The following remarks were made by Deborah Engel after she was sworn in as a member of the Maplewood Township Committee on January 1, 2023. Engel will serve a three-year term on the TC and was also elected to serve as Maplewood’s 2023 Vice Mayor.
Thank you for attending today’s virtual reorganization meeting and thank you to those who were able to come to my personal swearing-in earlier today. I am so proud and honored to be a part of this historic moment where women become the majority on the Maplewood Township Committee for the first time ever. I am thrilled to join fellow moms Nancy Adams and Jamaine Cripe in leading our community alongside our non-female colleagues Dean Dafis and Victor De Luca.
And while we’re on the subject of working moms, I have a few others to thank, including my co-campaigners Malia Rulon Hermon and Erin Scherzer. I really appreciate your support and all the hard work you have put in this year to get me to this day. I would also like to thank the extraordinary graphic designer Kerstin Diehn who put in countless hours, Victor De Luca who served as my campaign treasurer and has provided so much advice and guidance not only this year but over the many years that I have been a small business owner in this community, and Dean Dafis for being a cheerleader, reassuring me that I can do this and reminding me every day that representation is important.
I also want to thank the Maplewood Dems, especially the GOTV team led by Kathy Leventhal, Becky Scheer and Gerry Leventhal and Chair Ian Grodman and Vice Chair Garnet Hall.
And I would like to thank my family. Matt, I am so grateful for the foundation you give our children, which allows their mother to do crazy things like start new businesses and run for public office. I couldn’t do this without you. And to my three girls – I know all the late night meetings and talking too much at every town event can be annoying, but thank you for holding my hand and teaching me what it means to be brave.
I was sworn in earlier today with my childhood friend Amy Sonstein holding a Jewish Bible. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a Jewish Bible until I started planning today’s events. I learned that it is simply the Torah in book form – the same text written in Hebrew with the English translation. It felt quite meaningful to me to take the oath of office with my hand on the text of the Torah, since 2023 not only marks my first term in public office, but the year our family begins the Bat Mitzvah journey that my oldest daughter will celebrate her 13th birthday later this year . Just as the Torah was passed down to me from my grandparents and parents, I will pass down the Torah and its Jewish teachings and values to my daughter.
To begin preparing, my rabbi suggested that I think about what I want my daughter to learn about Jewish culture and traditions. So I began to think about what it is that I have learned from my Jewish upbringing. This week, as I reflected on the past year and thought about all the people I’ve met and the conversations I’ve had, I realized that the most important thing I’ve learned from my Jewish faith is the importance of community and the value of building inclusive communities. So this love of community is what I will take with me as I begin my 2023 term:
I will continue to listen and learn from our community of residents, elected officials, city staff and all stakeholders;
I will look at the services offered to our community and explore how we can make mental health support, preventative measures and assessments more affordable and accessible as we all continue to deal with the isolating effects of the pandemic;
I want to ensure that our programming is inclusive, especially for our special needs community, so that anyone who wants to attend the city’s events can participate;
I want to build stronger ties with our Board of Education, as the issues that affect our families in our schools—such as transportation and the lack of aftercare and affordable child care—affect the quality of life for our residents;
And most importantly, I will lead with empathy, remembering that we are all human and that we all deserve to feel loved and safe in our Maplewood home.
Thank you very much for putting your trust and faith in me. I am so proud and honored to have the opportunity to serve our beloved Maplewood community and I look forward to the year ahead!
Angel photos with TC members Vic DeLuca (left), Jamaine Cripe and Mayor Dean Dafis (right). Not pictured: Nancy Adams.