Wendy Marks’ family might learn from this article that she is to receive a Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award at the International Lion of Judah Conference and General Assembly, taking place in New Orleans Nov. 5-10.
“I haven’t told them yet,” said Marks, a Holmdel resident and former president of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County. “I’m flattered and really honored, but it’s also a bit embarrassing. I’ve had a lot of recognition.”
The award, named in honor of Norma Kipnis-Wilson and Toby Friedland, founders of the Lion of Judah philanthropy system, was established in 1974. It is given each year to recognize “women of valor,” selected by their respective communities, for their tzedaka and service to the Jewish community, locally and abroad.
The women, chosen from around the country, must also have been Lions of Judah — yearly contributors of at least $5,000 to the UJA Annual Campaign for at least 10 continuous years.
Marks has done all that. In addition to her presidency, she also served as president of the Women’s Division (now Women’s Philanthropy) and as chair of Partnership 2000, which links the Monmouth and other federations with the Israeli communities of Arad and Tamar.
Most recently, she served as chair of the federation’s board of directors, its highest leadership position; as a member of the Jewish Federations of North America’s national board of Women’s Philanthropy, she cochaired the Northeast Region’s Women’s Conference and the Northeast Region Lion of Judah Conference.
All of this has been in addition to being an active member of Hadassah and Chabad Lubavitch of Manalapan, which named her its Woman of the Year in 2000. She and her husband of 25 years, Jerry, are members of Temple Shalom in Aberdeen.
“I’m in perpetual motion,” Marks admitted. She used to be a real estate broker, and then had a “second career” as owner and operator, with her son, Jay, of the design firm Kitchen Showcase in Freehold.
Since retiring in 1993, she said, she has been “a full-time grandma” to her seven grandchildren, and just as full-time, a community activist.
These days, Marks has another passion too, serving as a member of the board of directors of the American Israel Cultural Foundation and the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, at the JCC of Greater Monmouth County, in Deal.
Her family are all totally supportive of her volunteerism. Marks said that, to her delight, the four children and their spouses from her “blended” family with Jerry are all active in community service. As for Jerry, “He is my most notorious enabler,” she said.
Asked why she keeps doing this sometimes grueling work, she said, “I am so grateful to be in the giving position, instead of needing to receive. As they say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ And I feel good doing what I do.”