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A determined partner in fight against abuse
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A determined partner in fight against abuse

‘Rachel’ honoree Thelma Florin seldom takes ‘no’ for an answer

Addressing supporters of the Rachel Coalition on June 17, Richard Florin said he has supported the organization’s mission for as long as his wife, Thelma, has because, “as you all know, she’s hard to say ‘no’ to.”

That drew a knowing laugh from the close-to-filled house, but, said organizers, it also reflected the reason the Florins were selected as the evening’s honorees.

Not taking “no” for an answer has fueled Thelma Florin’s success in project after project, with a special focus on education, outreach, and support for victims of abuse. A longtime supporter of the Rachel Coalition, which combats domestic violence, she and her husband established the coalition’s Florin Education Series Endowment Fund.

In addition, she and her husband are major donors to the annual campaign of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and other local institutions. Both have also served in leadership roles at a number of those organizations.

Funds raised by the gala, held at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, were for the coalition’s Legal Endowment Fund. “The Rachel Coalition is in my heart,” Thelma said.

The event was cochaired by Michelle Cohen and Lisa Lindauer, both of Short Hills, and Carol Marcus of Bloomingdale. The evening’s entertainment was provided by two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz.

Butz lives in Maplewood, and Thelma Florin said organizers were delighted to find someone of his talent living right in the community. “It meant we didn’t have to spend funds flying someone in from, say, California and putting them up at a hotel,” she said.

“And I could walk here!” added Butz, who mingled with guests before his performance.

Butz, who earned Tony awards for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Catch Me if You Can, is also involved in trying to stop violence against women. He lost a sister to rape and murder in Seattle three years ago. In response, he started the Angel Band Project, raising money to provide musical therapy for victims. He said he felt “honored and privileged” by the invitation to perform.

In a brief, heartfelt talk with the audience, Butz said he is the father of young daughters and is committed to protesting demeaning, violent language in songs, TV shows, movies, and social media. “We have to start somewhere,” he said.

The Rachel Coalition, a division of the federation’s Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ, is a partnership of nine northern NJ organizations working together to respond to domestic violence. It provides a range of services, including a 24-hour crisis response line (973-740-1233), access to safe accommodations with kosher provisions, individual counseling and support groups for victims, legal and medical assistance, and outreach and education programming.

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