Social Action Committee Page

The Social Action Committee of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County, New Jersey, is the social action arm of the organization. Made up of volunteers dedicated to peace and justice, we do self-education and support our members' special projects. We organize letter writing campaigns on many issues and seek out speakers for the Society's weekly platforms. Recently, we have been active in areas as diverse as the humane treatment of inmates in local immigration detention centers and collecting clothing for families in Kenya, and coats for families in Orange, New Jersey.
Opinion pieces on this page do not necessarily express
the views of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
as a whole or of the entire Social Action Committee.



Social Action Committee Minutes (Reverse Order)

Click here for Social Action Committee Archives Pre-2010
Click here for Social Action Committee Archives Pre-2008

Minutes Sunday April 8, 2018
Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Diane Beeny; Barbara Cotler; Irene Dunsavage; Zia Durrani; Jackie Herships; Betty Levin


The meeting began with a go-round on what Committee members have done since we last met in February. Activities have included support for the March for Our Lives March 24, 2018; conference calls on various issues with the AEU; work for the Society; and singing at demonstrations and vigils.

The chair reported that winter coat deliveries to Valley Settlement House are over for the season, and that we did cardings on saving Social Security and Medicare on 2-11-18 and 2-25-18 with around 20-25 cards mailed out.

The chair also reminded the group of the growing Families for Ethical Education initiative, which now has 8-10 regular kids with others also coming. The platforms on those days often have between 30 and 40 people in attendance. Betty reported that this has led to several new members and the possibility of more. The chair also reminded everyone that our Local Hero Award for 2018 is going to Bennett Zurofsky, labor and immigration lawyer and leader of Solidarity Singers. The presentation (and a visit from the Solidarity Singers) will take place June 10, 2018.

A couple of issues have been tabled: one is the work at SOMS with Michael Minor. Another is that the Society Board has laid aside for now the idea of taking baby steps towards being a GreenFaith congregation.

We then discussed and took action on the following:

(1) Sue is to call Valley Settlement House to see if they need something collected for spring.

(2) Jackie suggested that we not drop the Social Security and Medicare support issue, and we agreed to prepare a letter for our legislators from the Committee on the issue.

(3) We also discussed an AEU issue that Zia brought to our attention, which is that the residents of Washington D.C. have no representation in Congress. While we aren't sure yet if Statehood is the only or best solution, we do believe that this injustice is not acceptable, and we will do a carding in the next few weeks on the issue.

Finally, Zia discussed a new publicity initiative from the AEU. The AEU has hired a public relations firm, and we are invited to submit events and story ideas via an online form at


The meeting adjourned just before 1:00PM.

The next meeting will be Sunday, May 13, 2018.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Sunday February 4, 2018
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Diane Beeny; Barbara Cotler; Marty Cotler; Zia Durrani; Bill Graves; Lisa Novemsky. Visitors Jie Sazci and Mr. Sazci.


The chair reported that a new delivery of winter coats and other warm things is in her car and ready to go to Valley Settlement House for distribution to those who need them. We will probably make one more delivery after this one: please bring clean coats, sweaters, etc. for all ages to the sunroom off the parlor.

She also reported that our choice for the Local Hero Award 2018, Bennett Zurofsky , labor and immigration lawyer and leader of the Solidarity Singers, has accepted our offer. The presentation (and a visit from the Solidarity Singers!) will take place June 10, 2018.


The Committee then decided to send our communication to the Ethical Board about GreenFaith and becoming better stewards of the environment after next week, when we have a program on GreenFaith.


We also finished language for our next post-carding, to take place Sunday, February 11, 2018 and Sunday February 18, 2018. The text will say:


Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are vital safety net programs. Please work with all your energy to keep and improve these programs so essential to the lives of all Americans.


New business included Zia reporting on a conference call for American Ethical Union leadership about statehood for the District of Columbia. The underlying issue is that people who live in D.C. don't not have representation in Congress. Bill Graves suggested an alternative to statehood for D.C. would be returning everything but government buildings to the states from which the District was carved out. Zia will participate in the conference call and bring back any action steps for further discussion.


Betty shared that she has been invited to make a presentation on peace to children at the Montrose Early Childhood Center, part of the SOM school district. She has excellent picture books to take in and begin educating our very youngest scholars for peace. Keep up the good work, Betty!


Finally, Sue announced that there will be no March SAC meeting (grandparental duties intervene). Next meeting will be Sunday April 8, 2018







Agenda Social Action Committee 

Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

Sunday, January 7, 2018


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Diane Beeny, Bill Graves, Jackie Herships, Lisa Novemsky, Peggy Toy, and visitor Jie Sazci.


Please check for your name in bold-face to see what you agreed to do.


            The chair reported that since our December committee meeting, we did a carding asking for a “clean” Dream Act bill that went out to members of congress.  We sent @ 20 plus cards from people at Society Sunday morning programs.  We also delivered one load of excellent winter coats (some new!) to Valley Settlement House.  We are still collecting, and have almost enough for a second delivery.

            Our previous carding was about re-funding of CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).  The federal budget extension, with its small, inadequate funding for CHIP, runs out on January 19.


            Bill Graves reported that he will be attending a SOMA Justice meeting and looking for possible spring speakers.


            We discussed several areas where action is needed.  First, we agreed to write a recommendation from the Committee to the Board that the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County should begin taking “baby steps” toward becoming a Green Fath congregation.  We have a speaker coming and hope to find out what the first steps would be. Sue is to draft language for the message and run it by Jackie before sending it to the Board.


            We also decided to ask Bennett Zurofsky, labor and immigration lawyer and leader of Solidarity Singers, to be our local hero for 2018. Diane Beeny will broach the subject with him, and if he is willing, Sue will send our official invitation.

            We also decided that our next issue for post cards, following up on a suggestion from Jackie, amended by Diane, will be ‘Don’t cut Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.  Bill will try for a short (post card sized!) Statement that says in essence, Save these vital programs!  He will pass his language on to Sue, who will put together the carding.


            New business included information about the Saturday, January 20 marches around the country, marking the anniversary of 2017's Women’s March.  Bill suggested that we might as a group go to the Morrison march to add bodies and enthusiasm the those working to elect progressive members of congress.  Bill will send details to Sue for dissemination to our committee list.


            Peggy asked about what is happening with supporting Michael Minor and his daughter’s work at South Orange Middle School, and Jackie reported that she had talked to Michael, and he would be interested in our support, and possibly a training module in Ethical Education for middle school students.  Lisa pointed out how many resources we have, and Sue suggested including Shannon Kirk, the pre-school teacher in our Ethical Education program, in the discussions.  Jackie and Peggy will work out details of getting Peggy in touch with Michael Minor.


Our next meeting will be February 4, 2018






Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
Sunday, December 3, 2017


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Diane Beeny; Zia Durrani; Bill Graves; E. Betty Levin; and Jackie Herships. We also welcomed visitor Jane Freinberg.


The chair reported that we had cardings on four Sundays over October and November in support of refunding the Children's Health Insurance Program. The second set of cards went to NJ Senators Booker & Menendez asking them to support legislation that funds CHIP–but not by "robbing Peter to pay Paul" as the House version did. In other words, we need this program to be funded, but we also need our other social programs.

We also discussed what would be our next carding topic, since we've committed to a card-a-month this year. There was general agreement to write cards asking Congress to pass a "clean" Dream Act Bill welcoming young immigrants to our country without tying the bill to other issues. We will do the carding on December 10 in hopes of having some impact before the government funding bill is passed. We will also provide email for phoning and emailing, in case the funding bill in which the Dream Act is now included has not been extended. Sue will send a draft of the post card to the committee for vetting then bring cards and supplies next week.


Next we discussed potential candidates for Local Hero 2018. Committee members, please give this some thought, and we'll try to make a decision in January and February and then reach out to our honoree.


Sue then shared Jackie Herships's report on Green Faith. Jackie said, "I also had a long Conversation with Green Faith about how to get started in their certification program. It's a little too complex to describe here in this email but there is a simple step-by-step program which we can decide to join. When I get home I can go to their website and download a description and first steps to bring in to the group… First to social action, then to the board. And we could ask Estrella the local leader to come and speak on a Sunday. I will speak to Elaine about that."

In January, the Committee will decide if we want to recommend proceeding with Green Faith to the Ethical Board and how involved we want the social action committee to be. Try to look at information about Green Faith online at

This year's coat collection is underway. Please bring clean coats, sweaters, hats, etc. for adults and children in a bag in the small sun room off the parlor that will go to Valley Settlement House

. Finally, Bill suggested that we explore possible speakers from SOMA Justice and its committees, perhaps moving toward some interaction with that new but large and active organization.

The next meeting is January 7, 2018.







November 5, 2017

Minutes Social Action Committee

Ethical Culture Society of Essex County



Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; E. Betty Levin; Diane Beeny, Peggy Toy; and Jackie Herships



The chair reported that this year's coat collection has begun: we collect clean coats, sweaters, hats, etc. for adults and children in a bag in the small sun room off the parlor that will go to Valley Settlement House. We also did our October carding over two weeks (thanks Zia and MSW!) encouraging our congress people to legislate funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that ran out of funding as of 9-30-17. The update is that CHIP is still unfunded, with some states having money into 2018 and others due to run out by the end of 2017 or by March, 2018. However: at the beginning of November 2017 the House of Representatives passed a bill to fund CHIP–unfortunately by taking funds from other important social programs and from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Senate is unlikely to agree to this, and it is probable that an eventual deal on extended financing will be included as part of some huge year-end spending bill aimed at preventing a federal shutdown. For more information, here is a short summary from Reuters.

The Committee decided that our Card-of-the-Month for November will be to our Senators asking them to support legislation that funds CHIP–but not by "robbing Peter to pay Paul." In other words, we need this program to be funded, but we need our other social programs as well. The cardings will take place on November 12, 2017 and November 19, with Sue preparing the cards and instructions and doing the carding after the program on November 12 and Peggy taking November 19.

We also talked a little about a possible local hero for 2018, but don't have consensus yet.

Betty is looking for venues for her Peace Workshops for people from pre-school through adult, and would like suggestions and connections to people in schools or churches and synagogues.

Diane is working on getting a speaker and making a decorative sign for the Society building backyard declaring it a "pollinator friendly" space.

Jackie and Jeanine Rosh are getting information from various Green organizations on steps the Society can take now to make us greener.

Jackie also reminded us of the mentoring program last week's speakers (the Minors) told us about with older students in the SOMa district helping younger ones learn study skills and prepare for rigorous classes. Betty and Peggy are interested in talking to Mr. Minor about how our committee might support this initiative.


Please join us at our next meetings-- 12/3/17; 1/7/18; and 2/4/18.








Agenda Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
October 1, 2017



Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Barbara Cotler, Martha Gallahue, Jackie Herships, E. Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky. Guest: Bill Graves


The chair welcomed everyone back to a new season of social action at the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County. She noted that we once again bought a Coalition on Race ad journal ad. She also gave information from Jill Fox about where to donate for Puerto Rico hurricane relief: the UPS Store at 4 South Orange Ave or the South Orange Frame Shop at 6 Sloan Street in South Orange or a box in the lobby of Maplewood Town Hall, 574 Valley St, and another at the Maplewood Police/Court Building at 1618 Springfield Ave. They are requesting non- perishables like summer clothing, diapers, batteries, etc.

Next we talked about our various collections, and determined that the children's book collection has been let fall by the wayside– started by Mira Stillman several years ago, the books have accumulated and never been taken anywhere. Lisa agreed to take the books either to Karen Weiland at the Parenting Center at the school district or to give them away in some other way. Sue will check with Marshall to ascertain that the food pantry food is being distributed.

Then we voted to continue our yearly collection of warm clothes to be distributed by the Valley Settlement house, and to collect stationery, stamps, etc. for the immigrant detainees in Elizabeth, Hudson, Bergen, and Essex county facilities.

We then discussed topics for the "post card of the month," as we voted to take on last spring. The issue of Medicaid, both at the state level (New Jersey is reimbursing at a very low per centage accord to our October 1 speaker, Audrey Winkler of Jespy House). At the federal level, there is great danger of Medicaid taking deep cuts and affecting all people of limited means and developmental disabilities. Jackie suggested we do the same card, or a series of Medicaid cards, over as many as sixth months to maximize. While waiting for Audrey Winkler to let us know what exactly what to press for at the state level with Medicaid, we decided, at Martha's suggestion, for the October card to be in support of CHIPS (Children's Health Insurance Program). All of these card focus on issues of health.

We then had a presentation from Jackie with several ideas for environmental projects related to Green Faith. First, we hope to have a Green Faith certifier come to one of our next SAC meetings to tell us what the initial steps are for becoming a Green Faith congregation. We, as a committee, are looking for a couple of initial "baby" steps. She also has a potential Program speaker on these topics to suggest to Elaine. Second, there are interesting pollinator initiatives including signage ("Bee Friendly Garden," "Bee Ethical?"), Third, she is in touch with a neighborhood association, Academy Heights, that is making a pollinator garden at the small part on Valley Street, South Orange.

Betty Levin then talked about her concerns for the DACA young people, and how she has offered counseling through the ACLU; she also feels the Social Action Committee should get more publicity for things we have participated in that have been successful.

Finally, Martha represented us at the SOMA Action groups March on Non-Violence,  BlackLives Matter,  Intersectionality of Dignity LGBTQ,  persons of color,   sexism etc. She said the march "featured around 125 persons.   Lisa sang with Solidarity Singers,  the Mayor was there.   I continue to meet people.  Clergy included Jesse Olinsky of Bethel,  Terry Richardson of First Baptist,  South Orange and yours truly.   I volunteered space for meetings, and should anything come up I would focus on youth gatherings."

Other business: Meeting dates for the upcoming months include: 11/5/17; 12/3/17; 1/7/18; 2/4/18.









Social Action Committee

May 14, 2017



Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Diane Beeny; Zia Duranni; Betty Levin; Lisa Novemsky

This was a short and informal meeting after our well-attended and inspiring Local Hero award for Ingrid S. Hill of People's Organization for Progress. The speaker was the always-inspiring Larry Hamm, Chairman of POP, who spoke about Ingrid and women in the movement (it was Mother's Day!) plus the history of POP, and about the issue of reparations for slavery.

The talk inspired us to decide to do one more carding before the end of the season, this one in support of Congressman Conyers' HR #40, concerning reparations, and in particular to encourage Congressman Payne to sign on.

Our chair, MSW, reported that we did buy an ad in the First Friends ad journal ad, and we are doing a collection of summer clothing for Valley Settlement House in West Orange.

The last two weeks we did an after-program carding supporting a bill in Congress, HR#676, which proposes a single payer cradle-to-grave medical system, ("Medicare for all.") This was our first "post card of the month," and it garnered over two Sundays, more than a dozen comunications to members of congeress.

There was also a report from Zia at platform about the hightly successful Syrian dinner that had about 50 attendees and raised a substantial amont of money for the family. Thank you Lisa and others for organizing this, shared with a local Presbyterian church.

It is likely we will not have another organized meeting this season becuase of personal commitments.





Social Action Committee

April 9, 2017



Attending: Sue Willis, chair; Barbara Cotler; Irene Dunsavage; Zia Durrani; Jackie Herships; Lisa Novemsky; visitor Eva Curtis


The Committee opened with the chair reporting on the upcoming (May 14, 2017) Local Hero award going to Ingrid S. Hill with Larry Hamm of People's Organization for Progress as the speaker. The chair asked for and received, permission to go ahead with ordering a plaque for the presentation.

She also reported that we finished the coat collection, and we've decided to end for now the oil and detergent collection. Moving into action items, we decided that we would like do a spring collection of some sort, especially if Valley Settlement House in Orange has something they would like collected. In the past, for the spring, we're collected art supplies for their summer camp. Sue will give them a call.

Next we decided to move ahead on buying a small notice in the ad journal for the First Friends celebratory event, spending $25.00 only. We are also still working on a date for a showing of "13th," the documentary about the 13th amendment which explores the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution freed the slaves and prohibited slavery (unless as punishment for a crime–and there's the rub). We've asked Martha for three suggested dates.

We also discussed Betty's request for support for an April 23 peace table in Millburn. Zia and Jackie have already volunteered. Others can't commit for various reasons, including the program at Ethical that day.

Next, we decided to move ahead with a carding on the issue of "Medicare for All." There is a bill in Congress, #676, which proposes a single payer cradle-to-grave medical system, which we believe to be ethical and greatly needed. All other so-called free market countries, even some much poorer than the U.S., are moving toward such a system. See information here: We will prepare a model post card to be used at events like Folk Friday, and, after platform on Sunday, April 30, we will do one at Ethical. Sue will first prepare a digital version of the post card as well as lists of local congress people and send it to the committee, especially Lisa and Irene. The group felt that setting up a "post card of the month" that people would take to various events would be a good idea, and our first one will be the Medicare for all.

Jackie then presented two projects she wants to research and possibly take the leadership on. In both cases, the Social Action Committee agreed to be the sponsor of her outreach. First, she talked about "Suppers," in which people cook together (this would be at the Society) and discuss healthy eating. It is at once social, getting out the Society's name, and a way of encouraging healthy eating. Jackie will report back.

Jackie also wants to explore Greenfaith, which she and Martha are enthusiastic about. This is a program that encourages religious institutions to take on ecologically sound practices, and Jackie will explore this as a possibility for the Ethical Society. For more information, look at

Finally, Lisa is organizing a Syrian dinner, and we agreed on the date of May 13. This is a $50 per person fund raiser to help a family of Syrian refugees who prepare a Syrian meal for us. Visitor Eva Curtis from Wyoming Presbyterian is interested in doing something for Syrian refugees, and she and Lisa are meeting to see how we can work together.


The next meeting will be after platform on May 14, 2017 (Local Hero day).







Minutes Social Action Committee

Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

March 12, 2017


Attending: Sue Willis, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Jill Farrar, Jackie Herships, Bill  Graves, Jeanine Rosh,  plus  @ 15 other attendees at Program.


This Social Action Committee meeting took place during the platform hour today after a speaker had to cancel.  Visitors and members were invited to participate in our reports and discussions.

Jackie Herships was presiding, and after the opening, turned over the proceedings to Social action chair Sue Willis.  She welcomed friends and strangers to the monthly Social Action Committee meeting of the ECSEC.  She spoke about how we do both political action and social service projects such as collecting oil/laundry detergent for Syrian refugees in Elizabeth.  We delivered our latest collection to Rana Shanawani when she was at EC as a speaker on February 26.  We also collect coats to be distributed through Valley Settlement House.  This will continue through the end of March.

We then talked about our Local Hero Award. This year’s presentation will take place on May 14, 2017, honoring Ingrid Hill of the People’s Organization for Progress, centered in Newark.  We don’t yet have, but hope to have, confirmation fo a speaker from the People’s Organization for Progress that day too.

The chair went on to report that we sent out seven hard copy letters to New Jersey legislators expressing our opposition to the Pilgrim Pipeline, by which two parallel pipelines, 170 miles each, are slated to be built between Albany, NY and  Linden, NJ.  Bakken shale oil would be sent south; refined products (including kerosene) would be sent north.   The pipeline would go along the New York State Thruway and through six counties, from Albany, New York to Linden, New Jersey, and then return flammable refined products north. This has attracted a lot of opposition in New York and New Jersey, and Assemblyman John McKeon has sponsored a resolution called NJ Assembly Resolution 89.

The chair read aloud one of the letters as a sample, and then the whole group discussed at some length the best ways to make an impression on legislators– written letters or post cards rather than mere emails of electronic petitions, visits of small groups of 5 to 10 people to the legislators’ offices best of all.  It was also suggested, especially for politicians who support things we oppose, that cards with hand written addresses rather than labels are harder to discount.

We also talked at some length about 501c3 status.  The Ethical Culture is considered a church for tax purposes, and we have long struggled with how “political” we can be.  Here is what our research says a tax exempt organization like ours can and cannot do:


– A tax-exempt organization like the Ethical Culture Society is not allowed to endorse candidates or take sides for or against a candidate for election (but we can comment on a president or his policies, even if he has filed early for re-election.   We just can’t take sides on the actual candidacy).


– We aren’t allow to lobby, but we may make unlimited commentary about issues, both to the public and directly to legislators. This does not count as lobbying. Lobbying is only telling a legislator your opinion on specific legislation (direct lobbying) or telling the public your opinion on specific legislation while including a very specific call to action (grassroots lobbying). (Without the call to action it is not lobbying.)  We are thus careful how we talk about legislation, expressing an opinion on issues rather than actual bills.


– We can, however,  even lobby, as long as we don't spend too large a percentage of our budget on doing so.  (Source: From the National Housing Institute:


There then followed a few more reports, including “United We Sing,”with Lisa Novemsky and Bennet Zurovsky.  This was organized by Lisa, Jackie and others, and had an excellent turn out.  The event took place  Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 2:00 PM at the Society building.  We provided snacks and some of the post cards for a group carding.

Martha Gallahue tells us she is moving ahead with a showing of 13th,  the documentary about the 13th amendment which explores the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States.  The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution freed the slaves and prohibited slavery, unless as punishment for a crime.

We also bought an ad for New Jersey Peace Action sixtieth anniversary ad journal.  We use some of our small budget for this kind of celebration that also puts our name out in the community.

Our own Betty Levin as well as First Friends are being honored!

Betty had a report from an ACLU streaming discussion yesterday, and shared the letter to Pope Francis that she wrote with NJ Peace Action.  The letter was signed by Society President Zia Durrani along with several others.  Betty also encouraged people to attend the NJ Peace Action event.

We also had short reports on SOMA action, the new and very vigorous organization for political action (learn more; a report on the local Syrian refugees and the help they are getting; and Bill Graves spoke about the importance of people running for local office–he is suggesting running on the Green party line.

After more open sharing of ideas for action, we turned back to the regular program.


Next meeting:, April 2, 2017.




Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
February 5, 2017

Attending: Sue Willis, chair; Zia Durrani; Martha Gallahue; Jackie Herships; Betty Levin; Lisa Novemsky; guests Peggy Toy; Harriett Katz

Please look for bold-faced notes below with tasks people took on.


Look for your name in Bold Face for things you committed to do.



Chair Meredith Sue Willis opened the meeting with reference to focusing our activities in this time of heightened political awareness and activity. She reported that we are still working on dates for the Local Hero Award for 2017 (Ingrid Hill is the awardee), either April 9 or May 14. In other continuing business, she reports that Affraz Mohammed took coats to Valley Settlement house– Thank you Affraz!– and we are planning to give the oil and cleaners to the Shanawanis when they come to the Society to give the program on February 26. She also asked people to fill out the short survey about what our Society is doing towards Sustainable Development Goals: email link is Zia reported that the Board has voted to give $50 to contribute to the National Ethical Action campaign for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Old Business and reports began with Lisa asking for help for "United We Sing,"which now has Bennet Zurovsky participating, and possible large crowds. The program takes place Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 2:00 PM at the Society building. The following people plan to come and/or bring some sort of snacks: Lisa, Jackie, Zia, Martha, Betty & Sue. We will also be providing post cards for a group carding (see New Business below.) Come together in song! Unite in struggle and hope!

Last month we had agreed that we wanted to take a position on the proposed Pilgrim Pipelines carrying products from shale oil from Albany, NY to Linden, NJ and refined, flammable products back north. We agreed that we want to take a position, but we need the status of the pipelines. Sue will get the information about the latest NJ ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION No. 89 2 17th LEGISLATURE written by State Senator John McKeon and opposing the pipelines. Once we know where the resolution stands, we'll write a letter or letters-to-the editor, and/or to our state representatives. We hope this will be by the March 12 meeting.

Martha is still researching how to put together a showing of "13th.

New business began with Betty's report on how she is spearheading an effort with New Jersey Peace Action to sent a letter to the Pope about Peace and Peace sites. She had found an old letter to a previous pope from Lou Kousins, who founded Peace Sites with our Ethical Culture Building as the first one. Zia will bring this to the Board, asking to be able to sign on representing our Society, and Martha will sign the letter representing the National Leaders (of Ethical Culture). A related effort is to make 10,000 origami peace cranes by Earth Day. Betty plans to bring Diane Beeney to the Society one afternoon to teach members how to fold the cranes. We will also have crane folding on March 12 after the Social Action meeting.

Sue distributed copies of an article about what 501(c)3 organizations can and can't do politically–they can do most things, as it turns out.

Martha and others reported on how Maplewood has become a Sanctuary City, and how South Orange may soon. Martha will be representing our society at the South Orange/Maplewood clergy association, which is putting together a position in favor of Sanctuary cities.

A few other ideas were suggested with various people prepared to do the research and bring them back to the committee. Please email or call Sue if you want to be on the next agenda!

Finally, we discussed the idea of beginning cardings again– providing post cards and legislators' names and possibly topics and model notes. Our first carding is going to be at United We Sing on February 18. Sue is getting post cards and legislators' contact information. Jackie and Lisa and possibly guest Harriet will provide ideas for what to write.


Next meeting:, March 12, 2017.






Our next meeting is March 12, 2017.







Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
January 8, 2017

Attending: Sue Willis, chair; Zia Durrani; Martha Gallahue; Betty Levin; Lisa Novemsky; Guests: Jackie Herships; Affraz Mohammed

Please look for bold-faced notes below with tasks people took on.



The chair reported that we heard back on 12/28/17 from Ingrid Hill who will accept our honor as our Local Hero for 2017. She wrote: Please thank the Social Action Committee of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County for selecting me as an honoree to receive the 2017 Local Heroes Award early this spring.... We are considering doing this on April 9 or May 14. Sue has emailed Elaine, but has not talked dates yet with Ingrid Hill. Once we have a date, we will see if we can get a panel from People's Organization for Progress, Ingrid Hill's organization.

Sue also reported that she had not heard back from Huda Shanawani about having some of our young people get together with the Syrian girls. We were about to drop the idea, but Lisa is working with a Syrian refugee family separate from Shanawani's organization. This family has 6 children, and Zia will talk again with her daughter and her grand-daughter, and Lisa will reach out to the Syrian family with an idea for an event– a get-together and sharing– under the auspices of our committee and the Ethics for Families program.

We also talked about our collections – Coats for Valley Settlement house and oil/laundry detergent for the Syrian refugees. Sue expressed a desire to share the delivery responsibilities, and Affraz Mohammed has agreed to make a delivery. Thank you Affraz! Sue will reach out to Affraz with details.


New Business: The AEU ethical action has asked us to support the following statement: "Our government should be free from the corrupting influence of big money in politics and solely dependent upon the people. I declare my support for pro-democracy, anti-corruption reforms, including voting rights protections, citizen-funded elections, and a constitutional amendment to overturn citizens united. We discussed this at some length and decided that while it is a hard statement to disagree with, it is also vague. The Committee asked Sue to get in touch with Kate LaClair of AEU action and ask if it can be made more specific–what is it really about?


Similarly, we want more from Kate about what is wanted on opposing the Pilgrim Pipelines Project. We agreed we would all learn more from internet and make a statement or take an action at the next meeting. Meanwhile, there is an opportunity for us as individuals to learn more bellow as well as an opportunity to call your legislators opposing this long pipeline for products of fracking from Albany, NY to Linden, NJ.


Next we discussed having a showing of the documentary "13th." Martha will look into getting the DVD.


Also, Martha is asking our committee to support the work of National Ethical Action at the United Nations. Martha says that the new Sustainable Development Goals are of equal force and importance to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. She asked the Committee to support a gift of $50 from the Society to contribute to the NEA's campaign for the Sustainable Development Goals. Several of our Committee members are on the Board, and one of them, Zia is acting president. Zia agreed to take the request to the Board. Martha also asked the committee to authorize the Chair to get forms identifying what we already do to support the goals for the National Ethical Service. We approved this. Then Martha asked the Committee to authorize her, Martha, to take our actions back to the NEA. The Committee approved this too.


Finally, Lisa brought us a project that is already underway and we agreed to support it. This project, tentatively called: "United We Sing" is a program set for Saturday, January 28 at 2:00 PM to sing in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States.


Our next meetings are February 5, 2017 and March 12, 2017.


Please look for bold-faced notes above with tasks people took on.



The Pilgrim Pipelines project:


Two parallel pipelines, 170 miles each, between Albany, NY and Linden, NJ; plus over 12 miles of single-pipe lateral lines. Bakken shale oil would be sent south; refined products (including kerosene) would be sent north. The pipeline will go along the New York State Thruway and through six counties, from Albany to New Jersey, and return flammable refined products north. If constructed, the two pipelines would threaten our drinking water, risk the safety of dozens of communities, and promote fracking and worsening climate change. Gov. Cuomo has the authority to stop the project by denying them a permit.



1. Food and Water Watch is organizing a massive call-in action to Gov. Cuomo Jan. 23-27, and I hope that we will be a part of it!

2. Contact your municipal officials; ask them to adopt resolutions opposing the pipeline. Many towns already have.

3. Join with coalition members at municipal hearings to show your support.

4. Ask your state legislators to oppose the pipeline project. See the links on the left side of this page.

5. Thank PSE&G for denying Pilgrim's request to use its existing right-of-way in NJ, and ask them to continue to support our communities by standing by this decision. See a sample letter here.

6. Subscribe to Pilgrim Pipeline Action Alerts to receive updates in your email.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

December 4, 2016


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Betty Levin; Lisa Novemsky; Joyce Marshall, guest


We had an intimate Social Action Committee meeting that started with the Chair's report on some ongoing projects. First, the Local Heroes Project letter has been sent to Ingrid Hill. It apparently had the wrong email address, and thank you Diane Beeny for a better one! We hope to hear from her soon. We have not yet heard back from Huda Shanawani about Zia and her daughter's idea for reaching out to Syrian girls for some sort of get-together for pre-teen exchanges. The donation of stationery for immigrant detainees has been mailed to First Friends. That collection is now closed, but we have out two ongoing collections: coats for Valley Settlement House and oil/laundry detergent for the Syrian refugees in Elisabeth. The boxes are in the small sunroom off the parlor. Please publicize & collect! We had some new business: Betty has an idea for a local hero for next year. Also, we ave been asked by the NJ Aid to Immigrant Detainee group to urge Governor Christie to sign the Bill limiting Solitary Confinement (Bill A547) passed by both the Senate and Assembly in NJ. Please write or call : Office of the Governor PO Box 001 Trenton, NJ 08625 609-292-6000 For email, use the email contact:

Finally, the AEU ethical action is asking us to support the following:

"Our government should be free from the corrupting influence of big money in politics and solely dependent upon the people. I declare my support for pro-democracy, anti-corruption reforms, including voting rights protections, citizen-funded elections, and a constitutional amendment to overturn citizens united." For more information and a toolkit, go to


We decided to table this till the next meeting, which is January 5, 2017 followed by February 8, 2017.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
November 6, 2016


Attending: Sue Willis, chair; Diane Beeny; Barbara Cotler; Zia Durrani; Betty Levin; Lisa Novemsky.


Chair Sue Willis passed around the Coalition on Race ad journal (the celebration was 10-22-16) with our congratulatory ad in it. Betty commented on our ad for another journal, the Peace Action ad journal. We need to correct it to say in future that we are the first Peace Site ever. Sue also reported that Huda Shanawani wrote that yes, they would like us to continue with collections of oil & detergents for Syrian refugee families in Elizabeth. She also told us that Bill A547 strictly limiting the use of solitary confinement in New Jersey's prisons. passed the NJ Assembly in late October. It has already passed in the Senate, so this is the last step before the bill goes to Governor Christie for signature. We then discussed our various collections for 2016-17, beginning with coats for Valley Settlement and the oil and detergent for the Syrian refugees. We also voted in favor of collecting stationery for the First Friends "Stamp Our Despair" program to provide writing packages for immigrant detainees so they can stay in touch with their families. This one has a deadline: By November 30, 2016, please bring to the Society stick pens, 2 pocket folders, small writing paper, size 10 and 6 envelopes, assorted greeting cards, blank note cards, forever stamps, blank colored paper, monetary donation for phone cards, and notes of encouragement . You may also send them directly to First Friends of NJ/NY, 53 So. Hackensack Ave, Kearny, NJ 07032.

Next we made a decision to invite Ingrid Hill to be our 2017 Local Hero. We read over an ACLU-NY write up about her, and everyone was enthusiastic. She has been for many years an activist with People's Organization for Progress as well as the ACLU and the NAACP. We decided we will try to make the program honoring a fuller event, with Elaine's agreement, perhaps inviting POP or ACLU or the NAACP to present a program unless Ingrid is willing to be the speaker. Sue is to get in touch with her and ask is she is willing to receive the Local Hero Award. Lisa also mentioned that our first honoree Susan Barry continues to volunteer with the UN project at Maplewood Middle school. She thinks this could make an interesting program too, and Lisa is to reach out to Elaine to see if she's on board for that program.

Martha, who couldn't be with us, wrote that she participated in November 4th's UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change official beginning. was "entered into force." Secretary Ban ki Moon shook everyone's hand. She says, " It was a happy time. More negotiations upcoming in Morocco next week." She also asked that we consider supporting the new Peace Alliance bill Congressional Bill HR1111 to establish a US Department of Peacebuilding reintroduced by Barbara Lee. (Previous one was introduced by Dennis Kucinich) "This bill makes nonviolence a national organizing principle and give peace an institutional platform in our government." See The committee happily voted to take a position in favor of this bill.

We decided we'd like Martha to tell us more about another project, a campaign by the AEU National Ethical Action Committee to implement the Sustainable Development Goals passed in 2015 by the General Assembly of the UN. Finally, Sue agreed to reach out to Huda Shanawani to ask if there is any interest in having some of the Syrian refugee children get together with some fo the pre-teens in our community for exchange. (This idea came from Zia and her daughter Yasmin).


Our Next meetings are scheduled for December 4, 2016; January 8, 2017 (first Sunday is Jan. 1)






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
September 11, 2016


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, and guest Hafaz Muhammed.



Chair Sue Willis reported that Governor Christie finally signed into law New Jersey S1880 which ensures fair and reasonable phone rates in jails and prisons. This is a project we have written letters about for several years, particularly in regard to immigrant detainees (but also others) who have been cut off from family and community by the phone rates. As Karina Wilkinson, a member of New Jersey Advocates for Immigration Detainees said, "New Jersey now leads the country in protecting incarcerated individuals and their families from predatory phone rates."

Next we had a presentation from Social Action Committee member and longtime Peace activist Betty Levin in which she proposed that the Social Action Committee take on some of the work of creating a culture of Peace that has previously been under the aegis of the Peace Committee. After some discussion, focused on making sure that the Committee always "do the doable," we accepted her proposal. We will seriously consider taking on more Peace Projects as Betty or others bring them to us, as long as they fit with other ongoing projects and our limited resources. One specific thing we may work towards is a UN Peace Forum around the first of September each year which is streamed live. Betty did preliminary work on making an event of this at the Ethical Culture Society earlier this summer, and we hope to see this fulfilled in 2017.

Sue theh reminded the group of our plan to continue outreach to other groups via celebratory ad journals (the Board approved up to $100 for this). Upcoming is the one for the twentieth anniversary of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. Our draft text reads: "The Social Action Committee of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County Congratulates the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race on its Twenty Years of Working toward stable integration in our community."

She also handed out information about Ingrid Hill who has been brought forward two years in a row for a Local Hero award. The Committee should read the information about her and be prepared to discuss at the October meeting.

We also agreed to continue our fall/winter coat collection for Valley Settlement House, and to inquire if the Syrian refugees still need oil & detergent. Sue will reach out to the Shanawani family about this.

For those interested in helping SO/Ma Women's League of Voters to register Columbia High school students during their high school graduation rehearsal, there will be a need for volunteers at the end of May 2017. Individuals who want to help should get in touch with Michelle Bobrow at .

For New Business, Barbara said she is looking for several hours of clerical or other volunteer work each week. Then Zia suggested a social action project getting in touch with Syrian refugee children for possible pen pals. Martha said this would be an excellent way to bring in somewhat older children for the Ethical Education program. Zia's daughter may be interested in helping with this.


Our next meetings are scheduled for Sundays after the program, November 6, 2016; December 4, 2016.




Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
June 5, 2016

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky.


We began by congratulating ourselves on the success of our second annual Local Hero Award to Widney Brown on May 22, 2016. Sue then reported that she took a second load of oil and cleaning supplies to Rana Shanawani for distribution to the Syrian refugee families in Elizabeth. She then went on to share good news about her Immigration Detainee pen pal. She received an email from Sr. Regina Holtz at First Friends who wrote:


Just letting you know that your recent letter to Ansumana Tunkara was returned to the First Friends office– the good news is that Ansumana was granted asylum and was released in early April. He is living in New York. Our Director, Sally [Pillay], is in touch with him and is trying to get an address so we can forward your letter. Thank you for your continuing support of the First Friends programs.

We have also been requested by New Jersey Aid to Immigrant Detainees to help pass S. 1880 in the New Jersey State Legislature for the second year (the governor gave last year's version a pocket veto). This bill would lower prison phone rates for all incarcerated persons. The bill has passed out of the Senate Law and Safety committee and is to be voted on Monday June 6 by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Martha, Betty, Lisa, and Sue all agreed to call some of the senators on the committee to ask for their support.

Next, Martha spoke about having our committee write an article for the AEU action report. She is particularly interested in sharing some of our ideas, but also in having our Society and our Social Action Committee have a higher profile in the AEU movement. We discussed several possible topics (our long-time involvement with the Immigrant Detainee issue, for example), but decided in the end to work on an article about the importance of small projects. We would talk about our collections (coats for Valley Settlement House, oil and detergent for the Syrian refugee families), but would probably focus on the Local Hero Award. Martha will get deadlines, and we'll try to get something written by mid-August.

Betty then talked about registering high school seniors to vote at their graduation rehearsals. We found out earlier in the year that SO/Ma League of Women Voters does this at Columbia High School, and Martha is planning to do it in Weehawken, where she lives. Betty will be doing Millburn high school, but is looking for help.

Please call Betty at 973-763-1035 if you can help her. She has all the information and materials, and the rehearsals take place on June 20 and 22 at 12:30 PM at Millburn High School.

We also discussed taking this project on in the future, perhaps doing other local communities like East Orange, Oranges, and Irvington. Lisa suggested Michelle Bobrow of our local LWV as a resource ( ).


The next meeting of the Social Action Committee will be Sunday, September 11, 2016.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
May 1, 2016

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, and Lisa Novemsky.


Committee chair Meredith Sue Willis reported that the Committee bought two ad journal ads to put the name of the Society out among congenial organizations, and to support their work. The ad journals were for New Jersey Peace Action & for First Friends. Sue also reported that she received yet another letter from her pen pal, and that we have almost enough oil and cleaning supplies for a second delivery to Rana Shanawani.

The chair will write a report for the annual meeting, and provide copies for the Board and also for Martha to send to the AEU social action office. Since Sue is probably not going to be present at the annual meeting, Zia volunteered to make an oral report if called on.

Next we made final decisions on the Local Heroes Award, which will be presented to Widney Brown on May 22, 2016. Sue will purchase the plaque and preside; Martha will bring flowers and introduce Widney. Sue will also made sure Liz has a press release. The group agreed on the following as the final text for the plaque:

The Social Action Committee of the Essex Ethical Culture Society of Essex County, New Jersey 2016
Local Hero Award to Widney Brown
We honor and celebrate her leadership with Physicians for Human Rights;
her support for the Essex Ethical Culture Society; and her outstanding efforts
to spread good will and respect for gender differences in our local community

There was a discussion about Advocates for Children of New Jersey (recent program speaker Cecilia Zalkind) and what we can do to help. The group decided to put a link on the Ethical Culture Society webpage (and Facebook page) to the ACNJ webpage and to try to follow their calls for action (usually petitions and letters) in the same way we keep up with and support First Friends and the immigrant detainees.

Finally, Martha reported that Kate LaClair of the AEU social action office, has forwarded information about a pre-democratic convention action in Philadelphia in July that would act to

1. Ban Fracking Now
2. Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground
3. Stop Dirty Energy
4. Quickly and Justly Transition to 100% Renewable Energy

After some discussion, the committee voted in favor of the Social Action Committee of the Essex Ethical Culture Society signing on to this resolution. We will do this via email to Kate LaClair.


The next social action committee meeting will be Sunday June 5, 2016 after program.








Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
April 3, 2016


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Phyllis Hackett, and Lisa Novemsky. Visitor: Alice Baldwin-Jones.


The Chair reported that she made the first delivery the home of Rana Shanawani of detergent, cleaning supplies, oil and olive oil for Syrian refugee families in Elizabeth. She reminded everyone to bring more supplies to the society, and Barbara and Phyllis took flyers to post.

She also reported that we bought a $25 ad for the NJ Peace Action journal, as we have been empowered to do by the Board, with the thought that we will both support organizations who share our values and get some publicity for Ethical Culture. The group then voted to take a $25 donor ad for the journal of the First Friends of New Jersey and New York, the support group for immigrant detainees in New Jersey, with whom we've been working for several years.

While on the subject of First Friends, she reported on getting another letter from her immigrant detainee pen pal. We have also been asked to make phone calls to NJ Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, Republican of Westwood, Bergen County. Ms. Schepisi is a new member of the Assembly appropriations committee, and she supported the bill to lower phone rates for all incarcerated persons earlier this year. This bill passed both the NJ Assembly and the NJ Senate in February only to get a pocket veto from Governor Christie. We were asked to call Ms. Schepisi tomorrow morning, April 4, 2016, and thank her for her previous support and ask her to support A1419 again. Her phone number is: (201) 666-0881


Finally, we discussed our Local Heroes Project: Widney Brown is our honoree for 2016, and she needs to change the date. Since May 15 is the Society's Annual meeting, we agreed to have the event on May 22, 2016. Lisa volunteered to do an update on the continuing work of Susan Barry, last year's honoree, and Martha will get flowers and make the presentation to Widney. The group worked a while on language for the plaque. The updated draft, which may have to be edited for length, follows:


2016 Local Hero Award to Widney Brown
To honor her leadership at Physicians for Human Rights; her support of
our Essex Ethical Culture Society; and her efforts to spread good will and respect for gender differences in her neighborhood.


The next social action committee meeting will be Sunday May 12016 after program.







Minutes Social Action Committee

Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

March 6, 2016


Attending this informal meeting: Meredith Sue Willis, Diane Beeny; E.Betty Levin; Collin Minert. Also, discussion with Lisa Mark.


This was a very brief and informal social action committee meeting consisting primarily of reports handed out in the agend plus and one action taken.


Local Heroes Project: Widney Brown is our Local Hero Honoree for 2016. She will be accepting the honor on Sunday, May 1, 2016. Mark your calendars! We need a volunteer to work with Sue on arrangements-- Flowers, plaque, etc.


Collections: Sue took the final coats to Valley Settlement house last week

We are now collecting Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, oil and olive oil for Syrian refugee families in Elizabeth. See the flyer and feel free to distribute it widely.

Lisa Mark, who was in attendance at the platform reported that she is still checking around at St. George's Church to see if there is any interest in that church "adopting" one of the Syrian families in Elizabeth. She is also interested in possibly offering some job counseling to the families, so Sue put her in touch with the Shanawani family.


Immigration Detainee business: Sue got another letter from her pen pal– has ordered a book for him (On meditation) via Barnes & Noble– she talked to the Elizabeth Detention Center about how to do this.

We also wrote Governor Christie protesting his pocket veto of the NJ Senate bill, S177 (lower phone rates for incarcerated people). The Ethical Culture Board also wrote a letter, and a copy of ours was published in the SO/MA News Record.

At Huda Shanawani's request, we got in touch with First Friends about a Syrian immigrant detainee in Elizabeth rumored to need assistance. Sally Pillay and Huda are now in touch by email.


Finally, we voted to spend $25 for a small ad in First Friends' ad journal to support their work and do outreach from the Ethical culture society.



The next social action committee meeting will be Sunday April 3, 2016 after platform



Update to SAC Minutes for February:

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Zia Durrani; E.Betty Levin; Lisa Novemsky.


This brief meeting was to talk further about the situation of the Syrian refugees families in Elizabeth, New Jersey. (See below) The group decided we will get a list of precise needs from Rana Shanawani and the set up a collection here at the society. We are also waiting to hear from the social action committee at St. George's church, and Betty has decided to look for someone to partner with her in a possible personal adoption of a family to help with phone calls.

Betty also reported that Huda Shanawani will be talking at the Millburn library about the Syrian refugees on Sunday, March 11, 2016 at 1:00 p.m.





Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
February 7, 2016


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Diane Beeny; Zia Durrani; Nadaline Dworkin; Jill Farrar; Martha Gallahue; Bill Graves, ex officio; E.Betty Levin; Collin Minert; Visitors: Brenda Comissiong, Lisa Mark, Huda Shanawani.


We began with reports: Sue is still corresponding with her immigrant detainee pen pal. Others haven't heard back from theirs. Huda Shanawani of the Syrian American Council asked if we could get in touch with First Friends about a rumor of a Syrian immigrant detainee in Elizabeth who may need assistance that she, Huda, could give with language, etc. Sue volunteered to contact FF.

Sue also reported that the NJ bill lowering lower phone rates for all incarcerated people (including immigrant detainees) passed in both the senate and the assembly, but Governor Christie didn't sign it, rather ignored it, which is what is called a "pocket veto." We decided unanimously to write letters from the committee to the governor and the leaders of the two legislative bodies to express our indignation at this.

Martha gave a report on the progress of the Ethical Education program (several children were in session this very morning). Martha also will be bringing to us next regular meeting the list of candidates for the AEU's Elliot Black aware for us to decide about supporting. She also got in touch with Widney Brown, who has agreed to receive our 2016 Local Hero award. Widney has accepted, and Sue will send her an email describing the project and working on dates in early May, as we agreed.

Lisa Novemsky wants us to take a look at the website of Advocates for Children of New Jersey with a look to giving them some support. She supports this organization and has arranged for a future speaker, Cecilia Zalkind from it. The ACNJ collects news about NJ school attendance, preschool, poverty and juvenile justice.


The bulk of the meeting was spent with Huda Shanawani from the Syrian American Council telling us about the work her daughter Rana is doing to help the ten Syrian refugee families living in Elizabeth, NJ. The families are on a path to getting a green card and are presently getting food stamps, medicaid, rent, and other services via the International Refugee Committee. There are, however, gaps in the services provided. Huda asked us to consider "adopting" a family (which mostly means making phone calls and helping to advocate for the families in the schools or to set up doctors' appointments) or even providing some of the supplies that aren't covered by Food Stamps like cooking oil, feminine hygiene products, laundry detergent, paper goods, etc. Other things mentioned were children's books, snow boots and pants. Visitor Lisa Mark suggested sharing an adoption with her church, St. George's, which seemed like one possible way to do this.


The committee will be having a short discussion after the program next week Sunday, February 14 to talk about what we can take on.


Our next regular meeting is Sunday, March 6, 2016, after the program.













Minutes of the Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

January 3, 2016



Attending: Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Lisa Novemsky, Marty Cotler, Betty Levin, Jackie Herships.


Chair Sue Willis began with a report on Immigrant Detainee pen pals: she just received another letter from hers. Betty has written, but not received a response yet. We had a short discussion about the use of "detainee" versus "prisoner," and whether it is not more honest and accurate to note how people are treated as prisoners, even if they are only being detained. We usually use "immigrant detainees" because that is the language that First Friends uses, and most of our work with immigrant detainees is in support of their work. First Friends also asked us to make phone calls to leadership in the NJ Legislature to bring New Jersey Senate Bill S. 1771 and Assembly bill A. 4576 to a floor vote. These bills concern reasonable phone rates for ALL incarcerated persons. The good news is that the bills are out of committee, but need a floor vote on January 11, 2016. This will be the last floor vote before the new legislative session. Please call the following and ask for a floor vote on the bills to lower phone rates for all incarcerated persons:


Senate President: Stephen M. Sweeney (856) 251-9801
Assembly Speaker: Vincent Prieto (201) 770-1303
Senate Sponsor: Senator Shirley Tuner: (609) 323 7239
Loretta Weinberg (201) 928-0100
Assembly sponsor: Gordon Johnson (201) 530 0469
Benjie Wimberley (973) 925 7061

Sue asked for and received permission to make calls saying that she represents the will of the Social Action Committee of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County.


There was also a report on Betty's idea about registering high school students to vote. Lisa called the SO/Ma Women's League of Voters, and it turns out that they are already doing this yearly during CHS high school graduation rehearsal. They are looking for volunteers at the end of May, beginning of June. We should get in touch with Michelle Bobrow if we want to help ( ). Betty is interested in doing it in other schools as well, and asked Diane to check with the Westfield League to see if they are doing it–if not, Betty and Diane may try.


The discussion then turned to our committee's Local Heroes Project. At our December meeting, we agreed to aim for an early May 2016 date for this presentation. We also came up with the following guidelines for choosing an honoree. It should be:


– a person who works, out of principle, for the public good

– a person who has worked over a substantial period of time

– who is not already widely honored and known.

– Finally, we prefer but don't insist on it being someone with close connections to the local or immediately surrounding communities.


We had received information from committee member Leader Martha Gallahue about Widney Brown, who lives in Maplewood, has spoken at least three times at Ethical, and is active in many projects. She is employed by Physicians for Human Rights. Our present plan is to reach out to her and ask her to be our honoree. Meanwhile, we will began making plans for the next honoree, who will likely be Ingrid Hill of Newark's People's Organization for Progress. Diane is to get information about her to Sue ASAP.



New Business:

– The Ethical Education evening program is January 7, 2016 at 5:30 PM.


– Betty wants us to consider giving some aid to Syrian immigrants living in our local area. Friend of the Society and sometime speaker Huda Shanawani is the head of the Syrian Action Committee, and Betty will reach out to her for specific concrete needs for those people. If she can come to visit our committee, that would be great, but so would a list of possible needs we might act on.


– Diane brought up a project for taking supportive petitions (anti-Islamaphobia) to local mosques. She has signed up to do this. If anyone wants to join her or visit a mosque, please email Diane at


Next Meeting: Sunday, February 7, 2016, after program.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
December 13, 2015


Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky Hackett.


We began the meeting with a report on ongoing projects. MSW delivered several bags of coats to Valley Settlement House. We agreed that we will continue to collect through the end of January, 2016.


ACTION ITEM: We could use a youth or other volunteer to help transport these things to Valley Settlement House.


MSW also mailed off cards and other stationery supplies to First Friends for their Stamp Our Despair project (giving stationery and supplies to immigrant detainees in the various facilities around New Jersey). We then continued to discuss the Immigrant Detainee Project, specifically our Pen Pals.

MSW reported that she has an active correspondent, and Betty has a new one and has already written her letter. We then discussed the bills in the NJ Legislature to lower phone rates for all incarcerated people in NJ (immigration detainees and others). This bill is now out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and needs to get out of the Senate Budget committee soon.


ACTION ITEM:. Please call Senator Sarlo and ask him to post the Senate bill, S177 (lower phone rates for incarcerated people) at the Senate Budget committee meeting on Dec 21st. Call his office at (201) 804-8118


The Committee also decided that we will be a supporting congregation for the AEU's Elliott Black award. Once the lists of nominees comes out, we will throw our weight behind a candidate we decide on rather than trying to nominate out own candidate, a difficult and time consuming project.

Next Martha requested, and the Committee agreed, that we would put on future agendas the AEU project for supporting the U.N.'s sustainable development goals. Watch for an email detailing these goals; please read it and be prepared to think about what we at our Society already do and might do in the future.

Martha also reported on an Ethical Education evening program coming up in early January with music and a potluck: January 7,2016 at 5:30 PM.

Also, she reported that Betty is monitoring Ana, a potential youth member.

Betty reported on meeting with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and becoming interested in their project to register high school graduates as voters. Several of us signed up for more information. Lisa is checking with our local League of Women Voters to find out if they already do it at Columbia High School.

Finally, we discussed our Local Heroes Project and picked for our date to make the award one of the first weeks of May. Martha requested clarity on the requirements for this, particularly what we mean by a local hero. So far, we've come up with:


– a person who works, out of principle, for the public good

– a person who has worked over a substantial period of time

– someone who is not already widely honored and known.

– we prefer but don't insist on someone with connections to the local or immediately surrounding communities.


Diane Beeny will send MSW information about why she has suggested Ingrid Hill of POP in Newark; Martha will send information about Maplewood resident Widney Brown of Physicians for human rights; and Lisa will get the name of the local CHS teacher who runs a food growing project.


Our next meeting is Sunday, January 3, 2016, immediately after platform.




Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
November 1, 2015


Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Visitor: Phyllis Hackett.


The committee met after the program and a Halloween/Day of the Dead party by committee member Diane Beeney. The chair reported that the Committee's budget request to the Board for $200 was met positively. While the budge for 2015-16 was set at the Annual Meeting, the Board did approve our request in spirit, and welcomes the SAC making ad hoc expenditures as follows:


– up to $100 for outreach via (inexpensive) ad journals like the ones for Peace Action, the Community Coalition on Race, and possibly the First Friends immigration support group. These ad placements give exposure to the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County through the committee and help build relationships with other organizations.

– up to around $75 for expenses for the Local Heroes award or awards. The money would be used to purchase plaques and possible flowers in honor of the individuals.

– $25 for miscellaneous expenses which could include postage for letter writing; post cards for getting in touch with elected officials; color flyers/posters advertising our collections of warm clothing donations and other donations through the Valley Settlement House; and other projects. Thank you Board, especially Martha and Jeanine Rosh and President Bill Graves!


Next we discussed Pen Pals/Immigration Detainees: Betty filled out her volunteer request form, and Barbara, who already did one, would also like another Pen Pal. Sue will get these requests to First Friends. Martha reported on Families for Ethical Education. She and Education Director Amy Blake will be going to the AEU religious education week-end, and our next event for children will be November 22. We are moving to Sundays only for the programs, and this year's focus will be on festivals rather than a full-scale curriculum, with further outreach in the offing.

Betty reported on her upcoming workshop with teens in Holmdel, New Jersey, and that she arranged for Professor Eugene Lieber to speak on the Insanity of War in December.

Several people (Barbara, Betty, Zia, and Martha) took copies of Coat Collection poster to put up announcing our collection of clean coats for Valley Settlement House. The bag is in the sun parlor off the main parlor.

Sue also reported that for the First Friends' "Stamp Out Despair" program, we need more than greeting cards– stamps, stationery, folders, etc.


Finally, we spoke at some length about our Local Heroes Project. Suggestions for people to honor so far include Ingrid Hill of People's Organization for Progress and (from visitor and potential member Phyllis Hackett) a science teacher at CHS who runs a food growing project for students. Other suggestions include two people who live locally, Reverend Liberato Bautista (for his work with flood victims in Philippines) or Widney Brown of Physicians for Human Rights (working with killing of doctors in Syria by both Russia and the U.S.). Also mentioned have been people who run Arts Unbound, students, and EC member Paul Surovell. After some discussion, we decided to focus on those who serve locally (thus probably the teacher or Ingrid Hill of the Newark based POP); that at present we prefer adults; that we will in December decide on an approximate date for the award and begin to focus on one or two people.


The next meeting is Sunday morning December 13, 2015, December 4, 2015, after platform.






Minutes: Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
Sunday, October 4, 2015



Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky, Visitors: Bernice Kelly, Huda Shanawani.



This was the first meeting of the 2015-16 season. Chair Meredith Sue Willis reported on several things that happened since we last met: she placed a small ad in the SO/Ma Community Coalition on Race annual celebration ad journal with her own money, and several committee members pitched in a few dollars to help cover the expense. She passed around a copy of the ad.

She also passed around a thank you from our first Local Hero Award recipient, Susan Barry. Lisa reported that Ms. Barry, who retired at the end of the 2014-15 school year, has returned as a volunteer to continue the UN project!

Lisa will email the information to Martha for sharing with people at the United Nations.

The committee then discussed ad journals in general, particularly the Peace Action Dinner journal and whether we should be using part of our tiny budget to buy ads every year there. After some enthusiastic support from Betty and Diane for continuing to do this, Martha suggested that we request a larger budget for the coming year from the Board. This would allow us to buy a couple of small ads (Peace Action journal, Coalition on Race) as well as pay the expenses for the Local Hero project (this year's was just under $50 for a plaque and flowers) as well as other possible projects. The group unanimously embraced the compromise. Sue is to write to Bill Graves et alia at the Board with the request.

We also discussed our relationship to First Friends, the nonprofit that works with immigrant detainees in New Jersey. At our May meeting, Zia had asked what had happened to detainees we've been writing to and otherwise helping, and the answer is that no one seems to be sure. On the other hand, Sue has a new pen pal, and Betty and Huda both expressed interest in becoming Pen Pals. The group also agreed to collect cards, folder, stamps, etc. for First Friends' "Stamp Out Despair" initiative that centers around the holidays.

We also agreed to do another collection this year for coats and other clean, usable winter things for Valley Settlement House.

Betty reported on ideas for new projects for the Peace Committee. One is a round-up column of Peace Events and issues for the EC Newsletter to be written by Diane. Diane agreed to send this on to the web pages as well.

We then spent the rest of the meeting discussing the Local Heroes Project and Families for Ethical Education. Some names were suggested for possible local heroes (Ingrid Hill of People's Organization for Progress in Newark, the people who run Arts Unbound, certain students at Millburn High School as well as Columbia High School) and the possibility of honoring a teenager instead of or as well as an adult who has worked long and possibly behind the scenes. Huda suggested that we need to be clear about our criteria, we all agreed on these at least:

– That the person have given important service that reflects our values

– That the person have had a relatively low profile (has not had major honors in the past)

– Other criteria we suggested included of local importance, at least for the first year or two; possible a person of color.

We will take this up in more detail at the November meeting.

Finally, Martha talked a little about projects we might do with children in EC's nascent Families for Ethical Education Initiative. Everyone liked the idea of offering social action ideas to them, and thus linking them to the work of the Society. Sue offered the notes to arriving Immigrant Detainees as one possibility.

The group is happy with continuing with First Sunday meetings, and our next meeting will be November 1, 2015.






Summer Report from the Social Action Committee


The Social Action Committee has not closed up shop for the summer! We finally received more letters from our immigration detainee pen pals and wrote back to them. If you are interested in writing to immigration detainees, please let Committee Chair Sue Willis know.

We also made a delivery of art supplies to the Valley Settlement House in Orange, NJ for their summer children's programs. Each fall we collect coats for the Settlement House, and then art supplies in the spring. We further helped arrange a delivery of nonperishable food (thank you Marshall!) to the distribution center at Our Lady of Sorrows church.

Finally, at the next-to-last program of the season, we presented our first ever Local Hero Award to Maplewood Middle School language arts teacher Susan Barry, who quietly but with great success organized a Model UN at her school that is accessible to all types of students.



Please join us at our first meeting of the coming year on Sunday, October 4, 2015 and on subsequent first Sundays, after the morning program.



Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
May 3, 2015



Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Zia Durrani, Barbara Cotler, Diane Beeny



We had an informal meeting today, short, focusing on the Local Heroes Project.


First, the Chair reported good news for immigrant detainees: Phone rates are going down by August to just over four cents per minute. We heard this from the NJ Advocates for Immigrant Detainees. This was negotiated by the NJ Dept. of Corrections with the special phone company (Called GTL–we wrote a letter to them). The cost for a fifteen minute call will go down to less than $0.75 (from anything up to $8.50) Still to deal with, however, exorbitant international rates.

Zia expressed a desire to know what is happening with First Friends and the immigrant detainees we've been involved with. Zia and Sue will email for information.


We are still collecting art supplies for the children at Valley Settlement House, through the second week of June. Don't forget to bring paper, colors, pads of paper, poster board, markers, glue, etc.


Martha, who is receiving an award for the National Ethical Service and speaking at the Brooklyn Society, sent her thoughts on perhaps next year linking our Local Hero Project to the work of the to Peace Committee. Martha also reported that the Families for Ethical Education have been invited to join us for breakfast before Annual Meeting. AND– we have 10 replies to our Hire outreach for Director but are continuing our search.


We discussed our Local Heroes Project honoree, Susan Barry, who has accepted for June 7, 2015 (which is also our next Soc Act meeting. We agreed that it would be good, if possible, to have Martha preside with a few remarks, then perhaps Bibi Hayakawa might do the personal introduction to Ms. Barry. We will then present a plaque, and flowers. Sue will write a draft for publicity and presentation and will also price plaques. Zia will act as subcommittee to go over the drafts. We want to get publicity to Liz as soon as possible.


Diane suggested for future honroees an activist with POP named Ingrid Hill or perhaps Bennet Zurofsky of the Solidarity Singers.


Please watch your email for jobs that need to be done for June 7.

Dould we get a volunteer to purchase some flowers to give with the plaque?



Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
April 5, 2015

Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Lisa Novemsky, Zia Durrani, Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler

The chair passed out flyers for our spring collection for Valley Settlement House, running from now till the first week of June: art supplies for their children's programs. Zia will post a flyer at the library. Please feel free to print out the attached copy of the flyer and distribute widely.

The chair also reported that we heard from Rosa Santana, Detainee Visitation Program Coordinator at First Friends about our immigration detainee pen pals, who have stopped writing back. She wrote, "We have had a lot of transfers of detainees to different facilities in other parts of the country, even though we look into the ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) locator they still show they are in a NJ facility but they are not. We are waiting for the ICE locator to be updated to see where the detainees are. Let me know if you have any other questions." The chair asked her for a new list of pen pal names and addresses.

Next, we discussed financial support for other organizations' ad journals. We are committed to our usual $25 ad for Peace Action Dinner for this year. Zia is a member of the Board, and will ask at this week's meeting if the Social Action Committee has a budget we can use for this or other things. Others are to look into whether Peace Action is doing work that we want to continue supporting. Might it be better, in future, to give support to the ad journals of other organizations?

Next we discussed our new "Honor a Local Hero Project." We voted last month to go ahead with this. We will take a few minutes at a Sunday morning program, starting in June, 2015, to honor the achievements of some unsung local hero and give them some tokens such as, perhaps, a certificate, some flowers, a little publicity. We plan to include both members and nonmembers, beginning if possible with some nonmember whose work dovetails with ours.

Lisa suggested a teacher at Maplewood Middle School who has done work with the students and the UN. She will look into this possibility, and Sue will check on other school-related possibilites.

We are open to names from the Committee members, and hope to do at least one or two of these a year.

Our next meeting will be Sunday, May 3, 2015, after the program.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
March 1, 2015 after the Program


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, Chair; Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue; Betty Levin


The Chair reported that the Coat Collection for Valley Settlement House for Winter 2014-15 is now finished. Valley Settlement House would welcome art supplies for their children's programs, and we'll do a collection for that starting @ April 1. She also reported, regarding the Immigrant Detainee project, that she reached out to Sally Pillay at First Friends, but hasn't heard back yet. She also reminded the committee that we gave $50 to help make bail ($1500) for a young man named Elgar from Honduras who turned 18 and was transferred to the Hudson County Jail. First Friends wrote, after the successful collection: "We want to thank everyone for their support! The goal has been achieved, and we are now looking for housing for Elgar for when the bail is paid. Elgar fled Honduras due to the violence in his area, and the threats to his family. He knows that if he returns he will likely be killed, or forced to join a gang." Committee members paid MSW what they had pledges (she laid out the cash).


Next we discussed Betty's Elderhostel/Road Scholar project: asking that the famous travel organization include in their trips to Costa Rica that nation's status as a nation of peace. Members of the committee agreed to write individual letters using the letter the Committee sent as a model. The mailing address is Elderhostel/Road Scholar, Elderhostel, Inc., 11 Avenue de Lafayete, Boston, MA 02111-1746.

The Committee also decided to do a Post Card Writing project about this after the program on 3-8-15. MSW will bring the post cards, and she and Betty will distribute the cards.


The Committee noted that it stands in support of the Society's project for Ethical Education for Families. The Committee also agreed to support occasional requests for free meeting space that come to the chair between Committee meetings. These are opportunities for us to act as the Ethical Culture umbrella for groups sharing our values.


Finally we discussed new business. Betty broached the idea of writing to the Roman Catholic Pope to suggest turning churches turned into peace sites.

We also discussed and idea Sue and Lisa had perhaps three years ago to honor Unsung Heroes. This would be a very simple few minutes at a Sunday Morning Program to describe someone's achievements and give the (perhaps) a certificate and a little publicity. This would be for people of all ages who are doing good work in our communities. The Committee wants to go ahead with this, and asks that all members be ready to bring specific suggestions to the next committee meeting or to email MSW with suggestions.


The next meeting will be April 5, 2015, after the Sunday morning program.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
February 8 , 2015 after the Program


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, Chair; Diane Beeney, Zia Durrani, Collin Minert, Lisa Novemsky


The Chair reported that she delivered a bag of coats to Valley Settlement House this week. They want as many as we can bring, and we'll continue to collect through the first week of March. She also reported that we sent the letter as planned to Elderhostel/Road Scholar suggesting that their Costa Rican Programs might include information about the peace initiatives and general peacefulness of the Costa Rican nation. Also at Betty's suggestion, we sent an email to the University of Peace in Costa Rica with a copy of the letter, alerting them to our action.

The group agreed that a next step would be individual letters from ourselves and friends. See below for a copy of the letter as a model. The mailing address is Elderhostel/Road Scholar Elderhostel, Inc. 11 Avenue de Lafayete Boston, MA 02111-1746.

Diane reported on the second meeting of the Non-Violent Direct Action group she has joined. They met in January at the Society building under the aegis of the Social Action Committee and did small group exercises in direct action. Most of the members of this new group are from other organizations, all hoping to learn how better to use nonviolent direct action.

Sue reported on the Families for Ethical Education that is forming and has @ ten families as well as a working committee of members and non-members. The February 15 program is a special one Martha is planning aimed at everyone, but planned to be especially family friendly.

We also discussed Newark's Mayor Ras Baraka's initiative to get Municipal ID's for undocumented people (as well as the homeless and many others) following the lead of New York City, Trenton, Asbury Park, Oakland, Washington D.C., and New Haven.

Zia is interested in getting an update from First Friends on the status of the local Immigrant Detainees.

We spent the rest of the meeting discussing our post-carding efforts, mostly what to take on next, but also how to name the activity to make it sound more interesting–and to describe better what it does! (Which is preparing post cards and template letters on topics of importance to make it easy for attendees at platforms to write or otherwise communicate with their legislators and government officials. Collin suggested we could include phone calls at these events. The post-carding we will work on first is the NJ Assembly bill responding to last summer's fund-cutting from the national food supplement program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). We hope to find out where we might apply pressure. Which organizations are already working on these issues? Can our Assembly person Mila Jasey help? Secondly, and not at all unrelated, ECSEC member Lorraine Graves (who spoke in December) has promised to suggest some local businesses who are presently dumping food that might be passed on to food banks or others.

Our next meeting will be March 1, 2015.

Here is the letter we sent. Feel free to use your own language! The address is Elderhostel/Road Scholar, Elderhostel, Inc., 11 Avenue de Lafayete, Boston, MA 02111-1746


Dear Elderhostel,

The Social Action Committee of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County, New Jersey, is part of a religious and educational movement dedicated to the idea of bringing out the best in others–and thus in ourselves. Our group includes a number of seniors and others who have either taken your trips or are looking into them, and all of us admire the work you do. In perusing your current catalog offerings for Central America, we were particularly drawn to the Costa Rican Programs, which seem to cover all sorts of wonderful things about nature and bio-diversity and history.

We wondered: Have you ever considered also including in the advertising descriptions and programming the fact that Costa Rica is probably the world leader on peace issues? As I'm sure you know, Costa Rica is one of only 3 nations with no military– a nation with more teachers than police! Since their 1949 constitution abolished the country's armed forces, they have redirected military spending to health care and education, "changing rifles into notebooks," in the words of the constitution itself. Costa Rica is also the UN's site for the University for Peace (UPEACE), which opened in 1980 and offers Master's Degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies for students from all parts of the world.

One of us spent time as a teacher in Monteverde and told us about her happy on-the-ground experience with a nation that has an ideology of peace. We as individuals and as a group would be thrilled and fascinated if your Costa Rican programs could formally include this unique part of Costa Rica's past– and present! We think that this would be of deep interest to many people. Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.










Minutes of the Social Action Committee

Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

January 4, 2015


Attending: Chair Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Susan Graves, Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby Visitors: Tina, Lucy Schmitt, Christiana


The Committee welcomed several visitors and received the following reports: – We will be collecting clean warm coats and sweater to be distributed via Valley Settlement House from now through February.

– Lisa and Jean described the December 13 meeting of local seniors with CHS students. The Committee reiterated that it will happily provide support.

– Sue reported that we received a thank you from First Friends for our stationery collection as well as a letter in response to ours of November 16, 2014 to Gary M. Lanigan, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections for New Jersey. The letter thanked us for our communication and explained the State's position on phone calls for incarcerated and detained people.

Martha was given the job of drafting a response to some of his points.


The next piece of business was in regard to Elderhostel and their tours to Costa Rica. Betty and Zia had become aware of how the Costa Rican Programs, while attractive and rich in an awareness of nature and bio-diversity, never seem to mention that Costa Rica is probably the leading nation in the whole world on peace issues. Costa Rica of one of only 3 nations with no military (the others are Nepal and the Solomon Islands). Costa Rica has more teachers than police, and their 1949 constitution abolished the country's armed forces and redirected military spending to health care and education, "changing rifles into notebooks," in the words of the constitution itself. Costa Rica is also the UN's site for the University for Peace (UPEACE), which opened in 1980 and offers Master's Degree Programmes in Peace and Conflict Studies for students from all parts of the world. Visitor Tina spoke of her time as a teacher in Monteverde and her on-the-ground experience with a nation with no military. (Source: article online 2012 from the peace times For more on Costa Rica, see a recent LA Times article and an article about the 70 man security force in CR: )

The Committee decided by consensus for the chair to draft a letter from the Committee to Elderhostel stating how we have a number of members very interested in their programs and a wide mailing list, and how we believe Costa Rica's unique history of peace initiatives would be of interest to us and other people. We would love to see this aspect of the country included in programs and advertising about programs. Sue will draft this letter, then send it around to the committee for suggestions.

In new business, Diane announced that a new group working on Non-Violent direct action will have their second meeting (1-21-15) at the Society building. The Committee offered to be an umbrellas for this group.

Susan Graves is interested in seeing the Committee look into human trafficking in New York and New Jersey, and Lisa Novemsky suggested a platform talk about it.


Our next meeting will be February 1, 2015





Social Action Committee
December 7, 2014

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Barbara Cotler, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky


We had a small, short meeting to touch base.

Sue gave an update on the Immigration Detainee project, including a letter we sent to the State Prison Commissioner thanking him for moving towards a competitive process for bidding out phone calls for the detainees (and other prisoners) and encouraging him to do the same for international calls. We may assign more pen pals in January: Barbara has heard once from hers, Sue once from one detainee and twice from another. Sue also reported that her mother gave $200 for stamps for the detainees, and the committee commended her generosity.

Our winter stationery collection has ended; now we will focus on coats for the Valley Settlement House.

For new business, Betty discussed her desire to have letters sent to"Road Scholars" (former Elderhostel) encouraging them to include in their popular trips to Costa Rica the peace work done in that country. She is doing research, which she'll pass on to us for the January meeting. She asking people to write individual letters to the organization.

Sue also shared a communication from the AEU suggesting ways to make choices of social action projects, and some members of the Committee felt strongly that we have good instincts, excellent judgement, and don't need Big Brother overseeing our work! There was, however, a call for openness to new inspiration.

Lisa had an announcement about an initiative in Maplewood in which seniors are meeting with Columbia High School students on Saturday, December 13 at 1:00 at the high school for gartering. She suggested, and the committee approved, that she see if there is a way Ethical Culture and/or the Social Action Committee can support this project.

Our next meeting is Sunday, January 4, 2015, after the program.




Minutes, Social Action Committee
November 2, 2014
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County



Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Barbara Cotler, Diane Beeney (briefly), Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Bill Graves, Colin Minert, Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby.


We began with reports on our fall social service collection projects. We'll concentrate on stationery for the immigrant detainees for November as these things need to be at First Friends by November 30. Then we'll concentrate on coats for Valley Settlement House starting December 1.

Barbara and Sue reported that they now have immigration detainee pen pals. Barbara's seemed hopeful, and Sue's was very depressed after many months in detention and no word of his wife and children. We reminded each other that our role as pen pals is to be upbeat but not to offer action. Colin suggested checking with First Friends to see if they are making records of the letters we received (they ought to be). And other committee members recommended the Committee kept copies of the letters.

We then discussed at some length various possible long term action issues related to immigration and detention that we might consider working on along with our concrete letters to detainees.

Another concrete action we've been taking is the so-called "Welcome" cards that First Friends give to people who have just come into detention. Several of us are writing brief notes of encouragement for the new detainees. Martha, Barbara, and Sue have already written, and several more people agreed to write cards, including Diane, Colin, and Bill. Give the cards to Sue, who mill mail them to First Friends.

We had several other updates:


● Betty called in to report that she has reached out and not heard back yet from Valley Settlement House about what they might need from us.


● Colin noted that the Peace Committee has been doing self-assessment to see what nest actions the members want to take. They have a meeting next week, November 9, 2014, after the Sunday morning program.


● Lisa has received a proposal from the Tuareg friends about the refugee camp in Burkina Faso. She will go over the information and come back to us with a recommendation for what we might do, especially with the Maplewood Middle School children, to help.


● Zia will be, if called on, helping the First Friends Punjabi speaker prepare an appeal on his request for asylum.


● Martha reported that the next meeting on Ethical education will be Saturday afternoon, November 15, 4-6 again. We hope to have back some of the families who came the open house earlier this month.


Announcements: First Friends "Packing Party" is December 14, 2014


Next meeting: December 7, 2014





October 5, 2014
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky.


MSW gave updates on projects supporting the work of First Friends with immigrant detainees incarcerated in New Jersey: First, Rosa Santana of First Friends said not to be discouraged by no response from the first set of pen pals. She gave us five new names. Betty, Barbara and Sue will each take a potential pen pal and send the first short note. MSW will also get in touch with the other people who volunteered. She will send out the instructions and names to Betty and Barbara. VIP for everyone to remember is that we don't use our own return addresses.

[Important Update 10-29-14! Barbara and Sue both got replies from their letters! Yay!]

Something else we can do for detainees now: First Friends sends brief one-time notes to "welcome" all newly incarcerated people. Betty, Barbara, Martha, and MSW are writing some of these brief cards and returning them to Sue for distribution.

Zia reported on her continuing efforts to help First Friends help a man in danger of deportation who needs a Punjabi speaker (one of Zia's languages). She is helping him prepare his application for asylum. Good work, Zia!

First Friends also needs more cards, envelopes, paper, stamps, etc. by November 30, 2014. Their "Packing Party" is 12-14-14 .

They also need some one to answer 800 calls from your own home– any phone. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Get in touch directly with Rosa Santana: at (908) 965-0455.


Betty made a Peace Committee report– she and Collin are working on a questionnaire for members, and they are planning a meeting early in November, possibly the second Sunday. Lisa suggested this might be the same Sunday as a particular Peace topic that has just been scheduled.


We voted to do two fall collections: one for First Friends (stationery, stamps); one for Valley Settlement House: coats and other warm things.


Betty and Zia both are especially interested in increasing our involvement with Valley Settlement House. Betty has volunteered to find out the name of the program director or other person who could meet with us re: projects or volunteering.


Lisa reported on the project ongoing with Maplewood Middle School children to raise money for a vehicle to take nomadic indigenous African children presently in refugee camps to school. She will keep us informed of developments, and we may do something to help them.


The next meeting will be November 2, 2014, after platform.




Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
July 22, 2014– Summer Brainstorming Meeting



Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Zia Durrani, and Lisa Novemsky, with written input from Martha Gallahue.

The group met at 7:00 PM for general discussion about plans for the coming year and a report on our ongoing work with immigrant detainees and First Friends. We also took a couple of actions.

First, we agreed to continue the work with First Friends on Immigration Detainees, but not as the focus of the committee. One immigration detainee project we agreed to do at a platform early in September will be the writing of brief notes in English and Spanish to be included in packets First Friends distributes to new detainees. According to Sally Pillay, these simple expressions of hope are very meaningful to the new detainees, even though they never know or hear again from the person who wrote the note.

MSW also reported that several immigrant detainee pen pal letters have gone out, but no responses yet. Sally and Rosa are looking into the lack of response. Lisa asked if any of the central American children who have been crossing the border are being sent to our area, and MSW will check on this.

We also decided to support Martha's adult education series called Ethical Eating, making use of our relationship with Margaret Noon, the organic farmer. There will also be a showing of a film on September 17 with the regional branch of Slow Foods. We spent the bulk of the meeting discussing possibilities for next year.

Zia suggests, for our social service component, considering and exploring a closer relationship with Valley Settlement House. We already do a coat collection for them and something in the spring and summer, but we are thinking of some other possible service they might need. Should we schedule a meeting with their staff?

Zia also reminded us of Mira's work with the Parenting Center in the SOMA school district. Might we put ourselves on a list of groups to call when there are emergencies and families have concrete needs?

Then we discussed social action issues, global and national, that we might take action on during the coming year. The idea would be to focus on one issue for letter writing, cardings, possible platform speakers, etc. for one season. Ideas included international child labor and voting rights in the U.S. as well as various international women's issues. Ideas pending from our June meeting include more work on the cost of phone calls for all prisoners in New Jersey (not only immigrant detainees), and passing legislation about capping carbon emissions.

Our next meeting will be October 5, 2014, After Platform.


Please think over the topics in these minutes and come prepared to make choices!

Have a great rest-of-the-summer!





Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
June 1, 2014


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Linda Lubinsky, and Lisa Novemsky.


This was the last regular meeting of the Social Action Committee for 2013-14. The chair reported that Collin Minert will take the art supplies to Valley Settlement House. She also reported that Zia was able to answer a call from Sally Pillay at First Friends for a speaker of Urdu. Zia translated by phoe and helped a man who was stranded in New York.

Linda and Diane reported that the Peace Group continues to meet, and has assigned members to begin drafting a mission statement about what Peace means to them. Linda's church group is considering a letter writing campaign about the cost of phone calls for all prisoners in New Jersey (not only immigrant detainees. Diane brought up the idea of working on passing legislation about capping carbon emissions. These ideas will be discussed at our summer meeting.

We then discussed the Delaney Hall visiting situation. Sally Pillay is out of the country till mid June, so we are working with Rosa Santana at the First Friends office. The problem right now is that Delaney Hall has no one who has requested an English speaking visitor. This could, of course, change at any moment. Rosa suggested we might go to visit detainees in Elizabeth, but we decided to wait and, for the moment, and concentrate on the Pen Pal project.

At this point, the chair distributed addresses of pen pals who want letters, and the group discussed the best practices for making the most of this opportunity. Barbara and Diane each took a name, and Linda and Sue each took two. Sue will get in touch with absent members who volunteered, and Linda (and Barbara) are going to see if other people they know might be interested.

The next step is for each pen pal to write her letter (Barbara suggested starting with a pretty card rather than a long letter), enclosing an envelope addressed to the writer by name but by location at the First Friends facility in Kearny. Both First Friends and the chair would like to be informed of developments. This might turn into something we could expand!

A summer meeting for discussing ideas for next year was tentatively set for Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at 7:00 PM at the Society building.







Minutes Social Action Committee

Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

May 4, 2014


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani,, Mary Franklin, , Linda Lubinsky, Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby, Mira Stillman, Margaret Noon (visitor).


Reports: We are still looking for art supplies for children's projects at Valley Settlement House. On April 13, Sue, Jean, Martha, Lisa, and Linda visited Delaney Hall, the Essex County Immigration detention center. The attendees described the visit as informative and moving, all those families visiting people without proper documentation, whose lives are in limbo.


We next discussed and filled out paperwork for the following ways of interacting with these immigration detainees:


– Zia would be willing to do one shot visits to help with speakers of Urdu or Punjabi.

– Several people signed up to become pen pals

– Several filled out applications to become visitors.


Sue will get in touch with Sally Pillay at First Friends, the organization that arranges this support of the detainees, and will contact the volunteers individually about next steps. We probably need another mentored visit as no one has yet met a detainee who was actually available for visiting.


Next, we had a special visitor, Margaret Noon of School Lunch Organic Farm in Hackettstown. She described her farm and the program she is offering: a weekly share of organic vegetables which will be available for pick up each week at the Ethical Culture Society, June 24 through November 14, 2014. Pick up will be Tuesdays, 2 to 6 pm. Full shares are $735 and half shares are $400 for the 21-week season. Contact Farmer Margaret at 908-451-0051 or with any questions.


The deadline is coming soon: May 18!!


It has been suggested that a couple of social action committee members (or anyone else) could even split a half order– one person would have to write the check, but there is nothing to stop us from sharing what we get. Generally, a half order would be enough vegetables for a family of two– @ a grocery bag's worth of veggies. A half order is less that $20 for two weeks– of certified organic vegetables picked that morning (not counting root crops like onions and potatoes) Tell your neighbors!


The next Social Action Committee meeting– our last scheduled meeting of the year– is 6-1-14.





March 2, 2014
Minutes--Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Diane Beeny, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Martha Gallahue (leader), Collin Minert, Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby, Linda Lubinsky



The Social Action Committee met on March 2, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. at the Society building. We had reports about the Peace Center group meeting after Social Action, and that Collin has volunteered to make one final delivery of winter coats to Valley Settlement House. We also decided to ask the staff at Valley Settlement if they want a spring collection– last year it was art supplies for the children's program.

The next order of business was a request from Frank Barszcz at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (60 Park Place-Suite 511, Newark, New Jersey 07102-5504, email for us to support a bill in the NJ State Senate Bill called "Opportunity to Compete Act." This bill establishes certain employment rights for persons with criminal histories. The bill has, in fact, died in committee, so the question is whether we should write letters, do a carding, or in some other way support the revival of this specific bill or perhaps make some general statement about the importance of giving formerly incarcerated people a fair chance in employment. Collin pointed out that this is a big and very important issue with systemic implications. It is deserving of closer examination by us and probably a platform. Martha is to check back with Frank Barszcz for more information. Martha also reminded us that prison justice is a theme for the American Ethical Union.


The rest of the meeting went to discussing next steps for visitations with immigration detainees at (we prefer) Delaney Hall in Newark. Last month Sally Pillay, Program Supervisor at First Friends ( and Jorge Chavez led us and a number of friends in a training session for visiting detainees. Their new address is First Friends, 53 S. Hackensack Ave., Kearny, New Jersey, 07032, phone 908-965-0455.

There was general agreement that, if certain questions are answered, Betty, Sue, Jean, Lisa, and Diane, as well as Linda Lubinsky and some members of her church group (First and Trinity, South Orange) would like to take the next step and arrange for a mentored visit to Delany Hall. We would prefer to go as a large group.

Sue is to call Sally and ask:

1– is the large group okay?

2– may we make visits only once a month, perhaps sharing a single detainee with another visitor? The underlying question here is, What is the fewest visits that is allowable/helpful?

3– Is translation available?

4– Also ask Sally for more information about the PenPal Program, specifically, does one write to a single detainee? What about translation?


People interested in penpal work include Martha, Betty, and the others if visits aren't feasible.


The next Social Action Committee Meeting– May 4, 2014. In lieu of our April meeting, we will be visiting Delaney Hall on Sunday, April 13.

The rest of our scheduled meetings till June (first Sundays) are 5-4-14 and 6-1-14.


Please watch your email for updates about the immigration detainee visiting program. Also, if you see errors or changes needed in these minutes, please let me know at .




Minutes: Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
February 2, 2013



Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Diane Beeny, Betty Levin, Linda Lubinsky, Collin Minert, Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby, plus @ seven guests and visitors for the Immigration Detainee Training.


We had a short business meeting at which Betty Levin reported that the Peace Center is thinking of using drumming. Then Chair Sue Willis reported that she resent out letter to Global Tel (the company that provides telephone service to immigration detainees at Delany Hall in Newark) to a corrected address, supplied by Rebecca Hufstader, of NYU Law, who is working with the NJ Advocates for Immigration Detainees. The new address is David Silverman, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Global Tel*Link Corporation, 12021 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 100, Reston, VA 20190. His email is You are encouraged to write or email him requesting that his Company lower the rate for phone calls within New Jersey for Immigration Detainees. Sue also attended the January 8, 2014 meeting of New Jersey Advocates for Immigration Detainees, which includes representatives from Bergen Unitarians; Catholic parishes; American Friends Services, First Friends, NYU Law clinic and many others. A few items she learned were:


– Watch for a decision by the Federal Communications Commission about whether it will expand its prison phone rate ruling from interstate to intrastate as well.


– The Bergen county detention center refused IRATE/First Friends "Stamp Out Despair" packets of stationery, to which we at EC SAC have contributed (Elizabeth detention center took them).


– An on-going campaign in Middlesex county is an "anti-detailed" campaign which is about when people get picked up by police on any charge and are then held, possibly illegally, for ICE to come and get them. How this is done varies wildly from one locality to another. The Center for Popular Democracy website at says "Increasingly, state and local policy makers are recognizing that using local resources to enforce federal immigration law is bad policy. Not only is it expensive to incarcerate people on ICE's behalf, it also diverts law enforcement personnel time that should be spent responding to the public safety needs of the community."


– Finally, NJAID meets with representatives of ICE occasionally, also with BPU, the Board of Public Utilities.


The bulk of the meeting went to a training session by Sally Pillay, Program Supervisor of First Friends with Jorge Chavez. You can learn more about the organization at Sally and Jorge handed out packets and gave a power point presentation on what is required to become a visitor at one of the New Jersey Immigration Detention Centers (in Essex, Union, Hudson, and Bergen County). The detainees, being held by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in various county jails, include men and women, people without documentation and people who have green cards. Some are claiming asylum (in danger in their home countries). While many are from New Jersey, others are from New York where the detention centers have been closed.

There are strict requirements for visitors, and about reporting to First Friends in order to give maximum help to the detainees. It was an excellent presentation, and the Social Action Committee will spend time at our next meeting deciding if and how we want to join this program, or, if we cannot visit in person, to become pen pals for some of the people who are detained.


Please join us at the next Social Action Committee Meeting– March 2, 2014.


The rest of our scheduled meetings till June (first Sundays) 3-2-14; 4-6-14; 5-4-14; and 6-1-14.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
January 5, 2014


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Martha Gallahue (leader), Zia Durrani, and Lisa Novemsky.


We began with reports on our coat collection. On 12-17-2013 Collin took the first batch of coats to Valley Settlement House, and we decided to continue the collection at least through the rest of January. Lisa, Zia, and Martha reported on various possible Peace Center plans possibly to center on conflict resolution education for the public.

Sue reported on issues pertaining to Immigration Detainees and the Essex Detention Center. She hopes to attend the next meeting of the New Jersey Advocates for Immigration Detainees at noon on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 31 Mulberry Street, Newark NJ 07102.

We also have scheduled a special training for visitation of detainees at the Essex Detention center. This training will take place immediately after the platform, in lieu of our next regular meeting, Sunday February 2, 2014. Sally Pillay of IRATE/First Friends will come to do the session.

Expressing interest in the training, if no commitment if required in advance, are Jean, Diane, Lisa, Martha, Sue, and possibly Zia and Betty. Martha will ask Liz to do another society-wide emailing, and she will also personally approach several people. If you have anyone within the society or outside who might be interested, please invite them.

As new business, Lisa told us there will be another movie showing by the Timebank folks at South Orange's SOPAC theater in February. Details to be announced.

We also discussed some organizations we might want to consider looking into and possible supporting, or at least gleaning ideas for where to put our energy:


–The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (

– National People's Action (

– The Social Justice Committee of the AEU's National Leadership Council


Finally, there was some open discussion that included

(1) the issue of good communication with platform speakers to ascertain that the speaker understands our typical platform or if he or she wants some variation on it;

(2) the statement about what Ethical Culture is that Jackie Herships and others have been working on–where it would be used, whether to discuss it in an open meeting of the membership, etc.


Our scheduled meetings for the first half of 2014 are as follows: (first Sundays) 2-2-14; 3-2-14; 4-6-14; 5-4-14; and 6-1-14. Don't forget: bring a friend for the next social action committee meeting, Sunday February 2, 2014 (immediately after platform) for training in visiting Immigration Detainees with Sally Pillay.










Social Action Committee

Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

December 8, 2013


Attending: : Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Barbara Cotler, Martha Gallahue (leader), Betty Levin, Collin Minert, Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby, and visitors Marty Cotler and Maya.


The Chair reported that a large bundle of stationery was sent to First Friends on 11-25-13, and Betty and Collin both have more stationery to send: Collin provided envelopes with stationery AND a stamp for individual detainees who want to write family members and friends.

We also have a supply of coats for Valley Settlement House ready to be delivered. Collin volunteered to take a turn delivering them. Sue will check out hours and let him know. Martha would also deliver, but only Sundays.

Betty reported that the Peace Center Committee will be having its third meeting. She also suggested, and the committee supported, the idea of having a special area or page on the website with links to current events related to peace.

Sue then reported on our work towards improving conditions at the Essex Immigrant Detention Center. We had a letter writing on November 17 led by herself, Lisa, and Jean, and sent out @ twenty letters to the company (Global Tel Link) that provides phone service for local immigration detainees. The letters requested lower rates at least matching what the Federal Communications Commission has recommended for inter-state phone calls.

We also have a tentative date for training for visitation at the Essex Detention center. Sally Pillay of IRATE/First Friends will come to our next meeting, January 5, 2014. Jean can't make this one and Barbara can't make a February 2 meeting, so we will see if Sally can do February 2, if we can get more people from the Society for that date. So far, expressing interest are Jean, Diane, Lisa, Martha, Barbara, and Sue. Collin has already had the training.

The next meeting of NJ Advocates for Immigration Detainees is noon, January 8, 2014 at 31 Mulberry Street, Newark NJ 07102. Sue hopes to go. The minutes from their last meeting included information that there is a pending lawsuit versus Global Tel Link. Also, they are having trouble getting a meeting with Essex Freeholders. In contrast to Essex County, Middlesex County is no longer receiving money from detainees' phone calls (Essex still does, splitting the exorbitant fees with Global Tel Link). This, of course, has an influence on how the counties view the cost of phone calls.

Betty announced that Ed Tick will be coming in the spring to give a platform on issues related to returned soldiers; Martha mentioned that we ought to look into some self-education re: the slow foods movement, especially to support transparency in labeling and general accountability of corporations and government.


The next meeting will be January 5, 2014.

The following scheduled meetings (first Sundays) are




            5-4-14; and







Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
November 3, 2013


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue (leader), Betty Levin, Collin Minert, Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby, and visitor Marcus.


Short Reports and Announcements:

The chair gave out flyers reminding people to bring coats for our collection to be distributed through Valley Settlement House. She also asked if anyone has found anything on how to donate/help refugees in Syria through responsible organizations, and Betty volunteered to ask her Syrian friend.

The first meeting for defining Essex Ethical as a Peace Center and what that means takes place Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

We are also collecting stationery for the upcoming holidays to be distributed by IRATE/First Friends to the immigration detainees. We need this by the end of November– no pens or pencils, but first class postage and first class international are especially needed.


Report on Immigration Detainees Issues:

Also in reference to immigration detainees, there was a report about the monthly meeting of the New Jersey Advocates for Immigration Detainees which Sue, Lisa, and Jean attended on October 23, 2013 in Newark. Among the highlights of that meeting were the following:

– Phone rates: a continuing big problem for immigration detainees (and all prisoners) has been the exorbitant cost of phone calls: up to .89 a minute plus a $5 connection charge. After many years of lawsuits, Federal Communications Commission on 8-9-13 adopted an order to bring prison phone rates down to something called safe harbor with costs in the $.12 to .14 cent a minute range with limits on connection charges too. The big question is what effect an FCC ruling on inter-state rates will have on local, intra-state rates. A further complication is that each New Jersey county is different, and many county governments, like Essex, take a big cut (50%) of these calls and thus don't want to see them go down. NJAID is working on influencing the local phone utilities. The FCC is also looking into whether they have authority to regulate intra-state rates.

– More difficulties with detention center phones: Many phones, expensive as they are, at the Essex County Jail/Delaney Hall, don't work properly.

– Some precincts are holding immigrants who are picked up for a minor infraction (say, traffic regulations) until ICE can come and pick them up. They can be held for long periods of time like this. Middlesex County, however, does not do this.

– Problem of solitary confinement for immigration detainees: It is now called "disciplinary segregation," and in New Jersey can run to 30 days. Internationally the standard is 14 days.

– Elderly are not supposed to be detained, but this is regularly violated.




• The committee decided by consensus to continue working with the NJAID– certainly by collecting information, but also by attending meetings whenever possible

. • We also decided to do a carding on November 17, 2013 asking local utilities to join FCC in lowering phone rate. Sue has to call Sally Pillay at IRATE/First Friends to find out who has the contract at Essex.

• We also decided we do want the immigration detainee visitor training: So far, Jean, Diane, Lisa, Martha, Sue, and Betty have expressed interest, but we will send a letter to the Society looking for others. We may try to do this in lieu of the January meeting.



We agreed to move the next meeting to Sunday December 8, and then adjourned.



News and Information Related to Projects
of the Social Action Committee



AEU statement on the events in Ferguson, Missouri


A Statement from the Board

In solidarity with all those who experience violence from too ready access to guns,  we send our condolences to the community in Newtown, CT.  We acknowledge your unimaginable pain in this moment.  We ask for your guidance to bring about healing and reconciliation to all in our country as we search for ways to protect the public good.   We renew our determination to end denial about the roots of violence that exist inside our homes.  We in Ethical Culture throughout the United States have already taken strong stands against the unrestrained use of guns and weaponry.   Now we promise to do more in your names as we share your sorrow.

Martha Gallahue, Leader
Andrew B. Weinberger, President
The Board of Trustees of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
December 17, 2012


Recent News about New Immigration Detention Center in Essex County:

Minutes of Past meetings (Reverse Order)



Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
October 6, 2013

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair), Diane Beeny, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue (leader), Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby, and visitors Marcus and Collin.


The meeting began with various reports and follow-ups: Diane Beeny reported that the Friday night movie program she is spear-heading has begun. She plans the next one for November, then January. She hopes to move to monthly showings at some point. We discussed good ways to publicize the movies and best nights, etc.

Sue brought up the issue of social service collections, and the group agreed we should continue the following:

– Stationery and stamps for IRATE/First Friends to distribute to immigration detainees , especially during the holiday season.
– Coats and warm things for Valley Settlement House, probably between October 15, 2013 and March 1, 2014.
– Children's books for Karen Weiland's local school district Parenting Center (Lisa will do research on where these books go, etc.

It was reported that the FCC ruled in August that the outrageous cost of phone calls in prisons of all kinds (immigration detainees but also the regular prison population) has to be made more reasonable. Our Committee did a February 2013 carding on this subject, and the FCC was apparently influenced by the public pressure from family members and prisoners' rights organizations. For more information, click here .

Sue also reported that she had spoken with Sally Pillay at IRATE/First Friends. Their social justice campaign is presently on hold while they wait see if the Essex jails/detention will honor the new FCC regulation. The deadline on this is the end of 2013 deadline. She asked us not to do a "public speaks" at the Essex Freeholders meeting yet. Instead, she invited us to join the New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees (Pax Christi, a Unitarian Fellowship, etc.), to get caught up, find out upcoming actions. The meeting take place on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at noon at the Episcopal House, 31 Mulberry St., Newark. Sue plans to go, and Lisa and Diane are both interested.

Sally Pillay also offered to do a training for visits to the Essex Detention center. The training is approximately one to one and a half hours. People who are interested so far include Jean, Diane (who may have had the training in the past), Lisa, Martha, and Sue. We will of course offer this to the membership and try to have a session after platform, perhaps in lieu of a Social Action Committee meeting in January or February?

We then discussed actions that might be taken in regard to the dire situation in Syria (subject of today's Colloquy). Martha saw our role as keeping the issue on the table, as a point of entry for information gathering and discussion with some possible actions being (a) identifying and supporting a family (either over there or here); (b) finding out what the needs on the ground actually are– what does a humanitarian contribution from a group like ours look like?; ( c ) researching what organizations might be responsible receivers of donations (Lisa and others had people to ask about this)

Our next meeting will be Sunday, November 3, 2013 after platform.





Minutes: Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
June 9, 2013


Attending: Chair Sue Willis; Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Lisa Novemsky, Rosalie Sussman, and guests Maya Weintraub and Rick Foard of Essex/Newark Legal Services.


The meeting began with several reports from the Chair:

  • On 6-3-13 we made our final delivery of the spring collection to Valley Settlement House– kids' costumes/dress up, linens, and art supplies.

  • On 5-12-13 we did a letter writing/carding on decent working conditions to help American workers and workers across the developing world in response to the Bangladesh factory disasters.

  • Small good news about phone rates for incarcerated persons: the Department of Corrections in Virginia testified to the FCC that they are looking for a lower bid for phone cards for their incarcerated people.

  • An email was sent to the Essex County freeholders asking (again!) for a meeting.

The group agreed that if there is no response from the Freeholders this time, we will pick up with yet another email in the fall and then, if there is no response, we will get a delegation to go to a Freeholder meeting to speak. Over the summer, the chair will try to find out what other groups (First Friends/IRATE, the Friends Service Committee) are doing on the issue.

Diane Beeny reported that discussions continue about the Friday night movie program, and she volunteered to head a subcommittee and talk with Martha about next steps for fall. New business was our guests from Essex/Newark Legal Services, attorneys Maya Weintraub and Rick Foard. They described their organization, a nonprofit funded by government grants and some donations from legal organizations, which provides legal services to poor people and senior citizens in Essex County. Services range from the official expunging of criminal records for ex-offenders to landlord /tenant disputes, welfare issue, family law, bankruptcy, and much more. The organization is under enormous financial stress from New Jersey state budget cutbacks. They have not filled vacated jobs and are now resorting to closing the offices entirely on Fridays. A bill has passed in the State Senate to help ameliorate the situation (S2207) and is now in the Assembly (A3308). They invited us and the general public to a rally in Trenton scheduled for June 24, 2013 to demand increased legal services funding in order to restore services to clients. The Social Action committee decided by consensus to write a letter to John McKeon and Mila Jasey asking for their support for this.

We discussed whether or not to schedule a summer meeting, and Zia suggested having a meeting as part of the June 29 retreat. This is under consideration.






Minutes, Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
May 5, 2013



Attending: Sue Willis, chair; Jean Shelby, Lisa Novemsky, Diane Beeny, Marty Cotler, Andy Weinberger, Barbara Cotler, Liz, Martha, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin



Chair Sue Willis reported that the collection of linens, art supplies, and children's costume/dress-up clothing for Valley Settlement House is ongoing. This collection ends in approximately two weeks. Martha said she'd be willing to help take things up, depending on schedule.

Betty Levin reported that our ad appeared in the Peace Action Journal. Thanks to all who contributed to this.

Sue also reported on the status of our work to learn and take action in support of the immigration detainees in Essex County at Essex County jail and Delaney Hall (privately managed). We had a meeting with Freeholder Gill in January, but the next meeting ran into scheduling difficulties.

Sue has now sent letters to other freeholders, members of the public safety/penal committee sub-committee on immigration and customs enforcement. There has been no response so far. She will send emails to the Freeholders, and if there is still no response, we plan to get a group together to go a Wednesday night freeholders meeting as early as possible in September.

Other ongoing business is Film Fridays, scheduled to begin on May 24 with an environmental theme. Martha has films, but if Terri Seuss would like to start the series off, she is invited. Sue is to get in touch with her.

As new business, the Committee voted to take a carding action to urge the Houses of Congress to pass passing legislation aimed at averting tragedies like the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh. We urge a bill comparable to the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act of 2007 (S 367 in the Senate and HR 1992). To revive this bill would to a long way toward helping both American workers and workers across the developing world (For more information, see Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights or click here.).

The group decided we will send post cards to Senators, Members of Congress, and the President requesting that they revive such a bill. We'll do a carding on May 12, and, if needed, another on May 19. Our next meeting will be Sunday, June 9, after platform.


Next Meeting June 9, 2013



Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
March 17, 2013



Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky, Jean Shelby, Mira Stillman. Guests: Patty Bender and Gloria Torrice


Chair Sue Willis reported that we had a February 17, 3013 carding asking the Federal Communications Commission to lower the cost of phone calls for immigration detainees and other prisoners. We collected around 15 cards that were mailed to the FCC.

She reported also that she continues to be in communication with Freeholder Gill and his representative, trying to set up a further meeting with him and Freeholder Johnson concerning conditions at the Essex County immigration detention facilities. They say they're having trouble scheduling the meeting. The Social Action committee agreed that if no meeting is set up in the next month, then we'll decide at our May 5th meeting about going directly to the open meeting and making a statement. Martha is willing to speak.

Sue also reported that two collections of coats have gone out to Valley Settlement House. The coat collections are now over for the winter of 2012-13, but VSH has requested clean sheets and other bedding as well as children's art supplies and costume/dress up clothes.

The committee decided to organize another collection to run from now through may 15. New business discussions and actions included a request to buy an ad for the Peace Action Journal. Last year, the Society as a whole bought a half page ad. We voted to go back to our 1/16th add for $50. The group collected donations for that amount to be sent to Peace Action.

Other actions included agreeing to vote on which Elliot-Black award nominee to support by email, with Martha to send out the list of names. We also voted to give our support to a new program called Film Friday by becoming the official sponsor. The program is still in the planning stages, under discussion by Martha, Lisa, and Terri Suess.

Finally, we are encouraging committee members and others, as individuals, to consider offering support to WBAI radio which is in danger of losing its transmitter for financial reasons.


The next meeting will be Sunday, May 5, after platform.





Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
February 10, 2013


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Mira Stillman, Jean Shelby, Lisa Novemsky, Zia Durrani, and guest Linda Lubinsky


Chair Sue Willis reported that she will take the final load of coats to Valley Settlement House some time in the next two weeks. There was some discussion about whether other things are also welcomed there, and Zia pointed out that they were happy to receive some office supplies from her family. This will be something to check for the next time we do a collection.

We also continue to collect and send stationery to First Friends in Elizabeth for distribution to immigrant detainees at the Elizabeth Detention Center. Sue requested and received some cash donations for postage for these collections. Thank you to all who were so generous!

Other reports included Lisa on the meeting of the Essex Time Exchange ( , which was very successful, with more than 25 people sharing needs and services. Martha pointed out that there were 21 people who had never been in the Ethical Culture building before, and Betty told her personal experience of finding someone to pick her up at the airport. This is an important initiative supported by our committee.

Martha talked about the Elliot/Black award and recommended that our Committee save its resources for our other projects, until such a time as we meet with or discover some person or organization with a national reputation deserving of the award, as the nomination process requires a lot of research and effort.

The bulk of the meeting went to a report from Sue about the Essex County Immigration Detention Center. She described the January 14 meeting with Freeholder Brendan Gill (MSW, Martha, Betty, and Zia represented the Social Action Committee). Mr. Gill was very open to discussion, and recommended that we next meet with him and Freeholder Johnson, who is on the oversight committee for the Essex Immigrant Detention Center and has more detailed answers to our questions. We don't have a meeting date yet, but Freeholder Gill emailed his assistant on 2-9-13 to work on setting this up.

Sue also had a phone conversation with Alix Nguefack of American Friends Service Committee and the New Jersey Advocates for Immigration Detainees, a coalition of civic and religious organizations (individual participation is also welcome) whose goals include bringing attention to the plight of immigrant detainees in our state's jails; working to improve the conditions in those institutions; and advocating for the reduction and elimination of the use of detention for immigrants.

Ms. Nguefack specifically recommended that we express our views to the Federal Communications Commission about the extremely high cost of phone cards for detainees. These expensive phone cards are for-profit, with a kickback to the county.

The Social Action Committee voted to join the New Jersey Advocates for Immigration Detainees, and to join a message campaign to the FCC asking for just phone rates for detainees, and, indeed for all incarcerated people. To learn more abut the New Jersey Advocates for Immigration Detainees, click on; to learn more about Phone Justice for detainees and others, click

Finally, the Committee decided to prepare a carding directed at the FCC on Sunday, February 17, 2013. Sue will prepare cards, and Betty, Mira, and Zia will join in helping to distribute them during coffee hour on that date.

The next meeting was set for Sunday, March 17, after platform.


Message to Committee February 18, 2013


Dear Social Action Committee,

Thanks to Zia and everyone else who helped out yesterday with our carding to the Federal Communications Commission.  Also thanks to members who braved the cold to demonstrate for climate change sanity in Washington!    We sent out 15 signed post cards to the FCC as well as distributing informational flyers  (see attached if you didn't get one). 

I also emailed the individual Commissioners the following  message, an amplified version of our card:


Dear Commissioner,
I am the chairperson of the Social Action Committee of the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County, an educational and religious organization that affirms the worth and dignity of all persons.
We have been appalled to learn that immigration detainees in the County Jail and Delaney Hall of Essex County, New Jersey, are being charged high fees for phone calls to their families.  Our sources say that phone calls made from prisons and detention facilities can cost family members as much as $250 a month just to speak a few minutes to their loved ones. Families of imprisoned people, many of whom are low income, find these phone bills exorbitant
.      We also understand that companies are making profits from these phone cards, and governmental bodies are getting what amounts to legal kickbacks for giving the companies the lucrative privilege of providing the service.
We respectfully request that you, the Federal Communications Commission, regulate and limit the costs of at least interstate prison telephone calls and use moral suasion to have fees lowered locally as well.
We believe that increasing communication between families and prisoners, whether immigration detainees or the general prison population, will keep families strong and communities safe
.     Thank you for your time and interest.    
                                                  Meredith Sue Willis, Chairperson  Social Action Committee                       



Minutes: Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
January 6, 2013


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis (chair); Barbara Cotler; Zia Durrani; Lisa Novemsky; Martha Gallahue; Mira Stillman; Sylvia Kramer; Betty Levin; and guest Jean Shelby


Chair Meredith Sue Willis reported that we have sent stationery twice to First Friends for distribution to immigration detainees in Elizabeth. We also delivered our first load of coats to Valley Settlement House. We will continue to collect coats till mid-February, so please bring yours, and let people know.

The chair also reported that we have now heard back from Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill and are to set up a meeting with him via his assistant for MSW, Martha Gallahue, and Betty Levin. There was some discussion about dates for this and how best to prepare ourselves for the meeting. Martha is to send any links from the internet with a point of view other than that of IRATE/First Friends, and Lisa also has some information to share.

Overall, our objective will be (1) to learn, especially about the current status of immigration detainees at the Essex County Jail and in Delany Hall; (2) to ask Mr. Gill what he might do and what we might do to assure that the prisoners in both facilities have longer visiting hours; family contact visits; no restrictions on attorney and clergy visits; and better physical and mental health care; and (3) whether there might be some appearance by Mr. Gill at Essex Ethical for a Friday program or some other event.

There were also reports from Betty Levin, who meets soon with principals of the Millburn school district to expand her Peace program. If she is invited into more schools, she hopes to have volunteers to be trained and share the program.

Martha reported that she has arranged a "Meet Lucy Schmitz and Friends" event for Friday, January 14, 2013, and that she is hoping to connect our interest in the conditions for immigration detainees with the AEU's initiative on criminal justice. We feel that in the criminal justice system in general and in the special case of immigrant detainees, there is a wide misuse of incarceration as a means of social control. Martha hopes to bring Lisel Burns to have some interaction at Ethical.

New business included Lisa's request that the committee support a Time Bank meeting at the Society Building in February, which we did.

Mira Stillman agreed to do some basic research on whether and how Global Warming is being approached in the local school district and to bring a report to the committee.


The next meeting was set for Sunday, February 10, 2013.







Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
November 11, 2012


Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, Guests: Francesca Bremner, Barbara Lipton, Parvathy Ramachandran.


Reports & Discussions

Chair Sue Willis reported on the carding on October 14 with @ two dozen post cards sent to Essex Chosen Freeholder Brendan Gill about the new Essex County immigrant detention facilities. Cards were distributed to sign and send to those who weren't present on 10-14.

She also passed around a letter from the whole committee to Mr. Gill, and the group agreed to send it, suggesting that it be amended to ask for a meeting. Martha (available Mondays Fridays, or Saturdays) would like to be part of any such meeting, as would Betty.

Martha reported on her Peace Project plans including 1) a "World Café" potluck discussion at the society on November 30; 2) the AEU focus on criminal justice, and finding a way to include our interest in the immigrant detention centers; and 3) Bart Worden's platform on December 9 and a meeting for leadership afterward.

Betty Levin shared her news about meeting with members of and candidates for the Millburn Board of Education who expressed interest in reviving her peace program in the Millburn Public Schools. Yay Betty!


Ongoing Projects

We also discussed our two service projects: stationery for First Friends to be distributed to detainees. Marty volunteered to approach the Ethical Board to ask for money for First class 'Forever' stamps to be included with the cards we send. Second is our continuing Coat Collection for Valley Settlement House. Sue distributed flyers for people to post or pass on to others. Today's platform speaker Francesa Bremner, who spoke on "The Conflict in Sri Lanka and How Americans Can Help End It," committed to emailing Sue ( withsuggestion for actions we might take to support the reconciliation in that country. She mentioned that the issue has been taken up by Human Rights Watch and other groups.


New Possible Projects

Several areas were brought up for possible action. Betty and Zia went to NJ Peace Action's Soup Luncheon and heard Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute. They would love to have him as a speaker, and Betty is particularly interested in seeing us do work towards abolishing nuclear arms.

Mira Stillman encouraged us to begin to take action on global warming, which has been sadly neglected during the presidential campaign. Martha suggested thinking in terms of what Americans are doing to decrease their carbon footprint, using information fro websites like and NASA, and Lisa mentioned a number of local initiatives including Maplewood's green initiatives and speakers at Words bookstore.


The next meeting has been set for January 6, 2013 with a snow date of January 13.






Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
September 30, 2012


Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Myron Katz, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, Elliott Sudler, Guest: Kathy O'Leary


Platform speaker Kathy O'Leary gave several ideas for ways to support the work of IRATE/First Friends on the immigration detention centers in the Essex County– the county jail ( @ 800 people) and the privately managed Delaney Hall (@400 people): – Visit a Freeholder's meeting to express our views at the Public Speaks – Get in touch with the Freeholders, especially the new one Brendan Gill. – Try meeting with Gill or others – Ask for changes to be made in how immigration detainees are treated: More visiting hours and family contract visits for those detained in the jail No restricts on attorney and clergy visits in both immigration detention centers Better physical and mental health care

We also asked for her thoughts on other speakers with other points of view, and she suggested a representative fro USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigrations Services (, the government agency that oversees immigration to the United States (ICE is the government's enforcement arm).

The group decided to take a position opposing economic incentives to local governments for imprisoning immigrants. We will do a carding/letter writing event after platform on Sunday, October 14. Martha will draft s short statement, Lisa will edit and send on to Sue who will prepare the cards. These cards will go to Essex County Freeholders.



1. Essex Time Exchange. Lisa and Zia reported that the Essex Time Exchange is up and running. They will report as needed in future.

2. Returning Vets Project Myron Katz reported that the subcommittee has met and is working on permissions possibly to go into East Orange or Lyons Veterans' Hospital with programs.

3. Peace Project: Martha talked about her vision of a peace project from within the society, beginning with a steering committee/focus group to include Zia, Diane, and Mira.


Upcoming projects:

– Stationery Collection for First Friends and Immigrant Detainees

– Coats Collection for Valley Settlement House: Martha will announce or make sure someone else announce. Zia will send a brief line or two about Valley Settlement6 house and Sue will make a flyer for the front hall of the Society building.


The next meeting has been set tentatively for November 11,which Zia can make, but may be a problem for Myron because of Veterans' Day.









Minutes of the Social Action Committee Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
July 16, 2012 7:00 PM
at Ed and Karen Bokert's house



Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Ed Bokert, Karen Bokert, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky. Guests: Merelyn Dolins, Myron Katz, Elliott Sudler



Thank you Ed and Karen for air conditioning and refreshments! What a pleasure!

Chair Sue Willis gave an overview of the Social Action Committee's Mission and Work for visitors and potential members, speaking about our short term social service actions like coat collections for Valley Settlement House; helping find good platform speakers on social action issues and sharing ideas with Platform Chair Elaine Durbach; organizing letter writing/carding campaigns on issues that we take a position on. It is much hard for the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County as a whole to take positions, due to bylaw restrictions. Lisa Novemsky gave a report on the Essex Time Exchange, which is an initiative of the Social Action Committe. Upcoming is the David Brancaccio movie Fixing the Future, which will be an organizing tool for the Essex Time Exchange. She talked about how the Essex Time Exchange will work, and took questions. Zia made the point that this time sharing is not taxable because it is not barter– where there is a financial value given to items traded– but rather a system of "friendly favors" in which one hour's work is traded for another hour's work, even if one is an hour of brain surgery and the other an hour of scrubbing the floor. Lisa wants to solidify the relationship of the ETE with the Social Action Committee, and the Committee agreed to help look for a way for the Time Exchange to have a bank account for small donations for operations. Sue talked about our interest in immigration issues, particularly detainees at the new Essex County facility in Newark (Delaney Hall). The Committee decided to participate in IRATE/First Friends (Immigration Detention activists– website's winter stationery/stamps collection. We also are seeking a platform speaker on immigration issues and agreed that we would suggest IRATE/First Friends again for a platform update. Karen Bokert encouraged us also to try for another speaker with another point of view on immigration, such as the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society or perhaps eve ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) itself. We discussed other possible projects for the coming year, and Betty wants everyone to think of possible venues for her presentation on Peace to young people and children. Diane suggested having Ethical plant a tree such as perhaps a weeping cherry in honor of Fred Sebastian. The Committee agreed to move this idea forward to the Board.

The final and longest part of the meeting was devoted to a proposal from Betty Levin and Ed Bokert to revive the idea of talking circles for returning war veterans. They each spoke about the Society's previous work with veterans, and various questions and ideas were put forth. Myron Katz spoke about his own experience as a Korean war veteran and about the various veterans' groups in the region. He also talked about the possibility of sponsoring events or workshops at the area Veterans' Hospitals (such as one the one in East Orange) and how there are lots of outpatient veterans. This might be an excellent way to reach veterans. Myron offered to take a list of possible activities to a contact he has at the East Orange Veterans' Hospital to see what kinds of activities would be welcomed. We came up with ideas about programs not directly labeled as therapeutic, but rather associated with the arts, such as memoir writing or story sharing groups. A subcommittee was formed to start this list: Betty Levin; Ed Bokert; Diane Beeny, and Myron Katz. The first meeting of fall was tentative scheduled for Sunday, September 30 after platform.





Minutesof the Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
June 10, 2012


Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue, Betty Levin, Joan Mendelson, Lisa Novemsky. Guests: Bob Bender, Patti Bender, Linda Lubinsky


The Chair drew the committee's attention to a copy of our annual report on the back of the agenda and suggested everyone should look at it before the summer meeting. She also passed on Betty's suggestion that we have a leisurely summer meeting to work on objectives and action steps for coming year. Betty offered to host the meeting at her house which has at least one air conditioned space! We discussed arranging to have a possible speaker on further immigration issues for the platform and/or our committee: Roberta Elliot from the "Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society." MSW will check with Platform Chair Elaine Durbach about this idea. Lisa reported that the Essex Time Exchange, which this committee is sponsoring, has launched with a Steering Committee consisting of Mathilde Benveniste, Martha Gallahue, Jackie Herships, and Lisa Novemsky. For information about the Time Exchange, see There is also a membership application at the site.

Lisa and Martha also requested the committee to endorse the showing of the related film Fix the Future. It is hoped that the Board will then endorse it for the Society as a whole, at our recommendation. Betty moved that we endorse, Diane seconded, and the motion passed unanimously. Lisa asked for volunteers to share table duties at Celebrate South Orange on Saturday, June 16, 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Zia, Diane, Joan and her guest Linda Lubinsky volunteered, so the Social Action Committee and Essex Ethical will have a presence at that community event. We ended with an action update from former Society/Committee members Bob and Patti about an excellent all day May Day Celebration they organized in Ft. Lauderdale. It was wonderful to see them.

The Summer Meeting has been set for MONDAY JULY 16, , 2012 , 7:00 PM, Betty Levin's house.






Minutes Social Action Committee
April 22, 2012

Attending: Chair Meredith Sue Willis, Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Martha Gallahue. Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky, and guests Nadaline Dworkin and Richard Koral.

The chair began the meeting by reporting that the Elliott-Black award will be awarded to Robert Gangi, Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York at the Annual AEU meeting. She also gave copies of the 2011- 2012 social action committee's annual report to Betty and Lisa to check for missing information. They will let her know if anything is missing, she'll get the final draft to Anja for the annual meeting. The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing whether or not the Social Action Committee would move forward a "Resolution on Ethical Culture of Essex County Becoming a Peace Center" drafted by Interim Leader and committee member Martha Gallahue. This was an interesting discussion that included both some stylistic suggestions and substantive suggestions for this document. There was some question also if certain provisions in the Resolution were actually possible or rather commitments to more than we can manage. Visiting leader-in-training Richard Koral suggested that a resolution of this type is actually an aspirational statement rather than a plan of action. After discussion, the committee unanimously agreed to send the resolution on to the Board of Trustees. Martha will make a revised draft with the changes we suggested that she will run by MSW. Betty Levin commended the Committe for moving ahead on Peace work and reminded us that it is not merely words, but also a call to do work. She also requested that the committee consider setting up at least two evening meetings a year at which we can have more leisurely discussions. The next meeting will be Sunday, June 10, after platform.








Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
March 18, 2012


Attending: M. Sue Willis, chair; Zia Durrani; Martha Gallahue; Gus Lindquist; Betty Levin; Anja Moen; Lisa Novemsky. Guest: Dr. Francesca Bremner.


Sue reported that we had another thank-you from First Friends in Elizabeth for our donation of stationery for detained immigrants. The committee discussed whether or not we are likely to take on visitations– possibly to the new Detention Center in Newark. Anja pointed out what a big commitment it is. We hope to make a decision about this at the next meeting/ Sue said she hoped all committee members would attend the April 8 platform by immigration lawyer Steve Sklar to get updated and to begin to get clarity on where best we might take action on these issues.

Last meeting we agreed with Martha's suggestion that we put our support behind some other society's candidate for the Elliott-Black award. So far, only one nomination has been made, from the NYSEC's nomination. The nomination is of Robert Gangi, Executive Director, Correctional Association of New York ( Robert Gangi has been visiting prisons, conferring with officials and inmates, and writing reports on relevant criminal justice subjects for over nineteen years. He has been a strong advocate in New York on prison-related issues and has developed both working relationships with high-level state prison and government officials and an understanding of how the political process works, and doesn't work, on those issues. Committee members should watch for an email with other nominations so we can vote where to put our support.

Gus will check with the Valley Settlement House for what else is needed that we might collect from the members. Martha gave us, for reading at home and discussion at the next meeting, a Resolution on the Ethical Culture Society of Essex County Becoming a Peace Center. If you need a copy, please ask Martha to send you one. Her email is .

Next we had a discussion about the New Jersey Peace Action dinner ad journal. Board members reported that the Board already bought an ad. Sue pointed out that this has been done in the past by the SAC because of Society by-laws making any political position by the entire Society very difficult. Whether an NJ Peace Action ad is political or not is debatable, but the committee decided we should recommend that the Board return to the former practice. She was empowered to write the Board an official letter stating this.

Lisa reported on the Time Exchange (Community Exchange) project for exchange of services, and the Social Action Committee voted to offer to make this an initiative of the SAC so that we become a "community incubator" of ethical and service activities.

Finally, we had a presentation by Betty Levin's guest, Dr. Francesca Bremner, a native of Sri Lanka who holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University. Dr. Bremner talked about the situation of people in the north of Sri Lanka who have been treated brutally by government forces. She will let us know the outcome of a pending U.N. resolution, and then we hope to have a platform or other event in the near future in which facts about the situation are brought to the public. She agreed to come again to our next SAC meeting for further discussion.

The next meeting will be Sunday, April 22, after platform. On the agenda will be the Sri Lanka situation and interim leader Martha Gallahue's Resolution on Ethical Culture Society of Essex County Becoming a Peace Center.






Minutes:  Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
January 22, 2012

Attending: Sue Willis, Chair; Diane Beeny; Martha Gallahue, Interim Leader; Betty Levin; Gus Lindquist; Lisa Novemsky

We began with reports:
•    Sue said that the latest collection of stationery for immigration detainees at the Elizabeth detention center is on its way to First Friends/IRATE.
•    Gus reported that he filled the back of his car with warm things collected at the Society in our committee’s clothing drive, and they have already been distributed by Valley Settlement House  The need continues, however, for more clothes, especially for children, but all kinds.  Gus will continue to gather them up and take them to Valley Settlement.

As a follow-up to the clothing collection, the committee decided to continue collection for another four weeks, through the balance of the cold weather.  We will ask especially for children’s clothing, but all clean clothing will be welcome.

Next, Martha reported on the updates to the AEU’s Elliott-Black award process.  Last year, we nominated Paul Surovell, but the award went to the very high profile Frances Fox Piven.  The AEU has changed its requirements to include “significant positive impact. and the achievement of ethical ideals, whether or not this is done at significant personal risk,” but the likelihood of us coming up with a successful candidate seemed small.  Martha suggested that we co-sponsor with another Society, thus throwing our support behind a figure we respect, but do not have to interview, etc.  Martha will check with the other societies about who they are likely to nominate.

The committee is also interested in writing a resolution to put before the AEU assembly, and Martha will provide us with the guidelines for that.  We should all be thinking about what we would like to see the AEU speak out on.

We also discussed the excellent idea, coming out of today’s platform with Gus and Betty, of helping organize a Society wide Vision Brunch at which members would sit around tables and discuss assigned topics leading, we would hope, to the beginnings of a Vision for the Essex Ethical Society that might help us then create programs expressing the vision of the whole group.  One place to begin would be with our rôle as the First Peace Site.  This might take place on a Saturday in late March.

Betty announced that her committee will be choosing an art object to recommend tot he Board in early February, for its decision.                     

NEW DATE FOR NEXT SOCIAL ACTION COMMITTEE MEETING. We set the next meeting for March 18, 2012, and then adjourned.

Update: Elaine reports that there will be a platform on immigration issues with immigration lawyer Steven Sklar early in April, as we had requested.


















Minutes: Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
December 4, 2011

Attending:   Anja, Gus, Zia, Sue, Lisa, Diane, Marty, Barbara

Chair Sue Willis reported that Elaine is working on getting immigration attorney Steve Sklar to give a platform updating the community on immigration issues.  We are especially interested in the new immigration detention facilities in Essex County.
We continue to collect stationery for the immigration detainees serviced by First Friends.
Anja and Gus updated us on work going on at the Valley Settlement House and how pleased Valley Settlement was to receive nearly $500 from our society’s special collection a couple of weeks back.
After our successful collection of warm weather clothing for Kenyans in September, the Committee decided we would like to collected coat/warm clothing to be distributed at Valley Settlement house.  Gus has volunteered to deliver what we collect.  The collection will be announced next week (December 11) at platform and take place during the following two weeks, December 18 and 25.
Gus also said that there is a need for art supplies, and we’ll work on that as a social service project in the winter and spring. 
Next, Sue then read a letter from member Betty Levin asking for volunteers to visit a sculptor with her as she continues to research on her idea for a peace art project. Anyhow interested should phone Betty directly.
Finally, we had a fairly lengthy discussion of issues centering on immigration and especially the new Essex County facilities for immigration detainees in Newark.  The question is, what are the core issues about immigration that we want to work on?  We decided against seeking out another speaker from IRATE of Pax Christi this year, preferring to get a general view from an immigration lawyer.  After hearing him, however, we hope to come to a position that on some specific immigration reform for which we can do letters, cardings, and possibly another resolution to offer to the AEU.
We can, of course, simultaneously give support to individual detainees (visits, stationery) and perhaps constitute ourselves as an oversight group for the new Essex County facility.

The next meeting will be Sunday, January 22, 2012, after platform.







Minutes October 30, 2011

Brief meeting after platform (also, these will be brief minutes-- Sue has no electricity and is borrowing computer wifi to write this!)  

Attending:  MSW, Anja, Lisa, Betty, and Martha.

MSW reported on successful completion of the September Kenya clothing drive with things packed and sent. Anja is to look into a coat drive.

We had an October 16 carding in support of humane treatment of inmates at the new Essex immigration detention center facility. Just under twenty post cards were written, signed, and sent. Sue also talked to an information officer at the Board of Chosen Freeholders, and he said that the deal is done. His position is that Essex County is at least closer to people’s families than some place in the west or Midwest; that Essex County has already been doing this for five years and is thus good at it; that there will be lots of oversight from the Federal government.

The committed agreed to continue to push for humane conditions, and to get a speaker to update us on immigration issues. Elaine agreed to try and get Steve Sklar to come soon.

The next meeting will be after platform on DECEMBER 4, 2011.
Issues to be discussed include next steps on Detention center; Art for EC as a Peace site; coat drive.




Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
September 18, 2011

Attending: Barbara Cotler, Betty Levin, Anja Moen, Martha Gallahue, Zia Durrani, Judith Molis, Lisa Novemsky, Meredith Sue Willis, Chair


The meeting opened with an update on our clothing collection for Kenya. We have one more collection day (September 25), and then the clothing will be given to Mrs. Hellen Mkwanjeru, committee member Mira Stillman's friend, for shipping to Nairobi. Mrs. Mkwanjeru came to platform today and spoke briefly about where the clothes will go– some to her large extended family, others to a religious organization. We also collected some cash fro the committee toward the shipping costs.

Anja suggested that later in the season we collect some winter coats and other warm things to be distributed through the Valley Settlement House in Orange, and the group agreed to do that.
Next, Zia reported on her research on finding a group overseas that helps women, and thus families. As it happens, our Ethical Board has decided to "adopt" a woman through Women for Women International. This Board-led project will be kicked off with a platform in December, and our committee decided to offer any support needed. Sue will buy a couple of used copies of books that will be background for the platform and the project: A Thousand Sisters and Half the Sky. The books will be made available to Society members to read.
Betty brought up the idea of a piece of art to celebrate the Society's position as the first peace site, and the need for help with this, and after a number of opinions were expressed, it was decided to wait for next steps on further action from the board and possibly the membership.

Finally we had an update on the Essex Immigration Detention Center. Sue had heard from Kathy O'Leary of Pax Christi New Jersey (she came with the IRATE/First Friends speaker last year), whose organization appears to be taking the lead on this. The Essex County Freeholders have (over community objections) signed off on a 5 year contract to house an additional 1200 immigrant detainees in the Essex County Jail and the neighboring privately owned Delany Hall.

Pax Christi is asking people to sign the petition opposing this at:, and to contact the Freeholders and ask them to

1. Revoke the contract with ICE
2. Improve conditions in the jail
3. Create a community oversight board for the detainees in both he jail and Delaney Hall.


Several people signed the hard copy petition, and every one agreed to a carding which will probably take place on October 16. Lisa dn Betty were interested in joining Sue with a possible meeting with Deborah Davis-Ford to hear the Freeholders' position on this. Sue will approach Deborah about this.
Anja and Marty also brought up the problems with our proferred resolutions for the AEU this past spring. It was agreed that we would retool our approach, begin early, and perhaps get an immigration lawyer for a platform. Lisa will suggest Steve Sklar as a speaker to Elaine, and Martha might be interested in sharing one of her platforms.

Marty pointed out the necessity of getting the facts right, and we all agreed we'll work farther in advance and with clearer factual basis for future resolutions. And also avoid resolutions that require the AEU to spend money!

We set the next Social Action Committee meeting for Sunday October 30 after platform, and were adjourned.

















Minutes of the Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County

August 22, 2011 7:30 PM

Attending: Zia Durrani, Sue Willis



With only two people attending, we had some wide ranging discussions and brief reports. Zia reported on the work she has been doing with members of her family and Gus Lindquist at the Valley Settlement House in Orang. Sue reported on a thank you note from IRATE and First Friends stating that the most recent drive for stationery supplies for the Elizabeth detention center detainees had included, all-told, 17,000 sheets of paper, 3,000 greeting cards, and 5, 440 envelopes plus stamps! Sue also reported that, as requested at the last meeting, she sent a note Paul Surovell thanking him for his continuing work for peace and offering the Committee's support should he want to use the Society Building for Peace Action Events.

We then planned for the September Kenya Clothing Collection which will gather clothes to be shipped to Nairobi by Mira Stillman's friend Helen Mukwanjeru, who ships them to her son who distributes them to members of her large family and to two organizations through her daughter. The organizations are Christian Worship Center and Hope of Life Ministries, both situated in Mombasa Kenya.
We will announce the clothing drive at the first platform on September 11, then collect on September 18 and September 25. We are looking for all types of clothes, men's, women's, and children's, mostly for a tropical climate, but also light jackets or sweaters. Most people wear long pants. Sue will post on the web site and email the message out– we also hope to have Ms. Mukwanjeru possible come in person at some point.

We also discussed whether or not we might consider some support one of the excellent organizations that help families by centering on the needs of women, including Women for Women, which is an international organization; Women for Afghan Women (we had speaker Naheed Bahram on June 5, 2011– see website ); or an organization in the South Bronx run by an old classmate of Sue's called Whedco (Women's Housing and Economic Development). See the website at .
Zia will do further research and report, but please take a look at those websites before we meet again.

We tabled until we have a larger group further discussion on Lisa Novemsky's idea for a Freegan event and next steps with the Essex Immigration Detention and/or IRATE First Friends.







Minutes Social Action Committee Meeting
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
June 20, 2011


Attending: Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Lisa Novemsky, Mira Stillman, Sue Willis


The committee had its first summer meeting in the kitchen of a very busy Ethical Society building at 7:00 PM , beginning with chair Sue Willis reading Society President Anja Moen's report on the disposition of our resolutions for the AEU assembly. Anja wrote: "The immigration [resolution] has some factual faults that some other societies pointed out - we need to rewrite it to go for the whole country, and everybody was happy we brought up such an important issue. We can send it in later for social action resolutions done by the Board. The [resolution about the Pentagon budget] was about having an educational campaign, again - there were consensus on the principle but AEU is just recovering from disastrous financial times and have absolutely not a dime for this. We would not have gotten consensus on any of these, so it was better to withdraw. That was my decision. When I come home at the end of July and beginning of August, I will rewrite these, as I think we should send them off.

"We could only work on what we had sent before deadline, so Betty's did not work, but we had the key speaker Dot M. from Peace Institute and the organization is active in this area....[The three resolutions that did pass with consensus were] Statehood for Washington DC ; against Fracking - the new way to get gas out; and against having corporations be individuals who can sponser candidates in elections." We hope to work with Anja on reworking our resolutions for possible passage by the AEU Board or at next year's AEU Assembly.

Next we discussed State Senate Bill 2718, which New Jersey Citizens Action opposes as being the beginning of chipping away at the right of collective bargaining for public employees. See more at . Lisa's son works for the Communications Workers of America, who are involved in this, and she will try to get more information for him, with an aim towards educating ourselves and possibly leading a letter-writing/carding on the issue.

Zia and Betty reported on a new committee of the Board to work on commissioning a sculpture for the front of the building commemorating the Ethical Society as a peace site. The idea is to send out an invitation to art schools and to offer a prize for a design.
We then discussed projects for the coming year. First, we decided to go ahead with Mira's idea to collect clothing to be sent to Kenya by a Kenyan woman she is associated with. Our idea is to do this immediately on three Sundays in September as a quick way to get active in the coming year. Mira will get details on what kinds of clothing are needed and exactly who will get them.

We also talked about going ahead with a "Freegan" outdoor swap. One idea was bicycles, another was electronics, and Lisa will talk with Ethical Board member Fred Sebastian who works in this field. For Freegan Information, go online to
We also hope to continue to support First Friends/IRATE. Sue is to find out how many people are needed for a training session for preparation to visit immigrants in the detention centers.

Finally, after a discussion comparing the idea of "peace" to the idea of "anti-war," and whether the Society ought to take an anti-war position as well as being a place of peace, we decided to have the chair write a note to Society member Paul Surovell praising his work with South Mountain Peace Action and encouraging him to continue using our facility for his projects.

The next meeting has been set tentatively for Monday, August 22, at 7:30 PM.





Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
Sunday, May 22, 2011 After platform

Attending: Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler, Zia Durrani, Gus Lindquist, Lisa Novemsky, and Meredith Sue Willis, chair. Visitor: Shirley Steiner.

MSW reported that we presented our 2010-2011 annual report at the Annual Meeting on May 15, 2011, and that our two resolutions for the AEU assembly had been submitted.

The main business today was Betty Levin's proposed 3rd resolution, which had been distributed beforehand. MSW recommended presenting a revised version of Betty's resolution, attached below, as an addendum to the 2006 resolution in which the AEU supported the formation of a Department of Peace at the federal level (H.R. 808).

The committee especially empowered her to cut the language referring to domestic tranquillity, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. Accord to limited research, Washington's "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment" of 1783 was about organizing militias and arsenals etc. There was, however, early talk in the new republic of something like a Department of Peace, in particulary from Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who wrote an essay about an office with equal footing to the Department of War. This interesting document (which included a demand for free schools and an American edition of the Bible to be provided at government expense to every family) was published in Benjamin Banneker's 1793 almanac.

The Committee will work on revising this third resolution through an email discussion. It will then be forwarded to Society president Anja Moen and Society interim leader Martha Gallahue for possible presentation from the floor at the AEU Assembly.
The committee then discussed a few ideas for possible projects for the coming months, including discussions and study leading to another Peace resolution for the AEU next year, focusing on domestic peace; a possible "Freegan" outdoor swap in early September (Lisa will consult with Nancy Bohn on feasibility); working on some project with veterans; continuing to work in some way on immigration issues and immigrant detention centers.

We'll consider these ideas and more at our next meeting, set for Monday, June 20, 2011 at 7:00 PM at the Society Building






Minutes of the Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
April 10,, 2011 12:30 PM

Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Barbara Cotler, Marty Cotler, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin;
Gus Lindquist; Lisa Novemsky

The Social Action Committee had a short meeting today to choose and revise resolutions to send to the AEU for consideration at the annual conference. We also discussed several other matters, including the fact that our nominee for the Elliott-Black award, Paul Surovell, was not chosen. The choice was Frances Fox Piven, Ph.D.

Betty thanked Zia and Sue for coming over to help prepare folders for her upcoming appearance at the Vose Avenue Senior Housing for the monthly Open Luncheon, where she will be the speaker about the new Peace Department.

Betty also requested that the March 20 minutes be updated to reflect the language of the Peace Alliance about its new initiatives. She will send the wording to Sue by mail. Betty also reported on the most recent phone-in meeting of the Peace Alliance and talked about the proposed new publicity campaign: "I Am the Face of Peace."

We also discussed two proposals for AEU resolutions. We agreed to go ahead with the one on immigration issues (thre has apparently been no AEU resolution on this subject since 1960) and, if we may offer two, to include one updating the 2006 resolution on the Department of Peace.

After some discussion, Sue was asked to revise the Immigration resolution draft, which is below. Committee members with final suggestions should get back to her by email before Friday, April 15.

The suggested date for the next Social Action Committee meeting is Sunday, May 22, 2011 after platform. Please get back to Sue to say if that works for you.

                                                                                                    – Meredith Sue Willis

Here is the suggested resolution:
Because of our Ethical Culture values, we are deeply concerned about inhumane conditions in immigration mass detention centers for people who want to live and work in the United States. These immigration detention centers appear to us to violate the human rights of the detainees.
Many of the centers for mass immigration detention bar family, clergy, and other humanitarian group visits. Detainees are treated as if they were worse than people accused of crimes, as they are not considered innocent until proven guilty but rather guilty until proven innocent.
There are also cases of US citizens being mistakenly detained and deported. Immigration detention disrupts families and removes working people from the community, and detainees are often from families in which at least one member is a legal permanent resident. There may also be children who are US citizens. We are deeply troubled about what happens to these children if one or both parents are detained.
We feel that it is particularly morally repugnant for incarceration companies to make a profit from the mass detention of immigrants when the centers are out-sourced. Sometimes, in both public and privately managed facilities, immigration detainees are mixed in with the general population of jails and prisons.
The time has come for a call to action: the mass detention of immigrants may be immoral in itself, but as long as we have immigration detention centers, Ethical Culture demands that conditions be made as humane as possible.
At a minimum, we insist that all mass immigration detention centers permit:

– visiting hours that include week-ends and evenings;
– family members being allowed to touch each other;
– a service set up for visitors for people with no family nearby;
– unrestricted phone calls;
– decent medical care and mental health care;
– food that is healthy and allows for special diets, religious or secular;
– unrestricted access to religious services;
– time in the fresh air for recreation and exercise.



Minutes of the Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
March 20, 2011 12:30 PM


Attending: Meredith Sue Willis, chair; Martha Gallahue; Betty Levin; Gus Lindquist; Lisa Novemsky; Mira Stillman
This was a shortened meeting because of a workshop later in the day for Board Members with Westchester Society leader Bart Worden. We began with several reports. Chair Sue Willis reported on our nomination of Paul Surovell for the Elliott-Black Award (John Lovejoy Elliott & Algernon Black) and on our carding of February 27, 2011 that asked the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders not to support a new Immigration Detention Center in Newark, and if it is built, to assure human conditions for the detainees. MSW passed out a few extra cards to be signed and sent to the Chosen Freeholders.
Next came a report from Betty Levin on her work for peace. She spoke about the Peace Alliance's decision to begin presenting itself with some new language, especially "Moving from 'Search and Destroy' to 'Seek and Talk.'" She is also scheduled to present her Imagine Peace workshop at the senior housing apartments on Vose Avenue in South Orange, and asked for help assembling materials into folders. Zia volunteered to help, and MSW will too, depending on her availability. Betty also reported on her Birthday Party/Peace Celebration earlier this month, which was a rousing social success as well as a fund-raiser for the Society. To learn more about the Peace Alliance, see their web page at
We scheduled our next Social Action meeting for only three weeks away, April 10, 2011, in order to discuss an opportunity presented to us by Society President Anja Moen. The AEU is welcoming submissions of resolutions from the organization, to be presented at this year's assembly, with a deadline of April 28. We may submit a one-page Ethical Action Resolution to be clear, concise language and including a "Call to Action." Past resolutions may be viewed at the AEU homepage at Our discussion will cover any issues that have not had recent resolutions, although MSW suggested we might want to have something related to immigrations since we have an ongoing interest in that. Martha committed to making some notes that might be used for this.
Gus invited us all to the April 9 film that may give us further ideas for the meeting, and he also announced that Maplewood has decided to give funding once again to the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. He suggested individuals writing thank yous to the Mayor of Maplewood, and the group voted to send in addition to send a letter from the Committee, which Sue agreed to write and send in the committee's name.
Everyone is requested to look at the AEU resolutions from the past and think about this and be ready to discuss at the April 10th meeting.
We set our next meeting for Sunday, April 10, 2011 after platform and then adjourned.







Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
January 23, 2011


Attending: M. Sue Willis, Chair; Barbara Cotler; Marty Cotler; Martha Gallahue; Gus Lindquist; Lisa Novemsky;



We began with a few reports and discussions, including the Ethical Culture Society having a table at the Community Coalition's Martin Luther King event on January 17, 2011. A lot of people took information and a couple signed up for the contact list.
Next, Sue passed around the thank you letter from Sister Regina of IRATE/First Friends for the stationery we sent for inmates at the Elizabeth immigration detention center. We have a speaker coming from them on February 13, and we discussed the possibility of a carding, but decided to wait and hear the message first.

We also discussed subjects and possible language for a carding in the next feel weeks, and Martha offered to come up with some environmentally oriented ones. Lisa and Gus discussed a proposed housing project on the edge of Memorial Park in Maplewood, which they and most people at a recent Public Speaks in Maplewood oppose. Lisa is to sketch out a possible carding sentence encouraging the Township Committee to reconsider or at least do more research on the project.

Anja had reported by email from Mexico (where Zia is also!) that the Social Action Committee has a budget of $50. Sue asked to use $15 of it for post cards for cardings, and the group agreed, with a caution from Marty to be frugal.

Next we discussed the possibility of nominating someone for the AEU's Elliott-Black Social Action Award, named for John Lovejoy Elliott & Algernon Black, to be presented in June. The deadline March 8, 2011. Martha suggested young Matthew LeClair, and Marty suggested local peace activist and Society member Paul Surovell. The group thought we ought to consider nominating Paul first, and Barbara will call him to see if he's willing to be nominated, and if he is, Sue will collect basic information on him for the biographical note.

Lisa conveyed a report on absent member Betty Levin's peace activities, which recently included reading peace-related stories to second graders in a Millburn school. She also has planned a presentation of her free Imagine Peace workshop at the Valley Settlement House in Orange.
Gus reported on a long term plan to create an association between the Essex Society and that same Valley Settlement House through a gardening club/planting project to take place at our society for our members, and possibly be extended to the Settlement House. A local horticulturalist friend of his will possibly participate in some way. This project might be a long term way to bring diverse neighbors interested in gardening into the Society.

We set our next meeting for Sunday, March 20, 2011 after platform (which is Martha's Sunday), and then adjourned.






Social Action Committee Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
December 5, 2010 12:30 PM



Attending: Chair Sue Willis; Barbara Cotler and Marty, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Gus Lindquist; Boe Meyerson, Anja Moen, Lisa Novemsky; Mira Stillman & Jerry; Tracey Woods (and friend!).




1. UN Carding Sue reported that we did our carding to the New Jersey Senators (Lautenberg & Menendez) in support of the UN that was inspired by Martha Gallahue’s speech. If you haven’t sent one, please consider doing it. Here is the language we used:
We have just marked on Oct. 22, 2010 the 65th anniversary of the United Nations. We ask you to work in the United States Senate to support the UN and its commitment to promoting peace, development and human rights. The UN needs to do more, but its global mission to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe, to increase opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice should be enhanced and expanded.
2. First Friends/IRATE She also announced last call for starionery for the Elizabeth detention center inmates. Several people contributed cash to cover $.98 stamps to include with donated stationery so the detainees can send cards overseas to families. First Friends/IRATE has a “packing party” and want volunteers on Sunday December 12, 2010– 1:00 PM, St. Joseph’s, 118 Division St. Elizabeth) For information about immigration and the detainees, see the website at, especially the video at . Also see . We also have tentative dates for a platform from First Friends/IRATE for the beginning of February, probably Feb 13, 20, or 27.
3. Peace Issues Betty Levin then reported on several peace issues being worked on by the Department of Peace subcommittee. First, she met with the new superintendent of t he Millburn school district, and he was very open to some of her ideas.
She also encouraged our committee to call in to the monthly First Tuesday Department of peace call in at 712-432-1601 (access code 47082). Zia and Boe volunteered to try and join the call-in. For information about the Peace Alliance and Peace Department, see
Also, Betty is offering a free Imagine Peace workshop for anyone who wants to invited over a few friends. She distributed materials to give us information to tell our neighbors, and Sue volunteered to send out an email blast with Betty’s offer.
4. AEU Topic for the year Mira asked about the plans for the AEU taking on some single topic. Her suggested topic was the size of the military budget of the U.S. (approximately 2/3 of the entire Federal budget.) “We hear cries of poverty for most needed social programs at this time,” wrote Mira, “but the military budget only increases. Why is it so sacred and all other human needs so inconsequential in terms of our expenditures? Do the American people really want it this way, do they really believe that it wouldn't be better to relieve poverty in our country in these difficult economic times, to attempt to keep people in their homes, and to engage in urgent humane solutions across the globe with a goodly portion of the military budget instead of investing in weapons and more wars? Or are we mostly ignorant about the way our national treasure is used since, in general, our politicians do not raise this as an issue? I would hope that the AEU would undertake a program to educate themselves on this issue and would then, to the extent possible, both try to educate the public and to encourage debate on the values and practicalities of our country's current course.” Anja has passed it on the council of AEU Presidents.
5. Anja and Gus are making an effort to have all of 3rd Saturday Arts events include information on and support of four local social action groups, with links on the 3rd Saturday Arts website,
The Food Bank
South Mountain Reservation
South Mountain Peace Action
The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race.
6. Anja also announced plans for a spring food bank drive from the Society as a whole, with support of the Social Action Committee.
The next meeting was set for Sunday, January 23, after platform.
Reminders for work to do before the next meeting:
● Zia and Boe for the Peace Alliance Call-in
● Sue to send out email blast about Betty’s Imagine Peace workshop
● Stationery to First Friends for Detainees
● Plan for a carding when the First Friends/ IRATE speaker visits in February.
● Finalize First Friends speaker










Minutes 10-31-10
Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County




1. Chair Sue Willis reported on her conversations with people at First Friends/IRATE (see website at, who work to support detainees in the Elizabeth Detention Center. They are willing to speak at Ethical, and Sue is working with Elaine on a date.
They also need certain supplies immediately for the detainees:
              – Blank 2 pocket folders
              – First class “Forever” stamps
              – $0.98 stamps for international postage
              – $ to purchase phone service for the 326 detainees

If you want to help out in another way, they are having a “packing party” and want volunteers on Sunday December 12, 2010 at 1:00 PM, St. Joseph’s, 118 Division St. Elizabeth. If you’re interested, call them at 908-965-0455.

Boe Meyerson suggested collecting donations immediately, and $15 was collected, which Sue will use to buy stamps for the detainees.
2. The next report was from Anja about the AEU Presidents’ luncheon & AEU social action. The Presidents are considering at some point taking on an AEU-wide issue, which our committee thought worth considering, as long as it is optional for the local societies. We have the opportunity to give out input as to what such an issue should be.
3. Betty Levin had a number of items related to the Peace Alliance/Department of Peace (see web page at
               – First, she mentioned the monthly (first Tuesday) phone call to find out what is happening at the national level and encouraged us all to call in. The number is 712-432-1601. At the signal, dial access code 470321. The next dates are Tuesday November 2, at 9:00 PM and Tuesday, December 7 at 9:00 PM.
              – Next she told about good support for a Youth Promise Act (See the Peace Alliance web page at
              – Betty is also offering to do a 1 and ½ hour workshop on the Department of Peace idea for anyone who can bring together half a dozen people. To schedule an event, call her directly at 973-763-1033
              – She also expressed interest in the Pennies for Peace project, which Zia will look into.
4. Sue suggested that it is time for a carding, and the group agreed to do a carding next week, November 7, after platform, on general support for the UN. Anja will assist. This idea grew out of Martha Gallahue’s’s talk on October 24.
5. Anja announced that Martha and her partner Liz will be running an MLK event for kids here on Martin Luther King Monday. Sue and others advised that they need to coordinate with Coalition on Race.
6. Next meeting was set for Sunday December 5 after platform, and we adjourned.


– By the next meeting (or email sooner) give your suggestions for what the entire AEU might take on in the realm of Social Action.
– Zia is to get information on “Pennies for Peace”
– Sue & Anja do carding supporting UN on Sunday November 7.
– Sue to work on date for First Friends speaker
– Next meeting Sunday December 5 after platform.



Minutes Social Action Committee
Ethical Culture Society of Essex County
September 19, 2010 12:45 PM


The Social Action Committee had a short meeting September 19, 2010 after platform. Attending were Diane Beeny, Barbara Cotler, Zia Durrani, Betty Levin, Boe Meyerson, Anja Moen, and Sue Willis. Anja and Betty reported that Food and Book Collection are both continuing. Please bring children’s books and non-perishable food for the local pantry. Sue reported that we have sent another box of stationery to the Elizabeth Detention Center via IRATE and First Friends (website, who always send us a nice thank you when we do. Sue paid for the postage this time, but will be asking for donations for the next round.

It was suggested that we try to get First Friends and IRATE for a platform on immigration issues, specifically the situation at the Elizabeth detention center. Sue will try to get in touch with them about their availability.

Sue also suggested that immigration might be a good issue for carding. Diane made some suggestions about language, and we decided to work on this at our next meeting.

The rest of the meeting centered on tasks needed to support next week’s Rededication of the Peace Site. Please look below for the tasks you volunteered for. If you weren’t here, call Betty Levin to find out what else needs doing.

– Anja is coordinating with Marshall for set up.
– Anja will also make sure the kitchen has needed supplies
– Anja will make sure a reminder goes out.
– Sue will call Maplewood police on September 25 to remind them of extra cars on Sunday.
– Sue will come at 10:15 a.m. to Betty’s house to pick up Mr. Lynn Elling to take him to the Ethical Culture building.
– Boe and possibly Gus will come to Betty’s at 10:30 a.m. to help carry materials to the building.
– Zia will act as hostess, meeting and greeting.
– Diane is in charge of decorations.

The next meeting of the Social Action Committee is Sunday, October 31, 2010 after platform






Information from the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (Charles Kernaghan, Director– spoke at Essex Ethical many years ago)

May 1, 2013 (from their May Day Staement)

Over 400 Garment Workers Killed in Bangladesh Factory Collapse Making This the Worst Disaster in the History of the Garment Industry It Does Not Have to Be This Way.

In 2007 then-Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Byron Dorgan and 22 other Senators, along with 175 Members of the House of Representatives, signed onto the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act, which, if passed, would have ended sweatshop production and guaranteed workers their legal rights?

Passage of the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act, introduced in the 110th Congress in 2007 (as S 367 in the Senate and HR 1992 in the House), would make a world of difference for both American workers and workers across the developing world-including by helping to avert tragedies like the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh, where the death toll may well reach 1,000. (Over 420 are confirmed dead. 1,000 are still listed as missing.)

The proposed legislation does not set wage standards, which can only be determined by workers in their own countries. What this legislation would do is guarantee that workers are afforded the International Labor Organization's core labor rights standards:

No child labor, The right to freedom of association, The right to organize and to form an independent union, The right to bargain collectively, No forced labor, and Decent and safe working conditions.

If the core ILO labor standards– which the whole world claims to adhere to-are violated, then the product cannot be imported into the United States, exported from the U.S. or sold in the U.S.

So-called corporate codes of conduct and voluntary monitoring are not working.

When passed, the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act will empower workers in the U.S. and across the world, especially in developing countries. The factories in the illegal Rana Plaza building, where over 400 workers were tragically killed, would never have been allowed to export their sweatshop products to the U.S. If factories want to export to the U.S., they must adhere to the ILO's internationally recognized worker rights standards. This is how we can lift all ships!

The only way we will be able to break the sweatshop cycle is to enact laws to protect the fundamental, internationally recognized rights of workers.