Members attending the annual board of trustees meeting of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ unanimously approved its merger with Jewish Federation of Central NJ.
A forest of raised hands in favor was the penultimate step in a long-planned merger between the two New Jersey fund-raising and community planning umbrellas. If also approved by the Central federation at its annual meeting on Monday, June 4, the merger will proceed with the creation of what will be called the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, starting July 1.
“This is the largest merger of its kind to ever take place in this country,” said Steven Klinghoffer, who chaired the two-year merger negotiation process on behalf of UJC MetroWest. Speaking to NJJN shortly after the May 23 vote at the Aidekman campus in Whippany, he admitted that he had doubts along the way, but none any longer.
“It was a very complex process, and we had no blueprint for how to go about it,” he said. “But we worked things out, and I was pretty sure the vote would be unanimous,”
Lori Klinghoffer, UJC MetroWest president, told the audience before the vote that she was “verklempt” — overcome with emotion — but that the new combined community “will be beyond great.”
As the vote indicated, the audience of MetroWest leaders seemed to echo her optimism.
“I can’t see what objection there could be,” said a woman from Livingston who asked not to be named. “It just makes sense. When people think about going places or doing things, they don’t worry about whether it’s in MetroWest or Central territory.”
The Central federation now covers most of Union County. The merged federations will include a contiguous territory combing Essex, Morris, Union, and parts of Hudson and Somerset counties.
According to Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, who served as MetroWest cochair of the merger committee, coming up with the new name was “the easy part. We came up with that two years ago.”
Lori Klinghoffer, married to Steve, said the merger has been a major presence in their lives for two years.
“I know Steve often hid how stressful it was from me,” she said. Turning to him, she said, “You have done beyond a magnificent job. You have listened long and hard and clearly to the voices in our community and to what our partners in Central NJ said.
“The reason you have persisted is because you believe in your heart and know in your heart that this is the right thing for MetroWest and the right thing for the Jewish world.”
Reviewing the past year, Lori Klinghoffer spoke of efforts to counteract the delegitimization of Israel, train young pro-Israel activists, and strengthen “people-to-people” connections with Israelis.
She also described federation projects to aid the local community, including those helping seniors, engaging young people in Jewish life, and attracting more donors to the annual campaign.
The meeting also marked the end of Paula Saginaw’s tenure as UJA campaign chair. She had mentioned that total giving over the past two years is expected to reach $45 million. That includes the projected total of $19,450,000 for 2012, and an additional $1,400,000 received in supplemental gifts this year.
Her service was lauded with speeches and two slide shows. Playing on the theme of the evening, “People to People,” one highlighted the warmth of her connection with the hundreds of people she has traveled with on missions and met at their destinations.
Saginaw told the audience that while she takes great satisfaction in what federation does for those in need, she herself has benefited from that generosity. The work, she said, “has given my life more meaning.”
The evening also included the appointment and reappointment of federation officers, all of whom will go on to serve on the combined body. Honorees included Mariela Dybner and Mark Glajchen, 2012 Julius and Bessie Cohn Young Leadership Award winners, and Anna Fisch, the outgoing president of Women’s Philanthropy.