Becoming president of a JCC isn’t what most little girls dream of, Suzanne Albin Tucker told an audience on June 13, and it isn’t what she had in mind when she and her husband Rob joined the JCC of Central New Jersey in 1997. But as the center in Scotch Plains became an increasingly important part of their lives, volunteering and taking a more active role were a natural progression.
Now she is president of the JCC. Albin Tucker was speaking after her installation at the organization’s annual meeting.
She took advantage of the opportunities that came with involvement, she said, “and because of that, I’ve had some very meaningful experiences here. I get back just as much, if not more, than I give.”
One of her priorities as president, she said, will be to encourage others to get more involved as volunteers. She urged everyone to speak with her to find the opportunities that best match their interests.
She said that “human capital is just as important as dollars for capital campaigns. We need people who care, people with financial acumen, people who are creative, people who have special talents, and people who aren’t sure what they can offer. I am proud of what we have accomplished.
“But I am already looking toward the future and thinking about who will continue to provide the support we need to maintain a strong JCC.”
Albin Tucker, a lawyer with her own firm, was born in California and grew up in New York, mostly in Northport, Long Island. She and Rob moved to Westfield in 1994, about sixth months after they got married. They now have two daughters, Dara, 15, and Nathalie, 11, both of whom are also actively involved with the JCC.
Her path to the presidency has included chairing numerous efforts. She has served on many JCC committees, including camp, governance, and the HaDerech leadership group, and she has been on the executive committee for several years. She is also on the Women’s Philanthropy Board of the Jewish Federation of Central NJ.
Asked what for her is most meaningful about the JCC, Albin Tucker told NJ Jewish News, “All of it. It gave me a focus when my life was not so focused and helped provide me with a feeling of accomplishment. My kids went to the JCC preschool, kindergarten, and Camp Yachad for many years. They participated in Junior Maccabi and on sports teams. Dara is now participating in the Gesher Bridge program. We use the gym and the pool. It has been the place where we all have made life-long friendships.”
In her speech on Monday, Albin Tucker said that she has always had a very strong Jewish identity. It was rooted in the family history and her mother’s experience as a child survivor of the Holocaust. That gave her a pride that enabled her to deal with the anti-Semitism she encountered growing up on Long Island. And when it came to finding a preschool for their first daughter in 1997, the JCC preschool was a natural choice.
Initially, she said, like most members, she was “a consumer of what the JCC has to offer.” She was, she said, “too busy with my family, work, and just life to think much of involving myself beyond that,” but a couple of years later, something happened that intensified her sense of Jewish identity and made the JCC connection even more important for her.
Her father got cancer, but in characteristic fashion, he decided to pursue a long-cherished goal of becoming a bar mitzva. Three weeks before his death, he and his wife together became b’nei mitzva. Inspired by their example, Albin Tucker stepped up her own Jewish involvement and became a volunteer at the JCC.
She said, “I became more and more interested in what was going on behind the scenes and before I knew it, I was involved in the camp committee in a big way, as well as other committees and activities. The JCC became the focus of the family’s Jewish life.”
Monday’s program included a dinner to honor outgoing president Scott Lazar, and the presentation of the Volunteers of the Year Awards to Mitch Cohen and Larry Forman, and the Hineni Award for exemplary leadership and service to Stuart Fuchsman.
Paying tribute to Lazar and his predecessor, Mindy Goldberger, the JCC’s professional leaders, and volunteers, Albin Tucker went on to talk about the capital campaign, the renovations that it financed, and recent research that will be used as the basis for future developments. She stressed that support for the JCC is a form of philanthropy, and that comes in the form of time donated as well as money, to help make it as welcoming a place as possible.
She said, “I believe that it is our JCC’s responsibility to be pluralistic and inclusive, open to all Jews, whether they are halachically Jewish, identify themselves as Jews, or are raising Jewish children. I want to continue to widen the scope of our reach, to children, to families, to active adults, to seniors, while continuing to be clearly and identifiably Jewish.”