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President – Sheila Jaffe
Vice President Communications – Natalie Andre
Political Director – Joan Waitkevicz
Program Director – Arlene Ustin
Treasurer – Shirley Herman
Membership Chair – Joyce Smookler
Recording Secretary – Jennifer Cunha
President Emeritus – Meredith Ockman
Board Members – Les Rivkin and Gloria Stein
Sheila Jaffe first became involved in the women’s rights movement in Philadelphia on August 26, 1970 at the Women’s Strike for Equality. That day thousands of women in America didn’t go to work to show how valuable was their labor. Women were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of passage of the nineteenth amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The next year Congresswoman Bella Abzug got that day designated as Women’s Equality Day.
After moving to Florida, Sheila became involved in the South Palm Beach County chapter of NOW in 1988 when her printing company started printing NOW’s newsletters. She has been the chapter’s president and vice president of Florida NOW.
In 1996 she was one of the founding members of the Feminist Scholarship Fund and is still on the board of directors. The fund has awarded scholarships to over one hundred women and men to pursue their studies.
Sheila has been involved in FACTs Court Watch and health issue concerns with women and tobacco addiction.
Sheila is married to Bob and has a merged family of three daughters and one son.
Email Sheila at nowpbc @ gmail.com.
An activist since always, Natalie Andre settled into Palm Beach County in 1987 and joined NOW shortly after. After successfully campaigning with Vivian Burch and Jean Poleshuck for comprehensive sex-education while her children were attending public school, Natalie moved into leadership roles, including a stint as Membership Chair for Florida NOW. Along with Sheila and Bob Jaffe, she signed the 1998 Declaration of Sentiments of the National Organization for Women, in Seneca Falls, (see 1998 Declaration of Sentiments) 150 years after the original Declaration of Sentiments was signed in the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. (see 1848 Declaration of Sentiments). In 2004, she joined the March for Women’s Lives along with numerous members of South Palm Beach County NOW–Jean Poleshuck, Sheila and Bob Jaffe, Gloria Alpert, Maria Romero-Cuesta and her husband Skip Clements, Katie Dvorak and her parents, Joe and Barbara Dvorak, Allan Taylor, Gloria Stein, Roz Rothman, and several others. She was also instrumental in creating and promoting Families Against Court Travesties (FACTS), a NOW spin-off, along with Sheila Jaffe and Adele Guadalupe; this court-watch based organization has campaigned for family court reform and helped defeat two sitting judges. Most recently, she was President of the merged Palm Beach County NOW.
Email Natalie at natandre44 @ gmail.com
Membership Chair – Joyce Smookler
Joyce Smookler graduated from Temple University in 1970 with a BA in Sociology. Before retiring in 2012, she was a district manager and a corporate sales trainer for Bell Atlantic/ Verizon for 18 years. She traveled nationally, training new hires in marketing, sales, and operations.
Joyce moved to Florida in September 2015. She joined the League of Women Voters the very next month and has been involved ever since. Joyce’s involvement in the League has introduced her to like-minded people who care about important issues that touch all of us in Palm Beach County. Becoming involved in Advocacy and Voter registration has given her a better understanding of both local and state government, and where the League stands on issues such as voters rights, the environment, gun safety, and health care.
Joyce is on the board of Palm Beach County Chapter of the National Organization of Women and was fortunate to have been a part of the interview process for NOW’s endorsement of local candidates in the 2016 elections.
Political Director – Joan Waitkevicz
Joan has been a NOW member since 2002. She is a lesbian feminist healthcare provider from New York City. She is a founding member of St. Mark’s Women’s Health Collective, the first lesbian clinic on the East Coast (1974), and of North Palm Beach County NOW (2002). She testified on a panel on lesbian health convened by the Institute of Medicine under DHHS Secretary Dr. Donna Shalala (1997). While clinic escorting in West Palm Beach, Joan witnessed an incident which led to an essay “Innocent” that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2004). Joan and Shirley Herman, her spouse of 37 years, were married at the national NOW Conference in Boston (2010). Formerly Co-President of NPBC NOW, Joan is Membership Chair of PBC NOW.
Email Joann Waitkevicz at joanwaitmd @ aol.com
Program Director – Arlene R Ustin
When Arlene relocated to Florida she was already primed to be a humble, but firm and fearless, advocate/activist. What took her by surprise was how far Florida had to go! She is proud to be president of PBC NOW because its board and membership are like-minded, active, and compassionate volunteers. They walk their talk and make a difference in the lives of many who do not have a fair voice.
Credit for her social consciousness began in The Bronx with her mother and grandfather. By ten she was raising money for children in need. Brought up with a sharing/serving ethic, no matter how little the family had, she learned how much she loved interactions with people and how much she hated suffering, unfairness, and unkindness.
In the ‘60s Arlene taught at a junior high in the south Bronx taking students to museums, shows, parks, etc. to expand their horizons beyond the burnt out, crime-ridden streets of their neighborhoods. In the ‘70s, she broke ground at the male-dominated Outward Bound Schools when she joined the one in NC. It was a search, rescue, and firefighting unit, but she implemented a community service component into its courses. Her purpose was to instill the concept that insights or affirmations gained in the wilderness must never stop there; they need to be extended to fellow human beings, met and unmet, everywhere, to truly have full meaning.
For the next 28 Arlene taught at The Athenian School in CA, a rigorous college preparatory HS equally committed to developing its students’ sense of responsibility for making the world a better place. She directed the Athenian Wilderness Experience (AWE) and the Community Service Program (CSP). She built environmental- and people-oriented service projects into each 28-day wilderness course, and in the ‘80s, developed the CSP for the entire student body and faculty.
In 2005, she joined the faculty of the Master of Arts Program at Prescott College in AZ, a liberal arts institution that required its graduate students to address issues of social justice and environmental sustainability in every paper and project they designed.
Arlene also campaigns with all her might for candidates who have integrity, vision, and smarts. She is the secretary on the Board of PBC LWV, represents PBC NOW on POAST (Partner Organizations Against Sex Trafficking), volunteers with CAGV (Committee Against Gun Violence), Get Covered America; she registers voters; participates in rallies; gathers signatures for citizen-initiated petitions (currently, to restore voting rights to former offenders of non-violent crimes, legalize medical marijuana, and promote solar energy in FL).
Email Arlene at nowpbc @ gmail.com.
Treasurer – Shirley Herman
Shirley is an accountant and financial planner, licensed in insurance and investments. She has been active in feminist politics since the early 70s. In 1979 she helped start Womanews, a lesbian feminist newspaper in New York. In the 70s and 80s she was a member of Lesbian Feminist Liberation, but also participated in NOW activities. She has been a member of NOW since 1990. In 2002, shortly after moving to South Florida from New York, she founded North Palm Beach NOW, together with her wife Joan Waitkevicz. She and Joan were married in July 2010 at the NOW Conference in Boston, after 37 years together.
Email Shirley Herman at shirleyherman @ aol.com
Jennifer Cunha has been interested in public service since childhood. As a teenager she tutored at-risk children in the inner-city of Indianapolis. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (with an emphasis on Behavioral Neuroscience) from the University of Florida. Jennifer worked as a case worker for the Florida Department of Children and Families before attending law school. Throughout law school, she was involved with the International Human Rights Clinic, representing asylum-seeking immigrants.
As a young lawyer, Jennifer worked for Florida Rural Legal Services, advocating for low-income tenants. She was recruited by Palm Beach County Housing Authority to become their General Counsel, and handled legal matters for a program that administered Section 8 and Public Housing to over 11,000 recipients. Jennifer is now the managing partner of her own successful Condo and HOA law practice, devotes hundreds of hours per year to community legal education, and continues to advocate for women’s issues.
President Emeritus – Meredith L. Ockman
Meredith Ockman is a native Floridian, born on Miami Beach. She is a twin who was inspired by the plight of the people in her family. She started speaking for people who couldn’t speak for themselves at an early age and never stopped speaking out where she sees injustice! She has been involved with several non-profits including: the March of Dimes, Jewish Federation of Greater Miami Beach, Leukemia Society, Ryan White Foundation, American Cancer Society, Jewish Community Center and American Heart Association.
She attended FIU, followed by a move for 2 years to New Jersey. Eventually she came home to West Palm Beach in 1999 and began volunteering for Compass, The LGBT Community Center of the Palm Beaches. There she assisted in providing safe sex education and HIV/STI prevention to the community. Later, she was hired as an employee, working as the Volunteer Coordinator and Fiscal Assistant.
Meredith began working with the Pro-Choice Coalition of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast in 2003, helping to organize the largest delegation of participants from South Florida in the March for Women’s lives. She has provided clinic defense for the past 11 years and continues her commitment by training others and volunteering to escort women at Presidential Women’s Center in West Palm Beach. She worked in administration for the lead agency for Child Welfare Services in Palm Beach County, and supports National Council for Jewish Women, Equality Florida, Planned Parenthood, The Women’s Health Foundation of South Florida and The Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County. She was the 2011 Feminist Leadership Award recipient from the Veteran Feminists of America.
Meredith L. Ockman is the immediate past President of Palm Beach County NOW, is a past Legislative Director for Florida National Organization for Women and was one of the leaders to merge the North and South Palm Beach County chapters of NOW in 2009. She is currently serving our community as Vice President of Florida NOW, Vice President of Political Planning for Florida National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC), President of South Florida Women’s Health Foundation, Escort Trainer at Presidential Women’s Center, Volunteer with the Inner Truth Project in St. Lucie County, and Vice President at SoHo Dogs.
Email Meredith Ockman at Meredith.Ockman @ gmail.com