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Nyack Sketch Log: A Tribute for Ellen Jaffee

by Bill Batson

I am proud to pause for a moment to reflect on the extraordinary accomplishments of Ellen Jaffee who represented the 97th Assembly District in Albany for 14 years.

There will be a virtual tribute for Ellen on Friday Night, June 18th at 6:30 with speakers that include, Spring Valley NAACP President Willie Trotman, Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie and Congressman Mondaire Jones. I am honored to share some thoughts on her legacy during the program. You can find information on joining the Zoom event below.

Ellen Jaffee Tribute

June 18, 2021


Join a virtual celebration honoring Ellen Jaffee’s over 25 years of public service and her ongoing legacy to bring equity to Rockland County on Friday, June 18 at 6:30.

Use this link to attend.

Here are  five examples of how Ellen Jaffee has positively impacted Rockland County.

Thurgood Marshall Memorial Highway: A05939

Along with pillars of the African American community in Rockland County like Dr. Willie Bryant, Ellen played a leadership role in preserving the legacy of  Thurgood Marshall’s work in Rockland County. Marshall’s legal challenge of segregation in Hillburn in 1943 led to the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education that integrated America’s public schools. Marshall argued the case before the court.

Ellen also co-sponsored the legislation that established May 17 as Thurgood Marshall day in New York State. After winning Brown, Marshall went on to become the first African American Justice on the Supreme Court, a journey that took a significant detour through Rockland County.

Edward Hopper Citation: A02121

In Nyack, Ellen created the Edward Hopper Citation, which resulted in an exhibit by celebrated photographer Carrie Mae Weems. The community component for the Weems exhibition, which I directed,  generated over 30 African American oral histories that are now accessible to the public on the Nyack Library website.

Breast Density Law: A07774

Ellen secured passage of a bill that requires doctors to notify patients who have dense breast tissue. Men and women with dense breast tissue have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Classroom Teacher to Legislative Leader

Born in Brooklyn, Ellen and her late husband Steve Jaffee moved to Suffern in 1978 where they raised 2 children, Marc and Allison.

She earned her B.A. in Education from Brooklyn College, her M.S. in Special Education from Fordham University, and worked as a resource room teacher at the Pomona Junior High School / Middle School for 20 years.

Elected as a Village of Suffern Trustee in 1994, Ellen went on to serve in the Rockland County Legislature where she remained until her election to the Assembly in 2007, were she’s served until 2020.

The Boss Bill: A00584

Ellen’s legislation prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on reproductive health decisions.

The East Ramapo Monitor Bill : A05355

Ellen established a fiscal Monitor in the East Ramapo Central School District to review the district’s fiscal practices, conduct, and history, and to make recommendations.

The original bill, which passed the Assembly during her term in office, gave the monitor veto power over the East Ramapo School Board’s budget. However, the Senate failed to maintain that provision.

Last Friday, Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick and Assembly member Ken Zebrowski announced the a version with the veto power restored by both house. This bill represents in legislation her legacy as a person who fought equitable education her entire life.

The Ellen Jaffee/NAACP Scholarship Fund is another way Jaffee’s impact continues. The recently launched scholarship is for students who exemplify the spirit of community and service that Assemblywoman Jaffee displayed over the years. Please consider making a donation to help our future leaders and carry on Assemblywoman Jaffee’s efforts on educational equity.

You can donate by mailing a check to the The Ellen Jaffee/NAACP Scholarship Fund, Spring Valley Branch, NAACP, PO Box 156, Spring Valley, NY, 10977.


Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives in Nyack, NY. “Nyack Sketch Log: A Tribute to Ellen Jaffee” © 2020 Bill Batson. To learn more visit


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