Chabad Lubavitch of Greater Mercer County will honor eight prominent supporters at a 20th Anniversary Gala Community Dinner on Sunday, Sept. 23.
The event will look back over the two decades of the Chabad-Lubavitch presence in the Princeton area even as it looks forward to the construction of a new center and a mikva on Route 206.
Honorees are Princeton residents Sally Steinberg Brent and Daniel Brent, a former president of the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks; Phyllis Marchand, former longtime mayor of Princeton Township; David Newton of Princeton, vice president of Palmer Square Management; Paul and Tita Celler of Livingston; and Dr. Payam and Chana Hanian of Princeton, who will receive Chabad’s Chesed Award at the event.
“These are very, very dedicated people to our organization for many, many years — not only in what they do for us but for the community in general,” said Rabbi Dovid Dubov, executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Greater Mercer County. “They are all exceptional people.”
In the 20 years since Chabad of Princeton set down roots in the region, Dubov said, the organization has grown into a network with branches in the Windsors, Lawrenceville, Monroe, South Brunswick, and at Princeton University and the College of New Jersey; it also sponsors the Friendship Circle of Greater Mercer County, which serves children with special needs.
The network is affiliated with the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, the Lubavitch of New Jersey Regional Headquarters.
The Greater Mercer County Chabad is serving more than 4,000 Jews in the region, Dubov estimated. The majority are previously unaffiliated Jews or members of other synagogues and institutions who support Chabad’s outreach work.
“It’s tremendous growth,” Dubov said. “Our real focus is as an outreach organization to Jews in the community, building up Jewish identity.”
Signs of that outreach, he said, are the more than 100 sukkas that go up each fall — a result of Chabad’s reaching out to encourage and instruct community members in erecting the harvest holiday booths — the hundreds of Jews in the region who have learned to don tefillin, and the 30 to 40 women who visit the mikva at Chabad of Princeton each month.
“We’re building up a tremendous amount of Jewish identity — people being more proud of being Jewish,” he said. “Every step a Jew comes closer to his heritage, his people, warms my heart.”
The Brents, who are active members of the Jewish Center in Princeton, have also spent some 18 years supporting the work of Dubov and his wife, Malka, who serves as codirector of Chabad of Greater Mercer County, according to Daniel Brent.
“We’ve very honored they chose to recognize us,” he said. “They’re lovely people and a valuable asset to the Jewish community.”
Brent added that he and his wife are especially happy to receive recognition as Chabad begins its campaign to build the David and Rose Celler Princeton Chabad Center and Zelda Segal Mikvah on Route 206 in Princeton.
Brent wished the Dubovs “every success in their endeavor.”
Newton, who has davened at Chabad in Princeton for the past 15 years, said he is looking forward to the acceleration of plans to build the new center. “I basically believe the upcoming center needs to get built,” said Newton. “I think Princeton is ready to have its own Chabad House.”
Marchand is also a member of the Jewish Center in Princeton.
“I’ve been very moved by the Dubovs’ dedication to religion,” Marchand said. “I certainly appreciate their dedication to their beliefs and also their concern about me as an individual.”
Princeton dentist Payam Hanian, a native of Iran, said that when he and his family moved to Princeton 10 years ago, they were looking for a Jewish connection, and someone introduced them to the Dubovs.
“The rest is history,” he said. “They’ve been very good to us. It’s been like our own family, really. They definitely had a big part in our spiritual growth.”
As for the recognition that awaits him and his wife at the dinner, Hanian said, “We are very proud. I think it’s definitely a great honor to be honored by an organization at the forefront of Jewish outreach.”