Donate, educate, advocate. Those three words have driven the Period Project since 2016.

The project, run by the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County section, provides donated menstrual products to women who cannot afford them. It also educates the community about this need and pushes for legislation to address the problem.

On March 2 the project had one of its “It’s That Time of the Month” events at the Montclair Art Museum, during the museum’s Free First Thursday program. Members of the NCJW reached out to let museum visitors know about their
initiative. Usually they partner with an individual, school or synagogue to spread the word.

This time Lyn Rosensweig, the former chair of the Period Project and a member of NCJW, wanted to get the community more involved, encouraging the visitors to donate menstrual products. 

“We did get products,” Rosensweig said afterward. “But just as important, I think we created awareness, a lot of people stopped by the table and asked what was going on.”

What is going on? According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 40% of women who menstruate can’t regularly afford supplies. And a survey conducted by the company U by Kotex found that nearly 40% of low-income women and girls report missing school and work due to lack of menstrual supplies. 

NCJW is working to close the disparity. 

Starting with donations, NCJW partners with local food shelters to provide menstrual products for those who receive food from the shelters. 

“Our main clients are food banks, because if you need food, you're going to need menstrual products,” said Adrienne Lewin, NCJW’s current co-chair. 

Lyn Rosensweig dropping off menstrual products to Stacey Cooper, director of kitchen operations at Toni’s Kitchen. (Courtesy of Lyn Rosensweig)
Lyn Rosensweig dropping off menstrual products to Stacey Cooper, director of kitchen operations at Toni’s Kitchen. (Courtesy of Lyn Rosensweig)

The Period Project is grant-funded and since 2019 has given out more than 600,000 menstrual products to 20 different local agencies. In addition to donating products, the Period Project was instrumental in creating Menstrual Equity Day, which is May 28 in New Jersey. 

Advocating for menstrual equality through legislation is another lane that those at NCJW Essex County section occupy. 

“We know our distribution is just a Band-Aid and that to get real gains, we have to pass laws in New Jersey to make sure that menstrual products are available everywhere in public,”
said Stephanie Abrahams, director of advocacy. 

Abrahams and her team work to educate state legislators about the need for menstrual equality. In the United States, 22 states charge tax on period products – sometimes referred to as a “tampon tax.” New Jersey eliminated the tax in 2005, becoming the third state to do so.  

But Abrahams says there is more work to be done. 

“We lag behind in this kind of legislation, which would provide menstrual products for students who need them, and it greatly affects students’ ability to go to class and work to their full potential,” she said. 

Bill S1221, pending in the state Assembly, would require all school districts in New Jersey to provide menstrual products in all school bathrooms, free of charge. Abrahams urges residents to write to their legislators to encourage them to vote in favor of the bill. 

“It's kind of crazy that it's taken this long,” she said. “And you know, I think the next generation is a lot more educated than when I was growing up.” 

Abrahams recalled hiding her tampons and pads when she would be excused from the classroom to use the bathroom. 

The Period Project aims to teach students, whether they get a period or not, that menstrual equity is something that everyone should care about. Through its “Time of the Month” events, the Period Project partners with high schools and organizations like the Girl Scouts to hold a menstrual product drive and remove the stigma surrounding the menstrual cycle. 

“My personal ultimate goal is wherever they provide toilet paper there should be menstrual products – private,  public, everywhere,” Rosensweig said. “I want people to  think of menstrual products just like they think of toilet paper.”

Besides the Period Project, NCJW is working to uplift and provide an equal education for students. For the last 20 years, the organization has recognized graduating high school seniors in Essex County through the ESKOW award. All students who are active in community service and volunteering are encouraged to apply regardless of religion. 

NCJW will also be holding a session on April 18 to discuss banned books and how residents can get involved in fighting against censorship of literature in schools. 

More information about NCJW Essex and its efforts is available at