The new director of Monmouth University’s Jewish Cultural Studies Program said she is lucky to possess the key to successfully handling a multifaceted professional life: a passion for everything she does.
When Amy Handlin assumed her position at the West Long Branch campus in September, she had no time to sit back and enjoy the moment. The program was committed to presenting three activities during the fall semester, and only one — the film Expulsion and Memory: Descendants of the Hidden Jews — had been planned by the outgoing administration. That took care of October’s obligation, but November and December were looming.
Relying on assistance from her colleague Dr. Salibar Sarsar, the university’s associate vice president for global initiatives, Handlin quickly scheduled a talk by Dr. Gilbert N. Kahn for Nov. 15, and a concert by the Oasis Players for Dec. 5.
Kahn, a professor of political science at Kean University and a columnist for New Jersey Jewish News, discussed “When Politics Is Jewish.” The concert, held just before Hanukka, focused on songs of the season.
Handlin dealt with the tight deadlines while maintaining a full teaching schedule as an associate professor of marketing at the university, and tending to her duties as a seventh-year Republican member of the State General Assembly, representing Dist. 13, which covers parts of Monmouth County. Clearly no stranger to multitasking, she has been her party’s deputy leader in the Assembly since 2008.
She also somehow finds time for a private life, residing in Lincroft with her husband David, a physician. The couple has two children, a son, Daniel, who is finishing his studies in aerospace engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a daughter, Rebecca, now in her junior year at Harvard University; both are graduates of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County in Marlboro.
According to Handlin, the secret to tackling many jobs simultaneously is to like what you are doing. “I am fortunate,” she told NJJN in a phone conversation. “I am passionate about all of the areas in which I am involved. Most people agree that there is always time to do the things you love.”
Handlin, who succeeded Dr. Aaron Ansell as JCSP director, said her plans for the program include a series of concerts, films, lectures, panels, art presentations, and field trips.
Sarsar said she also would be helping out with fund-raising and grant writing.
Handlin said, “I also would love to develop an archive of best marketing practices to share with Jewish congregations and organizations throughout the state. It is crucial at this point, when synagogues and other communal groups are feeling an economic pinch and are competing for the time and attention of members and prospective members, that they employ the most effective techniques.
“To succeed they must maintain a high profile and keep people informed of the important role they play in keeping Jewish culture alive.”
Because of her marketing background — she has years of experience at a Madison Avenue advertising agency — as well as her academic credentials, which include a PhD in marketing from New York University, Handlin believes she can make the JCSP an important resource in achieving this goal.
In an e-mail to NJJN, Sarsar said the selection of Handlin to head up the program reflected her “intimate involvement with Jewish community organizations and events for over two decades, and her having served on the board of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County and as chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council.”
At the university, Sarsar said, she will be working with his office, with faculty, students, and staff, and with the surrounding Jewish communities, “to build academic and cultural connections.”