After all the hard work of the past two years — the meetings and negotiations and diplomacy and paperwork — it was time to bask in accomplishment, as lay and professional members of the newly established Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ celebrated July 31 with speeches, blessings, songs, and even dance.
Gov. Chris Christie was among the speakers as the new federation, the 10th largest in North America, celebrated the merger of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ and the Jewish Federation of Central NJ.
The launch event, held at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany, drew a slew of VIPs in addition to the governor, who spoke of the legislation he signed into law that morning meant to tighten economic pressure on Iran.
Other guests included Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Israeli consul general for the tristate area; Speaker of the NJ Assembly Sheila Oliver (D-Dist. 34); and State Sen. (and former governor) Richard J. Codey (D-Dist. 27); and a cadre of state and local legislators and mayors.
Christie said the new state sanctions on Iran — denying public contracts to those engaged in investment activity in Iran’s energy or finance sectors — was part of a state and federal response to Iran’s “continued pursuit of an illicit nuclear program, unconventional weapons development, a deteriorating human rights situation, support for international terrorism, and a continued threat to the State of Israel.”
Added Christie: “America has no greater friend than the State of Israel, and each and every elected official who has a position of responsibility in the United States should be standing up and doing exactly the same thing that the elected officials you see here, along with me, have now done in New Jersey.”
He then went on to laud the merger. “I’m thrilled to be here to help celebrate with you the bringing together of these two great organizations to make one even stronger, better one over the course of the next number of years,” Christie said.
“Government couldn’t and, in my view, shouldn’t try to stand in substitution for organizations like this,” he continued. “What government needs to do is encourage organizations like this to continue to grow and prosper so that you can continue to work with all the different communities in the state to try to develop greater understandings, greater cooperation, and ultimately greater success for everyone.”
The event moved from the foyer of the community campus to its conference room, where the audience sat for remarks by Lori Klinghoffer, the president of the federation, and Julie Lipsett-Singer, the immediate past president of the Central federation. Benedictions were offered by Rabbi Mark Mallach of Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael of Springfield and Joshua Hess of Congregation Anshe Chesed of Linden.
Speaking on behalf of the national Jewish Federations of North America was Kathy Manning, the outgoing chair of its board of trustees, who had come to Whippany from Greensboro, NC, for the event.
“The decision to merge required your leaders to look beyond their own self-interest,” she said, acknowledging the “compromise, adjustment, and uncertainty” involved in a change like this. “You are leading the way,” she added, “and other Jewish communities will be watching your progress, and cheering, and looking to you for leadership.”
The speeches were followed by a performance by Neshama Carlebach and her band. Citing her famous musician father, the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, she spoke of the great good people can do when they join forces and reach out to those in need. During her final number, the audience rose to its feet, and Klinghoffer and Manning led a winding spiral of dancers representing both communities.
“This is a celebration of what the world should look like, when people come together to make it a better place,” said Noga Maliniak, the federation’s executive shliha, or Israel emissary.