Toby Goldberger has been about as deeply involved in federation matters as anyone in the historic Central community, and even she has been caught by surprise to learn how much the new merged entity, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, has to offer.
“I didn’t know about all these programs. I’m serious — it’s just unbelievable,” she said. “Look, there are some disadvantages to the merger — like the distance to get to some meetings, and it’s going to take time for all the changes to sink in. But I think it’s very important that people learn how much has become available to them since we became one of the biggest federations in the country.”
That is the goal of the Regional Celebration taking place Monday, Feb. 25, at the Wilf Jewish Community Campus in Scotch Plains. Goldberger, who now lives in Maplewood, is cochairing the event with Stacie Friedman of Scotch Plains, one of the up-and-coming young leaders in the community.
Over desserts and a “shuk” of information displays, people will be able to learn about new or expanded services, facilities, and programs now open to residents in Union and parts of Somerset counties.
The federation, covering Morris, Essex, Union, and parts of Somerset counties, was formed last year with the merger of the the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ.
“It’s an opportunity for us to showcase the ‘new and improved’ version of federation,” said Amy Cooper, director of regional operations. Those include Lester Senior Housing at the federation’s Whippany campus as well as other housing provided through the Jewish Community Housing Corporation; Israel experience opportunities for youth; and services for young adults with developmental disabilities provided by JESPY House in South Orange.
Attendees will also be able to learn about Young Leadership Division programs and those of the recently established Israel Center.
They will have an opportunity to meet familiar staff members and some new ones, including Women’s Philanthropy development officer Debra Levenstein, Community Relations Committee associate Hillary Levine, and the two people spearheading the merger integration team, Marcy Lazar from the former Central region and Stacey Davis from the former MetroWest.
“The real pleasure of this merger has been getting to know all these interesting new people,” said Davis, who lives in Livingston. “We want to make sure people don’t feel lost in this bigger crowd, that they know they are still needed. We want them to know that their experience is valued, and they still have a significant contribution to make.”
Lazar, who lives in Scotch Plains, said one of the most challenging aspects has been “coming to terms with the necessary policies and procedures that an entity as large as GMW must employ to be organized and productive — and realizing that there aren’t enough days in a week to accommodate all the meetings and events in the community without creating conflicts and overlapping.”
But she agreed that the expansion has brought many advantages, such as “connecting with another larger community that shares my personal concerns for Jewish community and Jews worldwide, and making new, like-minded friends.”
Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lazar can be reached at email@example.com.