Five Great Neck women were honored by the Town of North Hempstead as part of Women’s History Month and were added to the 2017 May W. Newburger Women’s Roll of Honor for contributing to the quality of life in the community.
“I am proud to honor these outstanding women for their indispensable service to North Hempstead,” said Town Clerk Wayne Wink, event chairperson. “Each of these women reflects the best that our communities have to offer and we are proud to honor them for their work.”
Supervisor Judi Bosworth added, “North Hempstead has no shortage of inspirational women who give so much of themselves to our communities.”
Learn about his year’s extraordinary Great Neck honorees: Barbara Berkowitz, Rita Hall, Ester Hakimian, Leila Mattson and Mindy Rosenfeld.
Barbara Berkowitz has been a member of the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education for 25 years, where she has served as president since 2006.
The letter nominating Berkowitz read, “Over the course of her 25 years volunteering her time, her expertise, her intelligence, her compassion, her passion for the mission of Great Neck’s Public Schools—to afford each and every child the chance to fulfill their full potential—indeed, long after she no longer had a child of her own in our schools, Barbara Berkowitz has worked selflessly and tirelessly on behalf of all our community’s children.”
Berkowitz has been the recipient of several community awards, including Lions Club of Great Neck George Carr Humanitarian Award; Hispanic American Community of North Hempstead, Outstanding Member of the Community; Woman Trailblazer Award from former Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth; and Woman of Distinction Award from former New York State Senator Craig Johnson.
In response to receiving this award, she said, “It is an incredible honor to have been recognized in the 24th Annual May W. Newburger Women’s Roll of Honor. Like each honoree, I strive to do the best I can for our community and be a role model for the next generation, demonstrating that together we can make a difference in the world through volunteerism. To me, our children and their education are the most important investments we can make in our future,” she added.
“I continue to cherish my time as part of the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education and I am proud of the work we have done together over the past 25 years to support the world-class academic experience we offer our students. Great Neck Public Schools has repeatedly been rated as one of the best districts in the country, and as a mother of a Great Neck Public Schools graduate and as a member of this wonderful community, its success is a cause close to my heart. I hope that this mosaic of Great Neck will continue to support the excellence of all our schools in order to give our children what they need to excel in the future.”
Ester Hakimian began her volunteer work in 1970 in Hamburg, Germany, as a member of the synagogue and Women’s International Zionist Org (WIZO), where she helped transport elderly community members to and from the synagogue and WIZO events. She organized bazaars and raffles to raise funds for Israel, typically donating about $70,000 annually.
After moving to New York in 1987, Hakimian continued her volunteer efforts. She regularly visits the Highfield Gardens Rehab facility to provide companionship to ill senior citizens. In 2000, she began twice weekly social exercise classes for elder community members and, once a year, she helps organize a day trip to Hempstead Beach Park for 300 to 400 senior community members. She also tirelessly fundraises at 54 Steamboat Rd. to ensure that elder community members are not forgotten.
The letter nominating her said, “Ester has moved from Iran to Germany and onto the U.S., each time learning a new language and navigating new cultures. She has experienced setbacks as a Jew in Iran as well as in Germany, but never did she complain and always remained upbeat and optimistic. She never lost sight of her goal, which was to keep the Jewish community intact and thriving, paying particular attention to those most vulnerable. While her efforts have not been publicly recognized through awards and honors, they certainly don’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.”
A Great Neck resident for more than 30 years, Rita Hall began devoting her life to volunteerism after her retirement as a Newsday art director in 2008. While working on Barack Obama’s political campaign, she met the leadership of the local grassroots nonprofit Reach Out America (ROA), where she quickly rose from assistant chair of its Church/State committee to vice president and then to president of the organization last year. Under her leadership, ROA’s membership and programs have grown.
One of the letters nominating Hall said, “Rita has been a passionate advocate for numerous causes—the environment, peace, health and church/state.” Another letter began, “Rita Hall is a fireball of inspiration, leadership and action that have benefited the Town of North Hempstead residents for many years in many areas.”
She has also served as board member of the North Shore Community Arts Council and as singer and publicity chief of the Long Island Pride Chorus. Hall helps feed homeless workers as part of a project through Long Island Progressive Coalition and distributed food to neighborhood group homes through Long Island Harvest. Until recently, she contributed her editorial services to the newsletter of the feminist group Womanspace and is a volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she assists in after-school programs for very young children. Hall is married and has two children and one grandchild.
Born in Amherst, OH, after Leila Mattson was married, she lived in various locations throughout the United States as well as in Puerto Rico and England, but has been a resident of Thomaston for 50 years with her husband and three children.
Prior to becoming a historian of the Village of Thomaston and a founding member of the Great Neck Historical Society in 2005, she was secretary to the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC, and a reference librarian at the Main Branch of the Great Neck Library for 36 years. She is coauthor of two books, Village of Thomaston (1976) and Images of American: Great Neck (2013), as well as the author of a blog for the Village of Thomaston website, Pictures of Our Past.
A letter nominating Mattson said, “Leila is one of very few functioning village historians on the Great Neck peninsula and as vice president of the Great Neck Historical Society answers historical questions from all over the country.” Another said, “Leila has performed hundreds of hours of historical research and should be chosen for her role in preserving the rich history of Great Neck and her tireless devotion to volunteering her time to the Village of Thomaston and the larger Great Neck community.”
As a child, Mindy Rosenfeld’s parents taught her that every good deed counts and that even small acts of kindness can change the world. With their encouragement, she volunteered at a local hospital throughout high school and learned at a young age that life is precious and fleeting.
Rosenfeld received her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and a Masters of Public Administration from New York University and worked as a hospital administer and fundraiser.
She and her husband, Richard, moved to Great Neck 22 years ago for the excellent schools and beautiful parks, but fell in love with its warm, welcoming community where they raised three sons. She volunteered consistently as a class parent and at educational and fundraising events, and coordinated fundraisers for the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition and delivered food to newly diagnosed women. Rosenfeld also assisted new Americans with their English and with their résumés.
She believes the gift of time is precious and has tried to use it best by helping others through volunteerism and small, but frequent, acts of kindness. She is especially grateful to her elderly neighbors for sharing their life stories, inspiring her and enriching her life.
The letter nominating her began, “There is a generosity of spirit that is not taught, that comes easily, that is an endowment to the community at large by a woman with a limitless dedication to providing gifts of purpose and kindness.” The accolades continued, “While most people count their days in minutes and appointments, Mindy’s schedule is measured in the number of people she can help. She exemplifies the kind of community and social awareness that inspires others.”
Congratulations to these amazing honorees. And, Happy Mother’s Day to all of the fabulous women who enrich the community.