Celebration was the main item on the agenda at the annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks on June 22 — celebration of a year of hard work and of the commitment of a dedicated corps of volunteers who serve the community.
More than 100 people attended the dinner meeting at the Jewish Center in Princeton, where incoming officers and board and executive committee members were elected for the coming year.
Honorees included outgoing president Lisa Smukler of Princeton and longtime volunteer Mort Cohen of Lawrenceville. For the first time, the federation also presented a Community Ambassador Award to Congregation Brothers of Israel in Newtown, Pa.
The honorees and other volunteers who were spotlighted “are paradigms of passion and commitment, to federation and to numerous organizations in the community,” said federation executive director Andrew Frank in an interview with NJJN. “They are the strength behind what makes Princeton Mercer Bucks a vibrant Jewish community. They see the community as a totality of organizations and individuals, which are bound together in common purpose.”
Brothers of Israel received its award in tribute to its participation in federation’s emergency campaign to raise funds for Ohel Avraham, the food pantry run by Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County in Princeton. Congregation treasurer Brian Goldsmith accepted the honor on behalf of the synagogue from Emily Josephson of West Windsor, federation vice president for community relations and allocations.
“By the middle of the year the food pantry had exhausted its resources,” Frank said. “Brothers of Israel picked up on JF&CS’s need when federation made the appeal, and took it upon themselves to raise funds through a direct approach to their congregation.”
Incoming federation president Mark Merkovitz of Princeton Junction presented his predecessor with a tzedaka box in recognition of her two years at the helm of the organization. Smukler, who ran the meeting in her last formal act as president, was also honored for her service as Women’s Philanthropy campaign chair and president, as federation vice president for campaign, and as a leader with numerous other community organizations.
Smukler said federation helped link her to the Jewish community when she moved to the area 24 years ago. “I wanted to do my part to help make this a strong Jewish community to raise my children in,” she told NJJN. “It was really important for me to raise my kids in a place where there’s a strong Jewish presence.
“A wonderful thing about Princeton is that there is an opportunity to get involved and take a leadership role. It was my privilege to be president.”
Smukler will continue to work with Women’s Philanthropy; she also sits on the national board of Jewish Federations of North America.
Merkovitz takes the reins as president after a longtime involvement with federation, most recently as vice president of campaign. In an interview with NJJN, he said he looks forward to following in the footsteps of Smukler, who leaves behind a “strong foundation built on ideas, energy, and passion for our federation.”
The new president credits his parents for instilling in him the importance of Jewish community involvement. “It’s all about Jewish continuity for me, regardless of what age somebody is or what portal they choose to enter through,” he said. “My main goal is for our federation to work with our agencies and partners to make this a dynamic and growing Jewish community for all of us who already live here and, hence, an appealing Jewish community that will attract Jews of all ages.”
The 2011 Community Service Award was presented to Cohen by past federation president Dan Brent of Princeton. Cohen, a longtime federation volunteer, most recently served as vice president of membership and leadership development. He is also active with Greenwood House in Ewing, JF&CS, and numerous other organizations and is president of Chabad of Mercer County. “When there is something that needs to be done, Mort always steps up to the plate,” Frank said.
Others participating in the meeting included Rabbi Adam Feldman of the Jewish Center, who welcomed the gathering, and Rabbi Stuart Pollack, president of the Board of Rabbis of PMB and religious leader of Har Sinai Temple in Pennington, who delivered a d’var Torah.