The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey welcomed new professional and lay leaders, and celebrated a year of accomplishments at its annual meeting at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick.
At the Dec. 13 meeting, which drew 150 community members, outgoing president Jeffrey Schwartz was thanked for his service; his successor, Cheryl Markbreiter of Ocean Township, was welcomed; and new board members were elected. A panel that included representatives of a number of beneficiary agencies described how federation funds assist a wide array of community members.
Markbreiter said she will call on her extensive background as a volunteer in the Jewish community to fulfill her role as president. Formerly an accountant, Markbreiter has been a full-time volunteer for some time. She served as cochair of the federation’s Super Sunday fund-raiser seven times, and as both board secretary and treasurer of the former Jewish Federation of Monmouth County before its merger in 2015 with the former Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County. A member of Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst and a life member of Hadassah, Markbreiter was on the board of the JCC of Greater Monmouth County in Deal and a committee member planning the annual tribute dinner of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Monmouth County.
Susan Antman, who will become federation executive director Jan. 1 — following the departure of current CEO Keith Krivitzky, who announced three days before the meeting that he would step down at the end of the month (see story on page 1) — expressed her appreciation that Markbreiter; Schwartz of Highland Park, who will continue as head of financial resource development; “and our entire executive committee, board, and leaders’ council are committed to the collective needs in Jewish life.”
“They selflessly give of their time, talent, and teamwork on behalf of others so the community can better care for the vulnerable, invest in a strong future, respond when crisis strikes, and much more,” said Antman.
The sudden resignation of Krivitzky — who was not at the meeting because, he had told NJJN by phone the day before, he had a meeting the next morning in Washington — received little mention. NJJN asked several attendees about his resignation, but none said they were aware of it. NJJN also asked several board members about Krivitzky, but they declined to comment, saying that they were told not to speak about the matter.
Antman described how federation dollars support programs benefiting many people. “It’s not about who has the job of executive director,” she said. “It’s about the elderly neighbor who can now live in dignity and safety because of our help. It’s about the family suffering from a mental health crisis that is now getting help because of us…. And it’s about all the members of the Jewish community who deserve to gather in safety.”
Schwartz, who said that supporting Jewish communal life has been a passion of his since his youth, listed ways the federation helped the community in the past year, including: 40,000 kosher meals-on-wheels delivered to the homebound, funding almost 6,000 mental health counseling sessions, bringing $1 million in government security grants to local institutions, helping Rutgers Hillel serve 300-400 weekly Shabbat dinners, and engaging more than 3,000 children through PJ Library and camp grants.
“Our greatest achievement, investing in a strong Jewish future,” Schwartz said, “has been through the Life & Legacy program,” which in 2018 cultivated gifts worth a future value of $11 million. The gifts are earmarked by donors to one of the 10 organizations, synagogues, or institutions participating in the program, which is jointly funded by federation and a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.
During the panel discussion, Leslie Kornfeld, director of operations at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Monmouth County, cited federation support for programs helping seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, who, she said, “are so appreciative of everything they get.”
Jeff Einbond, president of Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, said one of the biggest problems in providing much-needed mental health services is stigma. To address that issue for observant clients, Einbond said, the agency hired Orthodox therapists “to be culturally responsive to the issue of shanda [shame].”
Panelist Cynthia Wolff grew up in Metuchen and is now a New York resident. The daughter of former Middlesex federation president Richard Wolff, she said she learned of federation’s impact when she was a child. “The legacy given to me by my father brought joy to my life,” she said, and led her to get involved with federation in New York and to honor her family’s commitment to the local federation through a legacy grant.
Rutgers Hillel senior development officer Barbara Cohen said federation provided invaluable help in assessing what its new building on the New Brunswick campus needed, and making sure it got a security grant to meet those needs.
Ava Schwartz, a 16-year-old Highland Park resident who received a federation Israel travel grant, also helped lead a recent federation-sponsored teen summit on Israel. She said the trip to Israel was “one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I love to talk about it with other teens.”