Reaching new families and young families is at the heart of the vision of the new volunteer leaders who have taken the helm of the UJA Campaign of the Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
They have stepped into their positions on the heels of a merger that brought together the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ.
Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, chair of the UJA Campaign, said the merger has presented “an opportunity to bring people together and weave the community together so that people will think of themselves as part of Greater MetroWest and not this community or that community.”
Maxine Murnick, now head of the federation’s Women’s Philanthropy, said she hopes people soon will “no longer talk about the former MetroWest or the former Central federations.”
Dannin Rosenthal, speaking with NJJN from the Jewish Federations of North America Lions of Judah conference in New York City, said she looks forward to expanding programs from one community to the other, such as the Diller Teen Tzedaka program. “We want to make sure the entire community can take advantage of programs historically only in one community,” she said, in the case of the youth program, MetroWest.
But, she said, there are challenges ahead that go beyond the merger: “Making a gift to federation is no longer a given or automatic among young people. They want to understand what’s happening with the money and make sure it is being used well.”
Therefore, Dannin Rosenthal said, “We need to be able to make our case and convey what great stuff we do, and the urgency of our work.” The message, she said must be that “although we are a fund-raising organization, we do not keep the money for ourselves. We have to be really purposeful in demonstrating our results. Once people know the story and understand what we do, they join us. And we have to begin to understand what it means to be a 30-year-old, one of two working parents, with kids.” The challenge, she said, is to answer the question: “How do they want to engage?”
The federation’s goal is to increase the campaign from last year’s total of $23.5 million. No specific dollar goal has been set, due in part to the novelty of the merger and the opportunity it represents. “We don’t want to set the bar too low, but we’re still not sure where we can go,” said Dannin Rosenthal.
Dannin Rosenthal, who grew up in the small Jewish community of Newport, RI, said she learned early on that everyone has to be involved in every part of the community. “You couldn’t say I’m going to concentrate on the synagogue, or the federation, or the hospital. Everyone did everything. That’s the model my parents gave me,” she said.
Retired from the practice of law, the South Orange resident has been deeply involved in both her synagogue, Oheb Shalom Congregation in South Orange, where she is a past president, and the federation, where she has held numerous positions, including major gifts chair and president of Women’s Philanthropy. She is a board member of the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life and the Rachel Coalition.
Making one of two
Working in multiple areas of Jewish life is among the things Dannin Rosenthal and Murnick share. Murnick, who lives in Short Hills, is also a member of Oheb Shalom, and the two have worked closely together both there and at the federation. Along with her late husband, Theodore Murnick, with whom she owned a residential real estate company, she has been an active supporter of the National Jewish Health hospital in Denver, and has held nearly every position in Women’s Philanthropy.
“It’s important to me and my family to work on behalf of the Jewish people,” she said. “Everybody supports hospitals, museums, and universities. But only the Jewish people take care of the Jewish people.” She added, “As a woman, I feel women’s philanthropy is the natural area for me.”
As Greater MetroWest Women’s Philanthropy president, succeeding Anna Fisch (see separate story), Murnick is focusing — at least initially — on making one community out of two. She believes in the ability of women to move the process forward.
“Women from both communities really sat down and discussed in depth how our communities work. We have already put together a mission statement reflecting our overall goals, which include best practices from both communities.”
Murnick did acknowledge the challenges ahead. “The reality is that the first year is a period of trial and error. I hope we make smart decisions. The key is that people will have to be patient. Things will not happen overnight, but we are working diligently.”