Facing the burdens of a woeful economy and the scourge of resurgent anti-Semitism around the world, a Jewish Federation of Monmouth County leader challenged its supporters to join the organization in “bringing us all back to the community.”
At the federation’s annual meeting — held June 24 at Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen — more then 80 people gathered for end-of-the-year messages and the election and installation of officers and board members.
President-elect Joe Hollander, who will take office next year after a one-year interim presidency by Stuart Abraham, spoke about meeting those challenges through the strength of what he termed a “grand minyan.”
“This is our collective birthright,” he said, “and we need to continue to make our Jewish community relevant.”
Quoting author Elie Wiesel, he said, “A Jew alone is vulnerable. That’s why Jews must not be alone.
“The Jewish community is our covenantal bond with each other. As Jews, we do not exist alone. We cannot even pray alone. With this bond comes responsibility to each other and to the rest of the world, all bound with the glue of tzedaka.”
Newly installed as president, Abraham said it was just such a passion for community that led him to first get involved with federation in 1967. He served as board chair from 2004 to 2006 and as president from 2002 to 2004. He is returning for a second stint as president, succeeding Elise Feldman, who will now serve as board chair.
“My wife JoAnn and I joined federation because of the threat to Israel during the Six-Day War,” Abraham said. “We knew that everyone would take care of the environment and the museums, but no one else would take care of the Jews.
“I learned about being responsible for Jews around the world and around the block. Federation’s role is to make sure the dollars we give are allocated to the most pressing needs.”
As he resumes his position at the helm of the federation, Abraham said, he intends to broaden the search for active volunteers and encourage others to renew their motivation to serve the community. “It’s time for the younger generation to become more involved,” he said, pointing out that three members of the executive committee — outreach vice president Todd Katz, allocations vice president Jonathan Barofsky, and secretary Albert Bloomfield — all followed in the footsteps of their parents, who were Jewish community activists.
In an interview with NJJN following the meeting, Abraham said the younger generation can emulate role models like Ruth Hyman for her lifelong dedication to federation, the JCC in Deal that bears her name, and the wider Jewish community. Hyman, 90, opened the meeting by performing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikva,” just weeks after undergoing heart surgery.
Abraham, Feldman, and executive director Howard Gases urged those assembled to support the federation’s initiative to sponsor its own Monmouth County group for Birthright Israel, which provides free trips for Jewish young adults. Federation’s goal is to raise $60,000 dollars to match a grant from the Birthright Israel Foundation.
Past president William Schwartz conducted a ceremony honoring Feldman. Beth Ahm’s Rabbi Michael Pont delivered a d’var Torah in honor of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, on the day before the fourth anniversary of his abduction by Hamas.
Federation also paid tribute to Rabbis Michael Goldstein of the former Temple Beth Torah, Jonathan Roos of Monmouth Reform Temple, Yerachmiel Shapiro of Congregation Beth Shalom in Red Bank, and Gordon Yaffe of the former Temple Beth El, all of whom are leaving or have recently left the community.
Reemphasizing the importance of community, Laura Krantz, president of Jewish Family & Children’s Services, a federation beneficiary agency, spoke of the involvement that is an intrinsic part of her family life. “You have to be involved in what’s going on in your community, especially the Jewish community. If we don’t get involved and help Jewish causes, no one else will,” Krantz said. “My kids are taught that it’s not a choice; it’s expected of you. So they’re right there with me, volunteering on Super Sunday and helping out at the food pantry.”