Federation’s goal for 2012 is to reconnect, re-engage, and re-imagine with the Princeton Mercer Bucks community, president Mark Merkovitz told nearly 170 supporters at the Campaign 2012 Kickoff Dinner.
“We want to enhance the role that federation plays as the premier Jewish fund-raising organization and convener of big ideas that will make a positive difference in not only our lives, but those of our children, grandchildren, and Jewish generations throughout the world,” said Merkovitz, a Princeton Junction resident.
In pursuit of those goals, Jewish Federation of PMB aims to raise $1.8 million from all sources, executive director Andrew Frank told NJJN.
“Our kickoff was a great start toward these efforts, bringing together some of our most prominent community leaders in an evening of education, social bonding, and inspiration,” he said.
And, he added, from the financial perspective, the event was the most successful in five years, raising “well over $400,000.”
The event, held Oct. 23 at Greenacres Country Club in Lawrenceville, featured speakers Micah Halpern, syndicated columnist and political commentator, and Jerry Silverman, president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federations of North America.
In his address, Silverman encouraged attendees to “give until it feels really good.”
“Give until it feels that you can really make your dreams happen,” he said. Silverman colored his speech with examples of the many ways federation has an impact on the world, such as helping more than two million Russian Jews relocate to Israel and North America, and recently enabling a new immigrant to Israel get life-saving medical treatment.
“Princeton Mercer Bucks: You care for the vulnerable, act quickly in times of disaster, and invest in a vibrant Jewish community,” Silverman said. “You uphold the values of federation every day.”
He described his transition from the private sector to the nonprofit humanitarian work of JFNA. For nearly 25 years, he held a range of executive positions at the Stride Rite Corp., Keds Corp., and Levi Strauss & Co. Before coming to JFNA, he made his name in Jewish nonprofits as the president of the Foundation for Jewish Camp.
“In 1971, my family was one of those families you don’t even realize federation helps. When we moved to Cleveland, Ohio, we had no income or savings, and my mom could not find a job to support her children,” he said. “One day, she came home glowing. Federation had hired her, and it completely changed her life by giving her self-esteem and independence.”
‘Core of community’
Halpern also praised the audience for their community activism.
“The Gemara speaks about the concept of builders. You are a society of builders who build here in New Jersey, in Israel, and around the world,” said Halpern, who divides his time between New York City and Jerusalem.
Halpern spoke about major events unfolding in the Middle East. “We are now in an election season during which foreign policy comes front and center. Our role is to help our leaders make the best decisions. The more we know, the better informed our leaders will be,” he said.
“In the Middle East we know that zebras don’t change their stripes so quickly and easily. In the U.S., we live in a society where change is so simple. The Middle East is a classic traditional society where things change very slowly,” Halpern said.
Event chairs were Women’s Campaign president Stephanie Will of Skillman, Women’s Philanthropy campaign chair Andrea Silverstein of Princeton, and campaign vice president Karen Anderson of Princeton. The evening included a cocktail reception and dinner.
Dr. Elayne Grossman of Lawrenceville sang the national anthems, and Rabbi Stuart Pollack of Pennington, president of the Board of Rabbis of Princeton Mercer Bucks, recited the Hamotzi. Other rabbis in attendance included Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Beth El Synagogue, East Windsor; Rabbi Adam Feldman and Rabbi Annie Tucker, both of the Jewish Center of Princeton; and Rabbi Daniel Grossman of Adath Israel Congregation, Lawrenceville.
“The kickoff is the one time of year when everyone gets together to share a common identity and common beliefs in our Jewish community and how we sustain it and support it both locally and abroad,” Silverstein told NJJN. “It’s also a really important time to remind everyone, especially those who are new to federation, why federation is truly valuable and how much it serves as the core of our community.”