Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, as keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, emphasized the importance of the strong ties between New Jersey and Israel, saying the relationship “is critical to both states, economically and culturally” and that their economies “have become partners, with New Jersey exporting more than $700 million annually to Israel.”
The gathering was held Aug. 12 at the Jewish Community Center of Central NJ on the Wilf campus in Scotch Plains.
The State Association’s slate of officers was also confirmed at the meeting. Serving a third year as president will be Mark Levenson, an attorney at the Newark law firm of Sills Cummis & Gross and chair of the NJ-Israel Commission. Guadagno expressed gratitude to Levenson and the State Association “for their leadership in working for closer ties between New Jersey and Israel and advocating on behalf of New Jersey’s vibrant Jewish community, including those least able to do for themselves.”
Levenson said the meeting “allowed us to formally and gratefully acknowledge the access and relationships afforded our community by the [Christie] administration and Lt. Gov. Guadagno personally on such important matters as support for Holocaust survivors; better services for seniors, the most vulnerable, and persons with disabilities; the fight against rising anti-Semitism, intolerance, and religious-based hatred; and maintaining a strong New Jersey-Israel relationship.”
Among the State Association’s achievements this year, said Levenson, were “securing increased state budget allocations for Holocaust survivors’ assistance and nonpublic schools’ nursing services and technology education, and bringing 12 NJ legislators to Israel on a first-time statewide mission.
Paul Goldenberg, executive director of Secure Community Network, which assists Jewish communities throughout the United States on security and safety matters, also addressed the meeting. “Rising anti-Semitism in Europe is a great concern,” he said, “but here at home, we as a community are experiencing the rise as well, and of religious hatred inspired by extremists under the influence of such groups as ISIL.”
Joy Kurland, retiring director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern NJ, was honored at the meeting for her many years of leadership. “Joy’s experience in the area of advocacy locally and at the state and national levels has proven time and again to be a valuable asset for our community,” said State Association executive director Jacob Toporek.