Central community mourns philanthropist Sandy Gelfond

Central community mourns philanthropist Sandy Gelfond

Sandy Gelfond Photo courtesy Judy Eick
Sandy Gelfond Photo courtesy Judy Eick

Sondra “Sandy” Gelfond, a longtime stalwart of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, passed away in New York City on Aug. 16, at the age of 78.

Gelfond, a Newark native and graduate of Weequahic High School, lived with her late husband, Alf, in Plainfield and then Watchung. He died in November 2007, and she moved to Manhattan the following year, to be closer to her daughters and grandchildren.

For five decades, she and Alf worked to help others in the Central community and in Israel. He served as federation president and campaign chair; Sandy was also federation campaign chair and chair of Women’s Campaign, Major Gifts, the federation’s personnel committee, its older adult planning committee, and the Suburban Advisory Board. The two led a number of missions, to Israel and to Washington. Sandy was a Lion of Judah for almost 20 years, and then an LOJ Endowment donor, signifying an annual gift of $10,000 or more, for more than a decade. She also served on the boards of the JCC of Central New Jersey and Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey.

Sandy was honored with numerous awards, including the 2006 Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award, presented at the International Lion of Judah Conference, in recognition of her philanthropy and volunteerism; the Women’s Philanthropy Woman of Valor Award in 2000; and the Walter Weinstein Award for Campaign Leadership in 1998.

The couple met at the Jersey Shore, and, according to their daughter, Beth Gelfond, Alf proposed on their first date. Sandy, whose father died when she was just three years old, took a little longer to make up her mind. She was brought up by her mother, who struggled to make ends meet but managed to establish a successful dress store. Sandy graduated from Douglass College at Rutgers, and went on to become a personnel recruiter.

Longtime friend Toby Goldberger, also a federation activist, said, “Sandy was strong, but she had such a soft, ladylike way about her. She influenced many of our young women to get involved with federation, just by convincing and cajoling them. She and Alf had such a love for Israel and the Jewish people.”

Amy Cooper, the federation’s associate executive vice president and director of financial resource development, said, “Sandy cared so deeply about our community, and she was a role model for so many people.

“I loved working with Sandy,” Cooper said. “She was a great leader — people wanted to be around her. She was elegant, classy, approachable, committed, smart, and funny. She will be missed.”

In addition to Beth, Sandy is survived by her daughter Judy Eick, son-in-law Steve Eick, grandchildren Jonah and Jesse Eick, and her sister Gloria Hastreiter. A memorial service was held Aug. 18 at Riverside Chapel in Manhattan. The family has asked that donations in her memory be made to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

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