Lee Livingston, who has ended his three-year tenure as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, turned to a New Jersey rock legend when summing up his own philosophy of community service.
“I always think of that line from Bruce Springsteen: ‘When they said sit down, I stood up,’” he said, quoting Springsteen’s song “Growin’ Up.”
Livingston stood up in front of a crowd of 300 who gathered at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick June 14 at the federation’s annual meeting. He turned over the reins to Arlene Frumkin of Kendall Park.
Federation executive director Gerrie Bamira said that “by example, Arlene Frumkin creates a spirit of giving and hope; together with her leadership, I look forward to meeting the mission of the federation.”
In his remarks Livingston recounted many successes in the last three years, despite the grim economic climate, that have helped Jews locally and in places around the world.
He was also honored at the meeting by the United Way of Central Jersey, where he is a board member, with its Hometown Heroes Award.
“I believe service to the community defines you as a serious person and as a serious Jew,” said Livingston as he spoke of work done by federation and its partner agencies. That work includes helping the elderly and Holocaust survivors, providing kosher meals-on-wheels and other programs for the disadvantaged, and giving camp scholarships and other assistance to those hit hard by the economic downturn.
“We have helped your neighbor,” said Livingston. “I know we have helped someone you know.”
Helping to introduce to Livingston, Steven Weinraub of East Brunswick told how Livingston’s efforts are helping him fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.
The 29-year-old is confined to a wheelchair because of a non-fatal form of muscular dystrophy. Two years ago, when his specially equipped minivan became inoperative and his family was unable to pay the more than $110,000 replacement cost, the federation referred him to the Jewish Social Service Committee of New Brunswick and Highland Park, of which Livingston is treasurer.
The committee launched a fund, jumpstarting it with a $10,000 contribution, and Weinraub is expected to have his van by the end of the summer.
“This is a prime example of Lee and his generosity,” said Weinraub. “Lee jumped at helping me, and two-and-a-half years later, I will be getting back my independence.”
Livingston was also introduced by Rabbi Bennett Miller of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, where Livingston is a former president.
Miller himself was honored by federation, where he is a life board member, as only the second rabbi ever to be named a life trustee of the federation. Miller joined Yakov Hilsenrath, rabbi emeritus of the Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth, in recognition of his years of service to the community.
Others recognized at the meeting were: campaign cochair Keith Zimmerman, President’s Award; federation board member and JFVS vice president Paul Rovinsky, the Seymour St. Lifer Man of the Year Award; federation volunteer Arline Kane, the Sidney and Shirley Godis Volunteer of the Year Award; and Winter Wednesdays program organizers Melissa Jerushalamy and Randi Ostrove, the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Leadership Award.
Elise Berlin, a teacher at Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen and Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison received the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education — cosponsored by federation — from Stephan Gross. Federation associate executive director Susan Antman was honored for her 10 years with federation.
Other federation officers are Marilyn Goldsmith, Seth Gross, Barry Sherman, Dr. Murray Katz, Sandy Lenger, and Keith Zimmerman, vice presidents; Henry Lerner, secretary; Meryl Gonchar, assistant secretary; Gary Busman, treasurer; and Michael Baker, assistant treasurer.
A profile of new federation president Arlene Frumkin will appear in the July 6 issue of New Jersey Jewish News.