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Middlesex community mourns Harriet Tabak
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Middlesex community mourns Harriet Tabak

Harriet Tabak was remembered as a woman devoted to her synagogue, family, and the Jewish community.

Tabak, 77, a lifelong Highland Park resident, died Nov. 20 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

She had a decades-long involvement in the Jewish community, including leadership roles with the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, the Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth, and the former Central New Jersey Jewish Home for the Aged in Somerset.

“Harriet was a warm and wonderful woman,” said federation executive director Gerrie Bamira. “Her devotion to her family, friends, and the Jewish community were extraordinary. She set a high standard for philanthropy and volunteerism and will be missed by all those whose lives she touched. We are all better for having had Harriet in our lives.”

A life member of federation’s board, Tabak also served on its Women’s Philanthropy board, spearheading numerous programs over the years.

Tabak was an emerald Lion of Judah for her level of philanthropy to federation, where she was instrumental in engaging new donors and was an ambassador for involvement.

Her ties to the Highland Park temple go back to childhood. The then fledgling synagogue held its first Hebrew school classes in the back of the Raritan Avenue bakery run by her parents, Morris and Dorothy Engelhardt.

“There wasn’t a single program, a single event in this shul that didn’t have Harriet’s name on it or Harriet’s work behind the scenes,” recalled Rabbi Eliot Malomet, who officiated at the Nov. 23 funeral at the synagogue. “There were always lists: lists of people to call, and lists of things to do, lists of things to get, and lists of things to have done. And she was no-nonsense. You gave her a task and she did it. She really was an incredible person.”

A board member of the temple’s sisterhood, Tabak ran its gift shop for eight years and chaired many fund-raising and charitable events.

After a devastating fire at the temple in 2006, Tabak was active in its rebuilding, chairing its Livnot campaign.

In recent years, she and her husband of 57 years, Joseph, hosted the synagogue’s annual gathering in Florida, where the couple spent the winter. They were honored by HPCT-CAE for their many years of dedication, receiving its prestigious Chaver Award.

Malomet noted that whenever he called her, she would affectionately answer, “Hello my rabbi.”

“There are many ways to make God’s name holy in the world, and one of them is to do, to be a doer,” he said. “To do for others, to give to others, and to never stop. And that’s who Harriet was.”

Tabak was also a life member of Hadassah, a board member of the Central New Jersey Jewish Home for the Aged Auxiliary and vice president of its foundation board, and was currently a member of the foundation board of the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living.

Besides her husband, she is survived by her two sons and daughters-in-law, Jeff and Marilyn of Manhattan, and Steven and Cathy of Westfield; and five grandchildren, Gail, Brad, Rachel, Max, and Aaron.

Arrangements were by Crabiel Parkwest Funeral Chapel in New Brunswick. Interment was in Mount Lebanon Cemetery, Woodbridge.

Memorial donations can be made to the Harriet Tabak Memorial Fund c/o HPCT-CAE or to the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, 230 Old Bridge Turnpike, South River, NJ 08882.

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