When Her Sixth Child Began High School, Sarah Orgel Started Her Second Career

Social Work Grad Recognized with Tikkun Olam Award for Her Efforts in the Orthodox Community

June 21, 2024
Sarah Orgel standing and smiling facing camera holding a framed award in front of her
Sarah Orgel with her Tikkun Olam award.

In the summer of 2017, Sarah Orgel, MSW, attended an Open House at Touro University’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). She was accompanied by one of her daughters, who enrolled and graduated two years later.

During the Open House, Orgel was reluctant to apply. But that all changed, and on June 18, Orgel also received her MSW from Touro, as well as the school’s prestigious Tikkun Olam award, bestowed on graduates who have overcome obstacles and enhanced the quality of life for the community.

The ‘Dr. Bernard and Sarah Lander Distinguished Social Work Tikkun Olam Award’ memorializes the legacies of Touro’s founder and his wife, in whose memory the award was established.

“You are a role model who will carry on the Lander tradition of education, social justice and service,” said Elhanan Marvit, director of program operations, referring to Touro’s founder, Dr. Bernard Lander and his wife Sarah, as he called Orgel up to the stage recently at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan to receive the award.

Timing Not Right

At the Open House, Orgel felt the timing wasn’t right to pursue graduate studies. She still had six children at home. However, she possessed a Child Development Associate Credential and operated a small daycare catering to low-income families in her Orthodox community.

“This endeavor is more than just a business,” said Marvit. “It is a calling to provide children with support, guidance and education. It strives to uplift and empower, foster resilience and hope, while providing a safe and nurturing environment for the children to develop their full potential.”  

Orgel wanted to learn more about how to help dysfunctional parents and children. She became a Certified Life Coach and took a training course through the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEABPD). She became a NEABPD group leader through the organization’s Family Connections program, which provides support, education and skills anchored in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for partners, families, friends and others caring for those diagnosed with BPD and problems with emotional dysregulation.

She then recruited members of the Orthodox Jewish community who needed services, and worked with other Jewish mental health organizations to find families who were suffering from emotional dysregulation.

“Groundbreaking Work”

“This was groundbreaking for our organization,” said Nancy Epstein, a Leader Liaison for the NEABPD, who co-led support groups with Orgel. “Suri helped instigate and execute our first-ever successful Jewish Orthodox-only focused course. She is a fearless, ambitious, can-do woman with a huge heart and curious mind.”

With her new-found skills and experience – and the last of her children in high school – Orgel enrolled at Touro for her MSW and thrived.

“She was outstanding,” said Sarala Kislak, program liaison and director of advisement at GSSW,  who taught Orgel in a class titled “Identity and Social Justice.”  “She was one of two or three Frum students and by far the most religious. She was very outspoken, always very open-minded, and interested in learning about others and sharing.”  

Dr. Steven Huberman, professor of social work administration, dean emeritus and founding dean, noted Orgel’s passion for helping the most vulnerable in the Jewish community, who need a support system.

“She wants to be their anchor,” said Dr. Huberman, who was her instructor in a course on leadership and management. “She wants to help the disadvantaged. I think she will be a good role model for mature women, particularly in the Orthodox community.”

Orgel has passed her Licensed Master of Social Worker (LMSW) exam and is continuing to work at Sipuk Mental Health Clinic in Brooklyn, where she interned. She hopes to follow in her daughter’s footsteps, working as a Registered Play Therapist and providing safety, security and nurturing for children.

“I loved every minute at Touro. The staff, the professors. They’re brilliant and they were there for me,” she said. “They helped me develop who I am. Everyone wanted every student to succeed. For me it was the most wonderful experience and I’m eternally grateful.”