Former federation president remembered as ‘dedicated leader’
Arnold Gelfman, 75, put ‘family, community at top of agenda’
Arnold J. Gelfman was remembered as a “dedicated leader’ and “consensus builder” who “loved being Jewish.”
The resident of Ocean died July 23, 2019, at age 75 at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.
Gelfman was president (1990-92) of the former Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, which became, through the 2015 merger with the Middlesex federation, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey. He also served on the boards of the JCC of Greater Monmouth County and of both Congregation Brothers of Israel in Long Branch and Temple Beth El — now merged into Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst. He was a congregant of both Brothers of Israel and Torat El.
Gelfman helped create “the blueprint for the Jewish community’s future” about 20 years ago when he headed the Monmouth federation’s strategic planning initiative, said JoAnn Abraham of Manalapan, who was on that federation’s board and a leader in the strategic planning process. She also was editor of The Jewish Voice, a predecessor to NJJN, during the time Gelfman served as chair of the paper’s publishers’ committee. In the early 2000s, he served on the NJJN board.
Gelfman, said Abraham, “was smart and came up with long-range strategies to engage young people at a time when people’s attitudes toward philanthropy were evolving.” His focus, she said, was on “how to move forward with a big-thinking blueprint to continue to grow the Jewish community….”
“Arnie was a trusted presence on the federation board, always offering carefully-considered and well-informed advice,” said Cheryl Markbreiter, the current president of the Heart federation, who served alongside Gelfman for many years of their overlapping board tenures. “Staying involved and engaged for decades as he did, Arnie was able to bring the big picture into clear focus on any issue.”
Abraham said Gelfman was able to put his professional expertise to full use on behalf of the federation. He retired in 2016 after 45 years at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, where he served first as the college’s director of planning and special projects, then director of academic support services, and, from 1992, as executive director of planning, assessment, and research. He also cofounded the college’s Career Clinic, a nonprofit testing service, and was president and owner of Career Choice Institute of New Jersey, a consulting firm that provided employability assessment services to attorneys and insurance companies.
Bonnie Komito of Manalapan was the Monmouth federation executive director during Gelfman’s tenure as president. He was, she said, “a dedicated leader…, a team builder, a consensus builder who used his work and professional skills to bring people together.”
He was also “the kindest, nicest human being, who got along with everybody,” said Komito. “He found a way to do it all. He was really a wonderful man who put his family and community at the top of his agenda throughout his life.”
Komito said the period of Gelfman’s presidency “was an exciting time.” Operation Exodus — the effort to bring Soviet Jews to Israel and America — was in full swing, and multiple federation campaigns were being conducted. Gelfman helped lead a last-minute federation mission to Israel in 1990 on the eve of the Gulf War, “when we were about the only tourists in Israel.”
Current federation executive director Susan Antman said Gelfman “created a legacy with the power to guide federation supporters, partners, and leaders for generations to come.”
“Arnold’s combination of laser-sharp strategic thinking about the Jewish future with his profound concern for Jews in need here and now will continue to embody, inform, and inspire all we do,” she said.
Born in Northampton, Mass., Gelfman earned an undergraduate degree at University of Massachusetts, and a master’s from Western Michigan University, and began his doctoral studies at American University.
He served on the Ocean Township Planning and Zoning Board and was president of the Kepwell Park Homeowners Association. The recipient of many community and professional awards, Gelfman also enjoyed sports, especially the New York Yankees.
Gelfman, added Abraham, “loved being Jewish and being part of a Jewish community and Israel…. He really cared about people. He wanted everyone to succeed and be the best they could be.”
She described him as “one of those gems you rarely see, always positive and a joy to be around.”
Gelfman is survived by Margo, his wife of 43 years; his son, Austin, of Sherman Oaks, Calf.; and his brother, Richard (Lenore) Gelfman of Columbia, Md.
Services were held July 26 with arrangements by Woolley-Boglioli Funeral Home, Long Branch. Memorial contributions may be made to Monmouth Medical Center Foundation.