Hebrew Home honors women leaders


A night of laughter, tears, and excitement filled the halls of Hebrew Home at Riverdale on March 27. A celebration of women business owners and trailblazers took place, co-hosted by the 4BronxProject and Female Fight Club.

Johanna Edmondson, founder and owner of Female Fight Club, said her work on this event with the 4BronxProject felt like the perfect union. This will be their second annual women’s celebration.

Running her all-women gym, Edmondson said, “I understand the hard work,” that goes into being a woman in business.   

Edmondson said she has always been inspired by her parents who came to America when she was 4 and her mother who owns her own business and runs a nonprofit providing for underserved children in the Dominican Republic.

“Today with 42 percent of the US businesses owned by women and growing numbers of successful women-led enterprises the future is bright for women entrepreneurs,” Edmondson said to the crowd.

Laura Levine-Pinedo runs the 4BronxProject, a nonprofit focused on serving the community through events, outreach, and giving back.

Invited to the celebration was Councilman Eric Dinowitz who took the podium to offer his congratulations and present awards to the selected women-owned business.

“Many of our heroes are right here in our neighborhoods. Our local leaders shape our community, and the roots that they grow allow them to wholly and fully represent our interests. Our businesses and residents of RiverSpring are fierce advocates for their neighbors, and all of us have felt the warmth and strength of their impact,” said Dinowitz.

Keynote speaker Lynne Corry, Founder and chief executive of Giving Friends, delivered an emotional speech to the crowd.

“What we cannot do alone we can do together and that stuck and I know that we are never alone. I congratulate all the honorees and the women who are contributing to our community in whatever capacity. What you do, it matters,” Corry said to the crowd.

Giving Friends is a nonprofit dedicated to delivering gifts and essentials to families in underserved communities throughout the city. Founded over 26 years ago, Corry built the organization to help other parents who are working to break the cycle of addiction, homelessness, and poverty in their lives because she worked to do the same for herself. Her recovery journey began at the Young Mother’s Program, a live-in treatment facility. She lived there with her young son Tyler and every year after that she came back to bring gifts to the children, beginning the annual holiday toy drive that became the start of Giving Friends.

Corry choked up as she spoke at the podium, “We must do more together. I don’t give because I have, I give because I know what it’s like to have nothing.”


Test prep makes her day

Sonia Khan runs Triple S Programs at 5795 Tyndall Avenue, with the help of her mother Rehana Khan. Triple S offers tutoring and daycare services for children younger than school age through 12th grade.

Sonia Khan began running the center in 2005 at the age of 21. She joked that being from a South Asian family meant her only visible career options were a doctor, engineer, or lawyer but she wasn’t interested in any of those options. When Sonia Khan discovered she was most interested in teaching she decided to follow her dream and opened Triple S.

“I clicked. It was good. I remember someone said don’t follow what the money, follow what you’re good at and the money will come so that’s what I did,” said Sonia Khan.

They typically see 40 children in a week for daycare, test prep, SAT and college readiness, and other levels of learning engagement.

At the center, Rehana Khan is in charge of the younger ones while Sonia Khan tackles the older children. She said her favorite group to work with is the high schoolers. For Sonia Khan, her work matters most when the one kid who perhaps has been struggling comes back and offers a thank you.

“They’re looking for someone to understand them. It’s that one kid who’s been failing and they come in and they say thank you,” that is what makes Sonia Khan feel like her work matters.


Cleaning for Covid

While Christina Farrell’s business existed prior to Covid she said the pandemic caused her business to truly catapult. Her business, Cleaning Wand, was actually created with her child’s nanny in mind. She said when the pandemic began she was nervous about her nanny coming in and out to care for her child but she didn’t want to fire her — so she decided to create an entirely different revenue stream for her.

“And then I started cleaning toilets and you know what I’m okay with that because you know what I am the best toilet cleaner ever,” joked Farrell.

Throughout Covid, Cleaning Wand helped clean hospitals and now they specialize in deep cleans, junk removal, residential cleaning, commercial cleanings, and more.


Balloons changed her life

When Angie Rivera started her business, Just 1 Pop Away, eight years ago she was looking to dive into her creativity. In the wake of her fiancé’s passing, Rivera found solace in creating balloon art.

“I just needed an outlet for creativity and something to take me out of the emptiness and the darkness so it was just something because any time I did anything artistic he was my cheerleader.

“He was always there for me,” Rivera said of her late fiancé.

She said she gained an art degree from Hunter College so she had always been interested in art but didn’t start pursuing a career in any form of art until her business.

It started with her working for friends and family and as they passed word around she said she became busier and busier. She recognized that she often keeps to herself and was shocked to know about her nomination for the evening’s event.

“The fact that I was nominated by anybody makes me feel acknowledged. It feels good,” said Rivera.


RiverSpring Trailblazers

Rita Shliselberg is 93. She was once the Director of Outreach at Queens College in the Jewish Studies program and now she lives full-time at River’s Edge on the RiverSpring campus.

“I loved it. I was still working when I moved in,” said Shliselberg of her time at work.

Shliselberg’s entire family showed up to honor her. Her husband Leo, daughter Marta, and Marta’s children sat at her table across from all of her RiverSpring neighbors and friends who had come to celebrate as well.

Another trailblazer honored for the evening was RiverSpring resident Elizabeth Jakubowski. Jakubowski worked as a nurse for Columbia Presbyterian for 40 years. She said while growing up her family struggled financially and she decided that she wanted to become a nurse to make her parents proud and do something that could make a difference.

Jakubowski saw a magazine advertisement for nurses in 1955 so she applied. The response she received told her to come to New York, they would hire her and give her a place to live and she did just that. She worked as a nurse in the surgical unit and said she loved the work she did.

Women entrepreneurs Hebrew Home celebration Female business owners Women in business Community outreach Women empowerment Councilman Eric Dinowitz Keynote speaker Lynne Corry Giving Friends nonprofit Business success stories