In a week still colored by the fallout from Israel’s confrontation with a flotilla supposedly bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ Dist. 7) drew a roar of applause when he told an audience in Scotch Plains that as “the only true democracy in the Middle East,” Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorists, “especially like Hamas in Gaza.” He stressed that support for Israel in Congress is strong and bipartisan.
Lance was accepting the Community Service Award from the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey at its annual meeting in the JCC of Central NJ. Gordon Haas, cochair of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, thanked Lance for his support for Israel and for programs sponsored by the federation and its agencies.
Lance recently helped secure $300,000 in funding for its Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities program run by Jewish Family Service of Central NJ.
The event, held in the JCC gym, was attended by a capacity crowd of around 220, including a large contingent from Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah, the Conservative congregation in Clark. They were there to share in honoring their leader, Cantor Steven Stern, who received the federation’s Religious Leadership Award.
With Erica Needle, board member and past president of the Women’s Campaign, presiding, the organization’s lay and professional leaders reviewed the challenges of a tough year and paid tribute to those who carried it through them.
Outgoing president Gerald Cantor, mentioning that he has been a stockbroker for 45 years, described the period as “the worst economic dislocation of my life,” and “up there with the worst,” even for those who faced the Great Depression.
Within nine months of his taking on the presidency, the Dow Jones stock index lost half its value. “It leaves open the question of causality,” he joked. But more seriously, Cantor pointed out, the loss in equity in real estate values around the world led to a loss of faith in government and societal and charitable arenas.
However, he said, the foresight of former federation leaders and the reserves that they established — as in the biblical story of Joseph — have enabled the organization to limit the reduction in its contributions to its constituent agencies and overseas partners — at a percentage, said Cantor, that was “less than for any other similar organization.”
Cantor, who was concluding his second term as president, reflected on both the one in the mid-1990s and this latest term. “To be given the chance to lead such a community once in a lifetime was an honor,” he said; “to be given such a chance twice was far beyond my simple words of thanks.”
Earlier in the evening, Cantor was “roasted” at a tribute dinner that featured remarks from federation vice president Toby Goldberger, Rabbi Elazar Teitz of the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, Rabbi Douglas Sagal of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, and federation executive vice president Stanley Stone. The guest of honor was surprised by a presentation from his wife, Dr. Dorothy Cantor, and their son, Josh, who, each in their own way, gently teased him but also spoke of his heartfelt dedication to the community.
In her first speech as incoming president of the federation, Julie Lipsett Singer said she has been inspired by Cantor’s approach. She made clear her support for the people — lay and professional — who work for the organization’s goals and her determination to draw in more who share their values.
“If you care about the Jewish people, I care about you,” she stated. With the backing of the community, she promised to bring “resonance and relevance” to caring for Jews wherever they are, in Israel and Central New Jersey, regardless of geographic or denominational differences. She promised as federation president to do “more listening than talking” and invited everyone to bring to her their ideas, “great or small — whatever ideas that can benefit the Jewish people” now and in the future.