Two GN women honored as ‘trailblazers’

Bill San Antonio

Two Great Neck residents were named to this year’s 20th annual May W. Newburger Women’s Honor Roll, which commended the Town of North Hempstead’s “trail blazers.”   

Sharon Kovacs Gruer and Linda Leaf were recognized, along with 14 other noteworthy women from throughout the Town of North Hempstead, at a breakfast reception at the Clubhouse at Harbor Links in Port Washington March 21 for their contributions to their communities.   

Gruer was honored for her work within the legal world while Leaf was recognized for her longtime civil rights advocacy.

This year’s celebration was held in memory of the Newberger, the former Town of North Hempstead supervisor who founded the honor roll. Newburger died last August.

“I’ve always tried to do what May did, to stand up for what I felt was right,” said Town Clerk Leslie Gross, who cited Newburger as her mentor and friend.  

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor John Kaiman was not in attendance, but his wife Kim spoke on his behalf about the impact Newburger made on her family, saying she named stars after each of the Kaiman children when they were born. 

“I am delighted to announce that we are adding another group of outstanding women to our Women’s Roll of Honor,” Kaiman said in a release earlier this month about the event.  “I invite all town residents to help us honor the women who have made a continuing difference in the Town.”

In providing some perspective to Newburger’s impact on the environmental issues of the North Hempstead community, Councilwoman Lee Seeman said that without Newburger’s work, the golf course and park at which the breakfast took place would still be a sand pit.

Gruer is an active member of Yashar, the judges’ and attorneys’ chapter of Hadassah, the women’s zionist organization of America, in Nassau County. 

She serves as the immediate past president of the Great Neck Lawyers Association and a past chairperson of the New York State Bar Association’s Elder Law section.

Gruer is also a volunteer arbitrator in the 10th Judicial District Administrator Judge’s office, Nassau County Attorneys’ Client Free Dispute Resolution Program, and serves as a volunteer panel member of the Surrogate Decision Making Committee of the New York State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled.

Leaf, who retired from her job with the Nassau County Human Rights Commission, is a longtime member of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee of Nassau County and is active with the Great Neck/Manhasset Chapter of the NAACP and the American Jewish Committee Nassau Chapter, of which she’s a founding member, the United Synagogue of Youth and the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Shalom of Roslyn Heights.

She has served as a board member of the NYACLU-Nassau Chapter, where she has defended freedoms of speech, privacy, religion, due process of the law and equality before the law.

In addition, Leaf is the vice president of the Long Island Advocacy Center, where she has worked to protect the legal rights of students and people with disabilities. 

Leaf has also been the recipient of the Freedom Award from the Great Neck/Manhasset chapter of the NAACP.

Also among the honorees was Parvaneh Sarraf, a Roslyn resident who emigrated to the United States from Iran 30 years ago, founded the Paras Iranian Organization, the first Iranian Jewish Synagogue in New York. She is also the president and co-founder of the Iranian Mother’s Association, a member of Hadassah, the women’s Jewish Zionist organization of America, as well as the Iranian American Jewish Federation.

A marriage counselor who’s authored four books, Sarraf advocated for women’s rights and openly challenged Agunot, the term for laws concerning Jewish divorce, as a member of Beth Din’s arbitration board. 

Sarraf has also served as the assistant principal of the North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck.

Reach reporter Bill San Antonio by e-mail at or by phone at 516.307.1045 x215. Also follow us on Twitter @theislandnow and Facebook at

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