As one president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County wrapped up a two-year term on a strong note, his successor looked to the future with optimism.
Speaking at the annual federation meeting on June 23, outgoing president Seth Gross cited a revamped allocations process, a campaign that raised over $2 million, and the launch of merger talks with the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County (see story, page 8) as highlights of his tenure.
“I’m less green than I was two years ago, but more grey,” he told the crowd of 200 gathered at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick.
Mitchell Frumkin of Kendall Park, installed as Gross’s successor, said Middlesex was on “the cutting edge” among federations in the way it does business, including funding programs rather than institutions.
“We all have an obligation to reach out to the Jewish community and look for ways to support the Jewish community,” the former president of B’nai Tikvah said. “If we don’t support our Jewish community, who else will do that?”
Frumkin is a life member of National Council of Jewish Women, headed a committee pairing Rutgers Hillel students with mentors in the Jewish business community, and has been a longtime board member of the National Jewish Outreach Institute.
He owns a North Brunswick engineering company, Kipcon, Inc., with his wife, Arlene, who also served as president of the Middlesex federation. They have three children, Lauren, Seth, and Adam.
“I’ve been involved with the Jewish community 25 years now,” said Frumkin. “I’ve been to Israel about 12 times, 10 of them on federation missions. One of the things I feel very strongly about is our obligation to support our own Jewish community locally and in Israel. Everybody I’ve met here shares the same passion I do to support our Jewish community.”
Susan Antman — the new federation executive director, succeeding the retiring Gerrie Bamira — remarked, “Helping people is the key principle upon which the Jewish federation was founded, and it continues to be our core mission. We can’t fix the world all at once — we do it one day at a time, one person at a time, one deed at a time. Change a life, and we begin to change the world. Together, with determination and strength, we can continue to build a vibrant Jewish future.”
Also speaking was Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Dist. 19), who visited Israel for the first time on a state legislative mission Feb. 28 to March 3 that was sponsored by the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations.
Wisniewski said the most enduring and “surprising” aspect of his visit to Israel was his realization that it is a place where three religions coexist peacefully.
He recalled standing on a Jerusalem rooftop after leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on a Friday evening. He watched Jews gather at the Western Wall as the Muslim call to prayer resounded from the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Until then, Wisniewski acknowledged, “I had the impression that there was some strife and controversy. I saw I was mistaken.”
He also noted “the sense of hope” shown by Israelis despite its hostile neighbors. He spoke of a visit to an Israeli hospital on the Lebanese border that had been the target of shelling attacks but continued to treat Muslims, including victims of Syria’s civil war.
“Many of these victims from Syria had no idea they were going to Israel until they woke up,” Wisniewski said. “I thought it was a magnificent gesture of goodwill and hopefulness on the part of the Israeli doctors and medical personnel. They were treating people who had possibly taken up arms against them…but they were willing to put out a hand to make things better.”
During the meeting, Barbara and Eliot Spack of Edison, life federation board members and longtime volunteers received the President’s Award; Chanie Grunwald, a Judaic studies teacher at Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison was given the annual Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education; outgoing campaign chair and vice president Keith Zimmerman received the Seymour St. Lifer Man of the Year Award for many years of community fund-raising efforts; and Laurie Lachs and Barbara Reiss of East Brunswick and Erica Price of Monroe were recognized for their work on the Women’s Philanthropy Winter Wednesdays program.
Members of the J-Team teen philanthropy distributed $12,000 to the following charities: the Major Stuart Adam Wolfer Institute, named in memory of a Jewish soldier killed in Iraq, which assists U.S. troops serving abroad, $1,000; Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in New Brunswick, $1,000; Breaking the Chain through Education, which works to end child slavery in Ghana, $3,500; POAC Autism Services, $4,000; and the American Jewish Joint Distribution committee, $2,500.