Fashion, food, and laughter filled the Crystal Plaza reception rooms on Wednesday evening, May 9, but there was also a undercurrent of bittersweet emotion. The Main Event, the major fund-raiser of the Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, was probably the last official get-together the group will hold before joining forces with the women of MetroWest.
A merger of the Central federation and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ is planned for this summer.
A number of women remarked that they’ve attended the Main Event for many years and hope that the camaraderie of the gathering can be maintained in the new, much larger structure.
In her remarks, Maxine Schwartz, president of Central’s Women’s Philanthropy, sought to reassure her constituents. “The next phase will be filled with change and excitement,” she said, as the group becomes part of a combined $7 million undertaking, “one of the top 10 largest and most vibrant Women’s Philanthropy organizations in the country.”
The evening’s cochairs, Aimee Jayinski and Rebecca Rosenheck, and their committee structured the event around three themes: inspiration, appreciation, and celebration.
The program began with the singing of the national anthems by Julie Roffe Barkin and Debbie Feldman, followed by a video montage of the leaders who have inspired — and many who still do — the work of Women’s Philanthropy. Then, hot-off-the-camera, came a slide show of those in attendance, photographed as they chatted over cocktails. An assembly of past presidents of Women’s Philanthropy recited the Hamotzi and then four women stepped up to express their gratitude for the work of federation.
Talia Sion, 15, whose grandmother Freida Posnock was honored for her selection as the Central community’s Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award winner, spoke of her own “life-changing” introduction to volunteering. It came through the JCC of Central NJ’s Project Gesher teen leadership program. She said she got to learn about Israel and meet Israelis, and she talked about how those experiences have profoundly deepened her sense of connection.
Tanya Tsvik described how the Economic Response Initiative of Jewish Family Service of Central NJ, funded by federation, helped her “stay sane” through two years of unemployment. Attending the Monday morning support group run by Carol Einhorn and Sheri Brown, she said, let her know she was not alone and provided her with some of the skills needed to win the job she finally found as a systems analyst with a hospital.
Marcia Weiner highlighted the nurturing religious education provided by the Ma’ayan program, a collaboration between Temple Emanu-El in Westfield and the JCC of Central NJ, financed with a grant from the federation. Her son, she said, had progressed from blowing out the Hanukka lights because he couldn’t understand how they differed from birthday candles, to being able to read and write Hebrew and looking forward to a bar mitzva celebration in 2015.
Perhaps the most emotional “thank you” came from Stacie Friedman, who was also the evening’s program chair. She described her arc of personal development, from struggling for self-definition as the child of loving parents in a mixed marriage, to her joyful participation in the Young Leadership Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America.
Choking back tears, she credited that evolution to the mentoring and steadfast friendship of the women she met through Women’s Philanthropy and her fellow young leaders. “My hevra” — her group of friends — has helped her grow, she said, “as a philanthropist, and spiritually [and] with hugs, kisses, and tissues…it has made me whole.”