As the one Jewish member of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, board vice president Pat Sebold has taken the lead in the body’s celebration of May as Jewish Heritage Month, a practice now in its second year.
In that capacity, it was up to her to select honorees. “Oh, that’s easy — there are so many terrific people to choose from,” she said.
And from that abundance, she said this year’s choice was an obvious one: her longtime friends and associates, Short Hills resident Steven Klinghoffer, a former president of what is now the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and his wife Lori, currently the federation’s outgoing president.
The May 29 event, held at the Hall of Records in Newark on May 29, is part of the Freeholders’ year-round spectrum of programs honoring different ethnic and cultural groups in the community.
Also participating were Freeholder board president Blonnie Watson, Cantor Perry Fine of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, and Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz of Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston. Earlier in the month, Dantowitz received the Star of Essex Award from Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo.
Sebold said her own long involvement with the organized Jewish community came about through her friendship with Steve Klinghoffer. Describing him and Lori as “the dynamic duo,” she went on to say, “They truly complement each other, without one overshadowing the other.”
Lori is a member of the board of directors of her late father’s Valcor Engineering Corporation, and she and Steve are founders and heads of WPI Communications, a Springfield-based firm providing print and on-line editorial services for businesses.
Steve’s community roles range from membership of the board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to serving as commissioner for the Essex County Improvement Authority. He has been a lay leader with Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, the Jewish Agency for Israel, New Jersey-Israel Commission, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Essex County Tax Study Commission, and Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield.
Lori has served with many groups within the federation, and led several of them, and has held a number of national positions, ranging from nominating chair for the Jewish Federations of North America to past president, campaign chair, and lifetime board member of National Women’s Philanthropy.
Accepting the award, Steve focused on the Jewish presence in Essex County. As a student at Columbia High School in Maplewood, he said, he was given an assignment to list the Jewish organizations in the area. “And that was before the Internet or Google,” he pointed out. He assembled a map crowded with push pins that proved “an eye-opener that I carry to this day.” He added, “I feel very fortunate to live in Essex County, where everyone is encouraged to participate.”
Lori did a similar exercise three years ago, making full use, she admitted, of the Internet, and landed up with an even more impressive 314 pins in her map, including all the organizations serving the elderly and the disabled.
“I’m proud to be part of that safety net,” she said.