campus. The atmosphere is stimulating and inclusive.

Addresses from our BNC Executive Director, leaders in the areas of membership, leadership development, fund raising and a detailed lesson on using our fabulous BNC web site, were enthusiastically received by our chapter leaders. It was BNC 101, 102, 103 and more in one day—all a chapter leader needs to know.

We toured the campus and visited the amazing Library Archives and “the future is here” Maker 3-D Lab, where among other things, Brandeis students are creating prosthetic hands for children in poor countries!

I also learned firsthand the importance of our chapter contributions to the various National projects we support. As you know, Brandeis University was founded in 1948 to primarily accommodate very deserving Jewish students who were denied entry into other prestigious universities because of the then-existing quota system. Brandeis now equally serves diverse students of many religions, ethnic groups, and nationalities.

Did you know that the average age of a Brandeis alumnus is only 42? They haven’t even hit their career strides yet and many are not yet able to donate substantial amounts to their alma mater. Alumni Associations are a primary source of funds for universities. Therefore, the coffers of Brandeis can’t begin to compete with the enormous endowment funds of the other prestigious colleges and universities in the Boston area. In seeking top-ranked students, Brandeis needs to be able to compete with the scholarship aid packages offered by those schools.

Did you know that two out of three Brandeis students receive some form of financial aid? This places great importance on the funds we raise for our Scholarship Campaign. We are helping Brandeis to be able to attract the very best students in the country. All our funds go to American students.

My BNC chapter friends and I learned so very much during our brief stay on campus. We drove home imbued with renewed enthusiasm for BNC and our future programs. We spoke non-stop for the five-hour trip back home about what we learned and how we would implement some of the most appropriate programs for us.

If you are ever given the opportunity to attend a BNC Leadership Conference on campus, do not hesitate to immediately say “yes.” You will use all the wonderful resources offered by National so much more effectively. You will not continue to reinvent the wheel in the chapter, as much of what you are thinking about has already been anticipated by our professional and lay National staff. Your jobs will be easier and more satisfying. The icing on the cake is that you will meet other leaders with the same goals and interests that you have. You will learn the importance of your participation in BNC, make wonderful new connections and allow this unique university to ensure its service to future generations of deserving, appreciative students.


Judy Dorfman

Co-President, Somerset Chapter

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