First, Caitlin Higgins Joy had to travel to 55 countries. Then she assumed the position of executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) earlier this month.
“My goal is to bring our great organization to new heights,” said Higgins Joy, 38, who replaced Cathy Silverman as the professional leader of NCJW’s largest section in the country with 3,200 members. NCJW/Essex is based in Livingston.
NCJW’s mission is to improve the quality of life for women, children, and families and safeguard individual rights and freedoms.
There are eight sections in the state. Among its local work, NCJW/Essex fosters volunteerism, promotes advocacy, and hosts educational community programs.
“What I love most about NCJW/Essex is its longevity, passionate members, and commitment to empowering women, children, and families,” said Higgins Joy. “It’s more than a faith in the future, it’s a belief that we can and will take action to build a better future for everyone.”
The local organization’s signature programs include The Linda & Rudy Slucker NCJW/Essex Center for Women (CFW), which provides educational, career, and legal assistance, and the annual Back 2 School Store, which will take place on July 29.
That program allows children from economically disadvantaged families to “shop” for new school supplies free of charge. At the same time, the Gaelen Family Resource Center — affiliated with NCJW/Essex — offers parents information pertaining to health care and career and educational opportunities.
Higgins Joy comes to NCJW/Essex with extensive non-profit management experience. Previously she was CEO of Religious Community Services (RCS) in Clearwater, Fla., a secular nonprofit organization with a mission of feeding the hungry and aiding domestic violence survivors and the formerly homeless in the Greater Tampa Bay area.
Janet Berger of Livingston, one of the chairs of the search committee, said Higgins Joy stood out from the other applicants.
“After our first phone call with Caitlin, we all felt we’d be lucky to get her,” said Berger, an NCJW/Essex board member. “She checks all the boxes. Her overall experience as a leader impressed us. The organization she headed in Florida is much larger and more complex than ours. We liked everything about her.”
Higgins Joy said she is enjoying her interactions with her NCJW/Essex colleagues and lay leaders. “We have some terrific people and outstanding programs,” she said. One of her first tasks, she said, is updating the organization’s strategic plan.
“Caitlin jumped in with both feet and the rest of her as well,” said Berger. “She has the passion for what we do.”
Higgins Joy and her husband, Chris, who are not Jewish, are avid travelers. The Caldwell couple recently visited 55 countries over a period of 15 months.
Higgins Joy said now she is “ready to get back to work making a difference in the lives of others.”
She received a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College and a master’s degree with an emphasis on nonprofit management from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.
NCJW is comprised of a network of affiliates, or sections, with nearly 90,000 members. The national headquarters is in New York City with offices in Washington, D.C., and Jerusalem.