Lee Murnick, chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s Young Leadership Campaign, and Ariel Nelson, treasurer and a trustee of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest, are the recipients of the 2015 Julius and Bessie Cohn Young Leadership Award.
They will be honored at the annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ on Tuesday, June 16.
Since 1956, the award has been presented to two individuals “who have demonstrated growth and leadership in service to federation and the Greater MetroWest community with additional opportunities for leadership development.”
Murnick, a New Yorker who works in her family’s Roseland real estate company, has a long list of contributions to Jewish causes.
A graduate of the federation’s 2012 Arthur Borinsky Young Leadership Development Program, she will become a federation board member in July. In August, she will begin participating in the selective two-year Wexner Heritage Program, which is designed to develop and strengthen the skills of top Jewish communal leaders.
She grew up in Newark and Short Hills and attended her parents’ synagogue, Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange. Her philanthropic instincts began at an early age.
“As a child my parents always gave me change to put in the tzedaka box at Hebrew school, and I always contributed to plant trees in Israel through the Jewish National Fund,” she wrote in a May 17 e-mail to NJ Jewish News.
Her first involvement as an adult came on a mission to Argentina in 2002 with 160 other young philanthropists from across North America, when the nation was suffering from a deep economic recession.
“I was so moved by how much these Jewish families had been through and how they were still looking to make sure that they could provide better lives for their children. So much so that there were families making the decisions to let their teenagers and 20-something children make aliya to Israel alone where they would have a better chance to flourish,” she wrote.
After returning home, Murnick began taking part in social action programs in New York. But being what she called a “Jersey girl,” she decided that “Greater MetroWest is where I belong.” She is a graduate of Duke University and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Cornell University. She is also a member of the national council of trustees of National Jewish Health, a Denver hospital that specializes in respiratory, cardiac, immune, and allergic disorders.
From the time he moved to Livingston in 2002, Nelson and his wife, Melissa Feldman, have become deeply involved in the Greater MetroWest community.
He began as a volunteer at the federation’s Super Sunday phonathon and quickly became a member of the Young Leadership Council, where he took part in the Borinsky program. He has served as the Young Leadership Campaign’s chair and vice chair.
Like Murnick, he will represent Greater MetroWest as a participant in the Wexner Heritage Program.
In addition to his role as treasurer of the Jewish Community Foundation of GMW, he is a board member and treasurer of Livingston’s Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center.
“I grew up in a Jewishly involved family in Passaic, and my commitment has been ingrained in me from childhood,” he told NJJN in a May 15 phone interview. “I learned from the example of my parents.”
Nelson, who is Orthodox, embraces a diverse view of Jewish peoplehood. “I actually view all of us as one people. My mother is a Holocaust survivor, and Hitler did not differentiate” among Jews, and “neither should we,” he said. “I can show that, yes, the Orthodox are part of the community. We are all Jewish people.”
The Nelsons’ three children, who range in age from 10 to 16, attend Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School. He chaired Kushner’s Day School Affordability Committee and has been a member of Livingston’s Vision 20/20 (long-range planning) and Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committees.
A chief financial officer at Bloomberg LP, Nelson holds a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University.
“The award is humbling but exciting,” he said. “I do what I am supposed to do, but I think the recognition is a testament to what the community does when people come and contribute. It is more about giving back to the community than me getting this award.”