Melanie Roth Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and Central NJ, is a winner of the Star of Essex County Award for her “commitment to improving the lives of all residents…and dedication to public service.”
A plaque was presented to the Livingston resident on Tuesday at a ceremony at the Essex County Hall of Records in Newark.
Barry Ostrowsky, president and CEO of Barnabas Health, also received the award “for shaping the delivery of health care in New Jersey” and responding “to the new dynamics of health-care reform.”
The awards were a part of the county’s Annual Jewish Heritage Celebration, one of six programs recognizing the county’s cultural diversity.
In presenting the plaque, Freeholder Pat Sebold, a member of the UJC MetroWest NJ board and the CRC, cited Gorelick’s advancement of a wide range of causes, including women in politics, Darfur refugees, campaigns against human trafficking and Iranian nuclear weapons, and the defense of Israel.
“I have the privilege of representing the Jewish community at the county level,” Gorelick told the political office-holders and community leaders gathered in the Board of Freeholders chamber. “The CRC mission is to educate, advocate, and activate,” she said, citing activities through which the group’s leaders and agency executives were brought together with county leaders, creating “a synergy between the two organizations.”
“Our committee is very committed to Newark and its suburban connection,” she said. “Our agencies work with communities to help the most vulnerable, and at the CRC we advocate policies to [maintain] assistance to the most vulnerable.”
Pledging to continue fighting Medicaid cuts to nursing homes and to support aging-in-place programs, Gorelick said, “I was brought up to be an advocate instead of…a Jewish doctor or lawyer.”
She said her mother, Joan Roth, a photographer who documented the civil rights and women’s liberation movements, “taught me to fight for the rights of those who did not have a voice and to fight for justice.”
Gorelick, who worked for the United Nations Development Fund for Women, said she was fortunate enough to have had professional experiences “advocating for women in Third World countries” as they fought for “the right to education, the right to water, the right to jobs and political office, and to be considered full citizens of their countries.”
“But I am most proud of my work for the Jewish community at the grassroots level,” Gorelick added. “At that level you really get to see the impact of your work and how it has touched the lives of those close to you and the community at large.”
Comparing Israel to Essex County she addressed both, saying, “You are dedicated to your citizens, ensuring the best from them that you can, and you are dedicated to making the world a better place for all. I am passionate about both.”
“Being in and of the County of Essex, being born and having grown up in Newark, Essex County is our home, and we are proud of it,” said Ostrowsky, who lives in South Orange.
Calling himself “one of the ordinary people,” he cited the Shoa as having provided motivation for his service. “The Holocaust taught us a lesson that in our culture and others it is about creating a better place to live,” Ostrowsky said. “It is about becoming involved in the community and being sure everybody has a good life. We have to go out and support those who require support. It is not sufficient to just go out and enjoy our lives.”