Honoring two who ‘give back’
When Lauren Reich of Manalapan and Chris Katz of Wayside began to volunteer with Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, they each had a simple reason. Reich, whose husband Nathan’s parents are Holocaust survivors, wanted to “give back” to an organization that helps individuals and families in need. Katz wanted to support federation, but was also intrigued by the individual agencies that fall under “federation’s umbrella.”
The result: longtime leadership roles for both women, not only with federation and its Women’s Philanthropy but also with Birthright, the JCC of Greater Monmouth County, and Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Monmouth County.
Their accomplishments will be celebrated when the two are honored on Thursday evening, May 12, at the Women’s Philanthropy Main Event. The dinner and tribute program will be held at Congregation Magen David in Ocean.
Both women exemplify the evening’s theme, “Women Whose Homes and Families Extend Beyond the Front Door,” said Robin Wander, event chair and Women’s Philanthropy outreach chair. Moreover, she told NJJN, “they are both committed to supporting events and programs to involve young women in federation.”
Reich, a mother of three, chaired federation’s first “Think Tank,” which led to her becoming vice-president of federation’s Manalapan office. She served as cochair of outreach, president of Women’s Philanthropy, and, like Katz, is a Lion of Judah — signifying a minimum gift of $5,000 to federation.
Currently, Reich is cochair of federation’s Birthright Israel program and is a board member of the Northeast Regional Council of Birthright.
Last year, she and her Birthright cochair Alan Winters raised $60,000 in just two months to send 20 Monmouth County young men and women to Israel Jan. 2-12, on the federation’s first dedicated Birthright trip. “Each trip costs $3,000 per person and ever since the economic downturn, it’s been harder to fund Birthright trips,” Reich explained to NJJN. “Our community stepped up to the plate and we raised half the money.” Taglit-Birthright Israel Foundation provided the matching funds. A second Monmouth Birthright trip planned for this summer is already completely paid for.
Katz, a Realtor in Coldwell Banker’s Middletown office, joined federation in 1997 when she and her husband, Todd, participated in Tomorrow’s Leadership Council. At the end of the program, they went on a mission to Israel, where, she said, she saw firsthand the many and varied ways people benefit from federation donations.
Upon her return, she immediately became involved in federation’s Young Adult Division and now serves as Women’s Philanthropy oversight chair. Her philanthropy and leadership, however, have not been limited to federation.
When the oldest of her four daughters started preschool at the JCC of Greater Monmouth County in 2000, she volunteered for committees (“I wanted to have an impact on what my kids were learning,” she said) and eventually sat on its executive board.
In 2002, she joined the board of JF&CS and served as president from 2008 to 2009 and is now board chair. JF&CS’ mission appealed to her immediately. “I loved that the organization helped everyone,” she said. “Tikun olam means healing the whole world, not just the Jewish world.”
Both women stressed the importance of engaging teenage girls and young women in philanthropy. Katz said that her daughter Kylie, who recently celebrated her bat mitzva, used her mitzva project to benefit clients of JF&CS. Katz also cited new federation activities aimed at mothers and daughters, including yoga and spa nights.
“The goal is two-fold,” she said. “First we want to provide a fun experience for the moms and daughters to share. Second, it’s a way to have women interact, in order to trade ideas and learn from each other.”
Reich said she believes that accomplished women can inspire other women. “For example, when I first got involved in federation, I looked up to the women who were Lions of Judah and I tried to emulate them. I hope that I can be as good a role model for the next generation as the previous one was for me.”