The cheerfully triumphant Finale of Brahms’ Second Symphony was also the bittersweet swan song for the annual UJA Benefit Concert by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
On May 17, more than 1,400 people came to the annual concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, presented by the NJSO and Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ in support of its United Jewish Appeal campaign. It was the 18th anniversary of the concert and its last time in the present format.
Next year, said organizers, a new arrangement will be instituted, designed to more directly benefit federation partner agencies as well as the UJA campaign. Under the new format, agencies like the JCC MetroWest in West Orange, Gottesman RTW Academy in Randolph, and JESPY House in South Orange will be able to host their own concerts with smaller groups of NJSO musicians.
Sunday’s audience at NJPAC included 350 seniors brought to the concert from 11 locations as guests of the federation and the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. Over the past 15 years, between 5,000 and 6,000 seniors have been able to attend as guests of the community.
In opening remarks, UJA Campaign chair Maxine B. Murnick thanked the original 10 couples who served as concert benefactors. She praised their vision to endow the concert, which has functioned as both a fundraiser and a way to bring the Jewish community together through music. Financial consultant and philanthropist Edward Zinbarg, president of the UJA Benefit Concert Supporting Foundation and one of the concert benefactors, pointed out that over the years the concerts have raised more than $4 million.
Zinbarg helped develop the plan for the concert series nearly 20 years ago, along with community leaders Victor Parsonnet, Richard Slutzky, and Lawrence Tamburri, and Max Kleinman, the top professional officer at what became the Greater MetroWest federation.
“I think the benefactors should be celebrated for the vision they demonstrated back in 1997, celebrating the federation and supporting the UJA campaign with an important cultural event on an annual basis,” said Tamburri in a press statement. “A lot of the glory should go to Ed Zinbarg, Victor Parsonnet, and Max Kleinman, who really worked hard to make this a reality.”
The UJA Benefit Concert Foundation Benefactors are the late Joan L. and the late Allen I. Bildner, Judy and Stewart Colton, Toby and Leon G. Cooperman, Beth Furman and her late husband William, Anita and Franklin Hannoch, Dr. Victor Parsonnet and his late wife Mia, the late Lore and the late Eric F. Ross, Judy and Josh S. Weston, Beth and Leonard Wilf, and Zinbarg and his wife, Barbara.
NJSO president and CEO James R. Roe also praised the collaboration. “The NJSO remains indebted to the original benefactors of the UJA Benefit Concert for the foresight and vision they shared in creating this tradition in 1998, a cultural sharing that simultaneously benefits the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and the NJSO,” he said in a statement.
Conductor Michael Stern — whose father, the famed violinist Isaac Stern, performed at the first concert in 1998 — spoke at various points in the program. He mentioned the critical role the community plays in supporting the UJA campaign and the thousands of people touched locally, in Israel, and throughout the world through the support of the federation. Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein gave a performance of Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto. The program also included “The Moldau” from Smetana’s Má vlast.