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Concert to celebrate community harmony
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Concert to celebrate community harmony

Benefit honors couple who were instrumental in federations’ merger

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Dr. Dorothy and Gerry Cantor of Westfield will be honored at the 16th Annual UJA Benefit Concert for their leadership of the historic Central New Jersey Jewish community for over 40 years.

The concert, featuring klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, will take place on Sunday, April 21, at 3 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. (A dessert reception will take place before the concert at 2.)

Gerry Cantor, a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch in Short Hills, was president of the Jewish Federation of Central NJ for the second time when it began merger talks with the former United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ. By all accounts, he was instrumental in seeing that the smaller Central federation’s interests were well served with the creation of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

He continues to advocate on behalf of the historic Central area, which included Union and parts of Somerset counties. He welcomed the decision to honor someone from the former Central region “to make sure Central New Jersey felt represented,” he told NJJN in a conversation on March 28. “We don’t want to lose the DNA of either group. We want to make something better. So far it’s turning out well, but it’s too early to take that victory lap. Time will tell.”

Cantor is a firm believer in kol Israel areivim zeh le zeh (All of Israel is responsible for one another), and in maintaining federations as the central mailing address for the larger Jewish community. “Everyone can’t have their own firehouse and their own fire truck,” he said.

Cantor said he learned to embrace Jewish philanthropy from his parents. “My mom and dad were very active in the Jewish community in Jersey City,” he said. “I remember them raising money for Palestine. And I remember Eleanor Roosevelt coming to one of their meetings. But even better than Eleanor Roosevelt, for a teenage boy, was Bess Myerson. Do you know what it’s like for a teenage boy to have Miss America at your home? I figured this Jewish philanthropy thing was a good idea!”

Cantor has been a voting delegate and committee chair of the Jewish Agency Assembly in Israel for over 20 years. Currently cochair of the Ness Fund, which supports business development in the Negev, he is a past president of the board of Rutgers Hillel and was the first lay president of the Interfaith Council for the Homeless of Union County. He also received the Prudential National Pacesetter Award in Volunteerism and has spoken and served the homeless in numerous synagogues and churches. In his spare time, he is an actor and member of the Screen Actors Guild/AFTRA.

Dorothy Cantor, a psychologist with a private practice in Westfield, is president of the American Psychological Foundation and past president of the New Jersey Psychological Association. She is chair-elect of the board of Rutgers University and was recently inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni as a graduate of its Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. She was also a cofounder of Women in Psychology for Legislative Action, a national PAC.

The Cantors belong to three synagogues: Temple Emanu-El of Westfield, the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan, which they attend when they are staying at the city apartment they keep, and the Isaac M. Wise Temple in Cincinnati, where one of their children belongs with her family. The Cantors have two children and five grandchildren.

Gerry Cantor said he loves the idea of the concert, which is new to the former Central community.

“Dinners are lovely, but a concert is a cool way to bring the community together for a fund-raiser. It’s just a little different,” he said. He loves music, and plays several instruments “terribly,” including the piano and the banjo. “My real instrument is the ukulele. Really! I just bought my fourth — a tenor uke that’s electric.”

But the concert is ultimately just a rest between movements.

“We appreciate being asked,” he said. “But after this is over, the work goes on.”

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