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Friends are co-honorees at federation’s Main Event
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Friends are co-honorees at federation’s Main Event

Main Event honorees Janice Weinberg, left, and Lisa Israel worked together on Central federation’s “Foodraiser.” Photo by Elaine Durbach
Main Event honorees Janice Weinberg, left, and Lisa Israel worked together on Central federation’s “Foodraiser.” Photo by Elaine Durbach

Two women whose friendship bonded over Jewish community activism will be honored at the Main Event of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey’s Women’s Campaign.

Janice Weinberg has been involved in federation work for many years. Among many other leadership roles, she has served on the education committee, as chair of the Women’s Campaign, and then chair of the overall Annual Campaign. But what brought home to her most powerfully the value of federation efforts was something personal: a family wedding that took place a while back in California.

Weinberg, a former teacher turned interior decorator, lives with her husband, Norman, also a federation activist, in Scotch Plains. They have two grown daughters.

She told NJ Jewish News that two years ago, a stepcousin of hers was marrying a young woman from Iran. She had managed to get to the United States a few years earlier, but her parents and two of her siblings were still in Tehran. Thanks to the efforts of people in the federation system, working with the Jewish Agency for Israel, those family members were able to escape Iran.

“Her mother and sisters arrived in Los Angeles two days before the wedding,” Weinberg said, her eyes filling with tears, recalling that longed-for reunion. The bride’s father managed to follow some time later. “That’s the kind of thing this system can do for people.”

Weinberg will receive the Woman of Valor Award at the Main Event, the annual gala dinner of the federation’s Women’s Campaign, which will take place on Wednesday, May 5, at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston.

Lisa Israel, the other honoree, will receive the Rhoda Rosenbach Young Leadership Award.

Israel, an adoption lawyer who lives in Westfield — where she grew up — said Weinberg is one of the people who inspired her to get involved with the federation. The two women worked together on the highly successful Supermarket Sweep Foodraisers this year and last, to replenish the Kosher Food Pantry of the Jewish Family Service of Central NJ. Israel cochaired the event with Weinberg and fellow federation leading light Elyse Deutsch.

“This is the kind of effort that really motivates me,” Israel told NJJN. She said she hopes her three daughters are encouraged to get involved in community service, but her primary task — done with the encouragement and support of her husband, Jon — is simply “to help people who need help, in the Jewish community and beyond it.”

At least some of that motivation comes from her background. Her father escaped from his home on the island of Rhodes with the help of a Muslim man before World War II. “If he could do that for my father, shouldn’t I be just as willing to do what I can for other people?” Israel asked.

Last December, she served as co-vice chair of Super Sunday, together with Ellen Zimmerman. This December, they will chair the mega fund-raiser for 2011.

Shari Bloomberg, who is chairing the Main Event with Stacie Friedman, said the two honorees were chosen from a short list of nominees “as they exemplify the meaning of their respective awards.”

She went on to say, “Janice is a Lion of Judah and has given herself tirelessly to federation for years both through Women’s Campaign and the larger federation body. She has served and chaired too many committees and projects to name and continues to serve on the federation executive board. She is a role model for all of us.”

“Lisa,” Bloomberg said, “is an up-and-coming leader who not only was a driving force together with Janice and Elyse Deutsch in the creation of the Supermarket Sweep, but also developed new programming for this past Super Sunday.”

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