Senator to be honored at federation kick-off

Senator to be honored at federation kick-off

Sen. Robert Menendez
Sen. Robert Menendez

As it launches its 2010 campaign, United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks will honor Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) with the Shomer Tzedek — Guardian of Justice — Award.

The campaign kick-off will be held on Sunday, Oct. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville.

Menendez will be the guest speaker at the annual event, which, organizers said, serves to generate enthusiasm for the coming campaign year.

“Because of the economy, there is more need and less money to serve the greater population of those in need,” said federation president Lisa Smukler of Princeton. “More than ever we need people to give with their hearts.”

“Obviously the economy is a challenge to us,” she said, but “if every person can do a little, it can make a huge difference.”

The federation raises funds for local Jewish educational, social service, and cultural programs and agencies, as well as for assistance and development programs in Israel and Jewish communities around the globe.

Event cochair Mark Merkovitz of Princeton said the federation “serves to meet the increased needs of our community domestically as well as worldwide.”

The 2010 campaign will focus on “newer and broader programming,” Merkovitz said, “as well as new approaches in reaching out to the community to raise money.”

“We’re very excited about the kick-off,” said event cochair Stephanie Will of Skillman, who is also chair of the federation’s Women’s Campaign. She noted that at the recent opening Women’s Campaign board meeting, there was a “renewed sense of purpose in the room.”

Menendez will receive his award for serving as a “stalwart supporter of Israel and his friendship to the Jewish community as well as to the citizens of New Jersey over the course of his long career in public service,” said federation executive director Andrew Frank.

Those working on the event also hope that the reduced minimum campaign gift suggested to attend the dinner — $500, down from $1,000 last year — will attract more people. Merkovitz said the organizers are excited “about opening it up more to the community this year.”

“We have every reason to believe that the community is going to band together to new levels of involvement and philanthropy,” Frank said. “We’ve seen what the community can do in times of duress. It is our hope that the worst of the financial crisis is over.”

Under the current lay leadership, “there’s a lot of energy in the community,” Frank said. “People will step up to the plate.”

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