Max and Gail Kleinman moved to the area in 1995 when Max was hired to lead what would eventually become the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Soon after, he was part of the team that conceived the idea for an annual concert that would support the federation’s UJA campaign.
“It was April 1995, on my second day here,” Max Kleinman recalled in a recent federation newsletter. He had lunch with Victor Parsonnet, a Newark physician, philanthropist, and musician; Ed Zinbarg, a major UJA giver; Richard Slutsky, then executive director of the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest; and Larry Tamborri, who was president of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
“We talked about the concept of raising funds for UJA by creating a concert by the NJSO that would take place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which was in the process of being built in Newark,” said Kleinman. “We envisioned it as a gathering for the Jewish community that would highlight Jewish artists and provide an additional concert opportunity for the NJSO.”
The first concert, in 1998, coincided with Israel’s 50th birthday and featured violinist Isaac Stern.
At this year’s 17th annual concert, on Sunday, May 18, which will feature dancers from the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, Max and Gail Kleinman will be honored for their service to the Jewish community.
The concert will also be, perhaps in more ways than one, a swansong for Max, who is scheduled to retire in November as the federation’s top executive, a position he has held since 2000.
“Max personifies what the annual campaign is about: dollars that translate into opportunities and help,” said Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, UJA campaign chair at Greater MetroWest. “As he prepares to move to the next stage of his life, what better way to honor him? He has been driving the values of this organization and changing lives.”
She added, “This is the perfect time to honor Max and Gail and have the community be able to show their appreciation for what they’ve done by supporting the UJA annual concert.”
Before arriving in New Jersey, Kleinman served as executive director of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and held senior positions in federations in Atlanta and Milwaukee.
When Kleinman was hired in 1995, the federation was known as United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey. That was before its 2012 merger with the former Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey — a capstone accomplishment of a tenure that includes a major expansion of the umbrella philanthropy’s endowed giving arm, expanded partnerships with communities in Israel, and a day school campaign that has become a national model.
Past president of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America and the World Council of Jewish Communal Service, Kleinman serves on the advisory board of Rutgers University’s Center for Nonprofit Management and Governance, the New Jersey-Israel Commission, and the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work. The recipient of numerous professional and communal awards, he has taught at Yeshiva University and Rutgers.
Articles by Klein have been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Jewish Communal Service, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Sh’ma, The Star-Ledger, Journal for Nonprofit Management, and New Jersey Jewish News, among other publications.
Gail Kleinman has built a local reputation for service in her own right. At Greater MetroWest, she has earned Lion of Judah status for her contributions to the UJA campaign, she served as president of Women’s Philanthropy’s Beyond 9 to 5, for business and professional women, and was active with MetroWest ABLE and the Got Blue Collaborative, both of which provide advocacy and resources and work to remove stigmatization of individuals with disabilities or depression.
A board-certified diplomate in clinical social work, a certified psychoanalyst, and a marriage counselor, she is a faculty member and supervisor for the Center for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis of New Jersey and the New Jersey Couples Therapy Training Program.
Prior to beginning a private practice in Livingston, she held senior positions at Jewish family and vocational service agencies in New York, Milwaukee, and New Jersey.
“There would be no success if Max did not have the support of his spouse to work 24 hours a day, six days a week,” said Greater MetroWest federation president Lori Klinghoffer. “I believe Max’s relationship with Gail enables and empowers him to bring us to the successes we have been able to achieve.”
The Kleinmans, members of the federation’s Lester Society, have two children and two carrot-topped grandchildren, who can be found from time to time at local community events with their grandparents.
This month’s concert at NJPAC, which will fall on Lag Ba’Omer, will include Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Dance of the Tumblers,” Hungarian Dance No. 6 by Brahms, Leonard Bernstein’s “Fancy Free,” and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.
“Gail and I are very much looking forward to a celebration of Lag Ba’Omer, Jewish community, and great music,” said Kleinman. “Since I was involved in the inception of the concert, we’re privileged to join the ranks of prior honorees representing the crème de la crème of leadership and philanthropy.”
Looking forward, he said, “I have mixed emotions of pride in what we’ve accomplished and a realization that this chapter in my life is ending. I want to thank all the benefactors who have supported the concert; the concert committee, ably chaired by Ed Zinbarg; the UJA leadership and staff; and the NJSO for their years of vision and support.”