Saying goodbye to Julian Hoffman, good-humored founder, leader of Jewish organizations

Saying goodbye to Julian Hoffman, good-humored founder, leader of Jewish organizations

Julian Hoffman, a leader in the Jewish community for decades, was remembered as a mensch and unafraid to stand up for the causes he believed in.
Julian Hoffman, a leader in the Jewish community for decades, was remembered as a mensch and unafraid to stand up for the causes he believed in.

Julian Hoffman is remembered as a “generous spirit,” unafraid of standing up for his convictions. He spent decades as a leader of Jewish and communal causes, including as founding president of the Jewish Federation of the Shore Area, which became the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, now the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey. He was also the driving force behind the establishment of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Monmouth County (JFCS). The community pillar died Dec. 6 at 95.

“There was significant debate among those who were really old-school who felt counseling should be left to the rabbinate, and there was no place for social workers to be intruding in that sector,” said David Nussbaum, a family friend and former executive vice president of the Monmouth federation. “When [JFCS] was created in 1972, Julian was quietly involved making sure it happened.” 

Hoffman was “generous of spirit, extraordinarily hospitable, and a very strong leader, never afraid to step forward,” said Nussbaum, a resident of West Deal. 

Nussbaum was just 5 when he met Hoffman, father of his friend, Stephen.

“He also played in my father’s Monday night poker game, so I knew him in a lot of different ways,” said Nussbaum. “He had a great sense of humor.”

Eventually Hoffman became his professional colleague through the men’s involvement with federation and other communal causes. 

“He could be strong-spirited and led by example,” Nussbaum said. “He was a very strong leader, never afraid to step forward. You always knew where you stood with Julian. He was very direct. He also had an infectious personality and warmed people up.” 

Former Monmouth Women’s Division and federation president Ruth Rosenfeld knew Hoffman for many years as well, dating back to their involvement in helping to form the Jewish Federation of the Shore Area in the early 1970s.

“I have the greatest respect for Julian,” she said. “He was a very straightforward, honest person,” she said. “He spoke clearly and directly. There was no mincing of words. He was totally devoted and dedicated, especially to Jewish causes.”

Rosenfeld, an Interlaken resident, said one of the things she most admired about Hoffman was his willingness to solicit donations for the federation. 

“He was not afraid to ask people for money and was very successful in raising money because he knew it wasn’t for himself, but for the causes he believed in,” she said. For him, she added, “money was not a four-letter word.”

Rosenfeld called Hoffman her mentor. “He was substantially older than me and whenever I had problems, I could always go to him for advice and suggestions,” she said. “I had tremendous respect for him and Louise [his wife]. They helped me tremendously when I was president of Women’s Division. They were a wonderful couple.”

He was born in Brooklyn, but Hoffman’s family moved to Belmar when he was an infant. He remained part of the Jersey Shore community his entire life, moving to Deal Park in 1962 and to Long Branch in 1997. A 1943 graduate of Indiana University with a degree in business and accounting, Hoffman enlisted in the Army and was deployed in the Pacific during World War II.

After the war, Hoffman joined his father in running South Shore Paper Inc. (first in Belmar and then in Neptune City), the paper products and janitorial supplies company founded by his father. The younger Hoffman served as president from 1965 through 1986, after which he sold the company and embarked on ventures in the hotel and real estate industries, and in business ventures with friends. 

But Hoffman maintained his strong connection to the Jewish community throughout his life. His list of leadership positions in Jewish organizations is extensive and includes United Jewish Appeal, Israel Bonds, and Jewish War Veterans. He was recognized as “Man of the Year” by Congregation Sons of Israel, Asbury Park, the Hillel School of the Shore area (twice), Monmouth County Israel Bonds, and the Monmouth County Society of the Fellows of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. 

When he became Federation president in 1970, he hired Nussbaum as its first campaign director, initiating the younger man’s career in Jewish communal services. 

“Julian was a mensch who did a lot for his family, friends, and people,” Nussbaum said. 

Hoffman served on numerous health care and educational boards, including Monmouth Medical Center and Monmouth University, and he was on the executive council of the Boy Scouts of America Monmouth Council. His leadership extended to the public sector, as he was commissioner of the New Jersey Highway Authority and was active in state and national Democratic party campaigns.

He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Betty Louise (Spiegal); two sons, Stephen L. (B. Kim Lee Sim) of Gaithersburg, Md., and Jeffrey (Rachel Mendelsohn) of Holmdel; and four grandchildren. 

Memorial contributions may be made to Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Monmouth County or Monmouth Medical Center Foundation. n

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