It will be an evening of firsts when the Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County holds its Main Event May 13.
For the first time, men will be included in the annual gathering. It will be a first look for many at the newly renovated Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth after an almost four-year renovation project following a fire (see related article).
And those attending will get to hear a speaker who has covered Barack and Michelle Obama since 2007 for The New York Times speak about the “first marriage.”
“We’re excited!,” said Women’s Philanthropy director Audrey Napchen. “We have changed the whole texture and format of the event from a formal five-course meal to a buffet supper. We’ve lowered the price of the couvert so that more people will feel comfortable attending. We are so happy to hold it in the Highland Park Temple. I can’t say enough about how wonderful executive director Linda Diamond and the staff have been in helping us plan the Main Event.”
Men are invited and welcome, cochair Joan Litt said, because the committee agreed that the topic — how the Obamas keep their marriage fresh in the glare of the public eye — would be of interest to everyone.
The speaker, Jodi Kantor, came to the committee’s attention following publication of an article written for The New York Times Magazine several months ago about how the first couple keeps “date night” alive.
In a phone interview Kantor told NJJN, “Throughout the [presidential] campaign, I wrote a lot of biographical information on Michelle” and that despite having only a professional relationship with the Obamas, the writer got to know to the couple “pretty well by journalistic standards.”
“When I interviewed the couple in late September in the Oval Office,” she said, “one of the most interesting moments was when the president began to talk about how hard it was to go out on date night. The prior spring he had come to New York to see a show because he had promised her. The whole thing not only turned into a New York City event, but he was criticized for using federal funds.
“In his own quiet way he spoke about how dismayed he was by it all when all he was trying to do was take his wife out and how complicated it all had become.”
Kantor, a Brooklyn resident, is on temporary hiatus from the paper while she writes a book on the Obamas scheduled to be published next year.
“One of the things that has really struck people about the first marriage was how candid [Michelle] was about how difficult it was and that she didn’t want people to think ‘My marriage is perfect’” — just the idea, more than anything else, that a sitting First Lady in the Oval Office admitting marriage was hard.”
Kantor grew up in Queens, Staten Island, and Holmdel and graduated from Holmdel High School. She lived a year in Israel. She her husband and daughter are members of Beth Elohim in Park Slope.
Litt of East Brunswick, event cochair along with Gail Shapiro-Scott of South Brunswick, said those attending will also help fund an array of federation programs assisting children, teens, and adults; local day schools and synagogues; and programs overseas and in Israel.
“If we don’t do it, who is going to support these programs?” she asked.