Trumbull residents Cheryl Green and Shelley Krieger will co-chair the upcoming annual gala of The Women’s Philanthropy of the United Jewish Appeal/Federation, the Federation announced.

Fairfield resident Nancy Newman will be honored at “Cocktails for a Cause” as the community celebrates 50 years of quality early childhood education at the JCC of Eastern Fairfield County in Bridgeport. Newman will be honored for her groundbreaking role as the first Director of the Early Childhood Department.

“We are privileged to honor and recognize Nancy for her invaluable contributions to our community,” said Green. “Nancy has always been deeply connected to the Jewish community and to the JCC in particular. She grew up in New Haven and was active at the JCC there as a child; later, she was a counselor at the JCC day camp, and finally, she came to us in the capacity of teacher.

“After earning her BA degree in Early Childhood Education from Southern Connecticut State University and a MA degree in counseling from Fairfield U, after completing post graduate work at the Wheelock College Center for Parenting Studies, and after teaching second grade in Newton, MA, Nancy moved to our community in 1956,” Green said.

Newman began serving the Greater Bridgeport JCC in 1963 as a teacher and the first director of the Early Childhood department. She was determined to establish a Jewish school that was developmentally appropriate, emphasized self-esteem and responded to the needs of the community. The nursery school opened with two classrooms and 40 children. By the time Newman retired more than 33 years later, the school served more than 200 children in seven classrooms per year.

Under her leadership, the JCC created programs to enhance the Early Childhood department and the community at large. She arranged parent education forums, initiated mother support groups such as MINDS (Mothers In Need of Discussion) and created an award winning intergenerational Shabbat (Sabbath) program and an intergenerational volunteer program.

“Since many of today’s parents live in isolation, I wanted parents to get to know each other. I worked to make parts of the nursery school a playground for parents. I created Lou’s Corner to allow for coffee and conversation, which fostered friendships,” Newman said.

She worked with the department’s steering committee to construct a parenting center, a “Wonderful Ones” class, a toddler school, a pre-school camp (Camp Katan) and a kindergarten.

“We wanted to foster a strong sense of Jewish identity in the children and a strong attachment to the Jewish community by their parents. We accomplished this through the celebration of Jewish holidays and Shabbat and by weaving Jewish culture throughout the curriculum, laying the foundation for a quality Jewish education,” Newman added.

“Nancy has enriched the Jewish community in so many ways, has dedicated her life to young children and their families, has nurtured thousands of young people and has set the standard of excellence in early childhood education,” said Green, herself a former nursery school mother who was an active volunteer and chairperson of the Early Childhood department under Newman’s direction.

In addition to her involvement with the JCC, Newman has been an active member of Congregation Beth El in Fairfield, a member of its Sisterhood, Hadassah and the Women’s Auxiliary at the Jewish Home for the Elderly.

She and her husband, Noel, are the parents of three married children, Valerie Newman and Dave Woessner of Trumbull, Jeffrey and Lisa Newman of Fairfield, and Terry Newman and David Rubin of Stamford, and six grandchildren.

Reflecting on her life’s work, Newman said she felt humbled and blessed to have had such a worthwhile career. “I felt very fortunate to find my passion and have it turn into a career I enjoyed so much.”

Newman will be honored on Wednesday, June 5, at 6 p.m., at the JCC, 4200 Park Ave in Bridgeport. The evening will include cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Proceeds will go to the PJ library program and early childhood programming.

For more information, contact Linda Epstein at 203-372-6567, x175 or linda@jccs.org.