Martha Rich of Short Hills died Jan. 27, 2011, at the age of 84.
Born in Hungary, Mrs. Rich was a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau who came to the United States in 1946 and became a community leader and avid supporter of Holocaust education. She also lived in Yonkers, NY, before moving to Short Hills in 1981.
She served on the board and was a member of the speakers’ bureau of the Holocaust Council of MetroWest, which honored her with establishment of the Martha Rich Scholarship Fund. She was a founding benefactor and member of the Education Division of the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City and active in the Drew University Holocaust education program. In 2004 she was appointed to the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education.
Mrs. Rich also played a pivotal role in the “Paper Clip Project” started by youngsters in the small town of Whitwell, Tenn. After collecting millions of paper clips as a representation and commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust, they created a memorial in a cattle car used to transport Jews to the death camps. Mrs. Rich was a guest speaker at the opening of the memorial, which is now on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. In May 2005, she was honored by the Holocaust Council of MetroWest at a screening of Paper Clips, the award-winning documentary based on the project.
A supporter of UJA Women’s Campaign and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, she held, in the 1990s and early 2000s, leadership positions in its Women’s Department (the forerunner of Women’s Philanthropy). She was a Lion of Judah, which represents the highest levels of giving in Women’s Campaign, and a member of the Lester Society, both of which earned her a place on local and national honor rolls.
A frequent participant in missions to Israel, Mrs. Rich was also a strong supporter of State of Israel Bonds.
A member of Temple Sholom of West Essex in Cedar Grove, she also served on the board of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest.
“From the day I met Martha and her wonderful husband, George, I knew she was a very special lady and that they were a very extraordinary couple,” said Sarabeth Wizen, director of Women’s Philanthropy for UJC MetroWest. “Their philanthropic giving and volunteerism to this community speaks volumes.
“Martha was passionate about women teaching the next generation of women about the world of federation. She was a remarkable woman who focused on educating our children about the Holocaust and making sure that those who couldn’t care for themselves were being cared for.
“Martha Rich truly was one of our great leaders,” said Wizen. She was “inspirational, a dynamic and passionate speaker, and a mentor to all. The MetroWest Community has lost a wonderful friend.”
Lynda Wachsteter, a past president of Women’s Philanthropy, said, “Martha had an intuitive feeling about people that allowed her to make everyone feel comfortable. She was warm and gracious and was a real inspiration to so many. She led an extraordinary life and embraced this community as her own. The MetroWest community is indebted to the work that she did. I am grateful for having known her.”
Martha Rich is survived by her husband, George; their children, Michael Leob and his wife Kathy and Diane Herzog and her husband Bob of Woodcliff Lakes, Monica Kosann and her husband Rod of New Canaan, Conn., and Rina Langer and her husband David of New York City; and six grandchildren, Jason, Daniel, Laura, Danielle, Julia, and Marc.
Contributions may be made in her memory to UJA MetroWest Women’s Campaign.
Funeral Services were held Jan. 30 at Bernheim Apter Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel, Livingston.