Bob and Joan Rechnitz both discovered early in their lives the talents they have put to work in their beloved Two River Theater in Red Bank — Joan’s in art and design, Bob’s in acting, writing, and directing.
Their commitment to social service has similarly deep roots.
The couple, who live in Middletown, established the theater in 1994 and — despite predictions that such an ambitious professional venue couldn’t survive so far from city crowds — they have seen it grow in stature and audience appeal.
The dedication that has engendered that success has also been the hallmark of their support of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County.
Their contributions to the federation will be honored at the federation’s annual Major Gifts and Campaign Kickoff Event, to be held Thursday, Nov. 18, at Congregation Magen David in Ocean.
“Bob and Joan have been very significant players in Monmouth for many years,” said federation president Stuart Abraham. “The Two River Theater is a jewel in the community, and their support and generosity to the federation is well known and much appreciated.”
Growing up in Pueblo, Colo., Bob Rechnitz said, he learned from his father about the importance of supporting worthy causes.
“He was a wonderful man with a very highly developed social sense,” he told NJ Jewish News.
For Bob, that translated most powerfully into support for the emerging State of Israel. “I was an adolescent, at the most vulnerable age exposed to the unspeakable horror of Nazism,” he explained. “For me, the creation of Israel was the most wonderful thing.”
So when he and Joan came to live in Monmouth County 45 years ago, they began donating to causes in support of Israel and then to the Monmouth federation.
The Rechnitzes are not new to acclaim. Bob, who taught American literature for 35 years at what is now Monmouth University in West Long Branch, in 1996 was named one of “20 New Jerseyans to Watch” in the new century by The Star-Ledger. In 2001, Monmouth University awarded him the Maurice Pollak Award for Distinguished Public Service.
Joan, who has served for years on a number of different boards, in 2001 was awarded the Community Commitment from the Heart Award by the Volunteer Center of Monmouth County.
She and Bob met at Colorado University, when she was a sophomore and he was working on his doctorate. They have three children: Emily Rechnitz Paladino, who is a published poet, and twins, Adam, who has a string of brewery-pubs, and Joshua, a promoter of cycling as a sport and mode of transport.
Joe Hollander is cochairing the Nov. 18 event with Roberta Krantz. He said that the Rechnitzes have been “phenomenally generous in their support of the Jewish community in Monmouth, consistently and for so many years. It felt like an appropriate time to say thank you to them.”