Daniel Drench of Verona, a businessman and family man who put his love of Israel at the center of a wide array of philanthropic activities, died April 5. He was 91.
The cause, according to his wife, Barbara Drench, was congestive heart failure.
A past president of United Jewish Federation of Morris-Sussex, Drench was one of the architects of the merger of that body with the Jewish Community Federation of Metropolitan New Jersey, which then encompassed Essex County and parts of Union County, to form United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ. One of the hallmarks of the merger, the Aidekman campus in Whippany, became the site of many communal activities and events for all age groups and religious denominations, as well as headquarters for numerous agencies and the Waldor Library.
He served as a leader of the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest, JCC MetroWest, and the Jewish Historical Society, of which he was a founding member. He also chaired Israel Bonds and was a member of the Lester Society, honoring those who commit $100,000 or more to the UJA Annual Campaign.
In a conversation shortly after his death, Barbara called him “a consummate mensch,” adding, “The world was a better place because he was here. He made a difference, and he lived every day of his life fully.”
“Dan was one of the most extraordinary leaders I’ve met,” said Max Kleinman, executive vice president/CEO of the Greater MetroWest federation. “He had the unique ability to see the big picture while having both feet on the ground. He was the ultimate mensch and a true Zionist. He will be sorely missed. My deepest sympathies to his beloved Barbara and the rest of the Drench family.”
Israel was a central part of Dan Drench’s life. One of his proudest achievements was chairing Project Renewal and its work helping the people of Tzefat, Israel, according to Barbara. In 2001, the couple became Israeli citizens. “He was so connected to Israel, its life, its history, its being. It was a missing piece of the puzzle for him,” said Barbara.
Honored by the Jewish Community Foundation in the 1990s, he also received Israel’s 40th anniversary medal from Israel Bonds in 1988.
He created the Isadore and Rose Drench Fellowship at YIVO in memory of his parents, who were avid supporters of the labor movement, and he established the Barbara and Daniel Drench After School Kids Club program at the West Orange JCC.
Daniel Drench was born in the Bronx on Sept. 14, 1921. He served in the infantry in the United States Army during World War II and, after landing in Normandy a few weeks after D-Day, he took part in the liberation of Nordhausen, a Nazi extermination camp. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York and held a master’s degree in economics from New York University.
In the 1950s he married his first wife, Madeline, and moved with her to New Jersey. They lived in White Meadow Lake and had two children. The family belonged to White Meadow Temple in Rockaway. Drench ultimately became the CEO of Artisan Electronics, an electronics manufacturing company based in Parsippany.
Madeline predeceased Dan in 1991, and he married Barbara in 1992. They lived in Verona and belonged to Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston. In addition to his philanthropic work, Drench was an avid sports fan.
“He loved his Mets most of all,” said Barbara, who added, “He was a great conversationalist and loved a good political discussion.”
Drench is also survived by his son and daughter-in-law Peter and Anne Drench of Massachusetts; daughter Dr. Meredith Drench of Rhode Island; stepson and stepdaughter-in-law Dan and Tina Friedman of Arizona; stepson and stepdaughter-in-law David and Sylvia Friedman of Westfield; stepson and stepdaughter-in-law Doug and Dana Friedman of North Caldwell; grandson and granddaughter-in-law Zachary and Heather Drench; granddaughter Jessica; and two great-grandchildren, Misha and Lucy.
A memorial service was held on April 8 at B’nai Abraham.
The family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Seymour Epstein Leadership Mission to Israel, the Barbara and Daniel Drench After School Kids Club program at JCC MetroWest, or the Safety Net Restricted Endowment Fund of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ.