Ukraine focus of annual federation meeting
An official of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee told a June 26 community gathering in Princeton that it is the Jewish people’s “acute sense of global responsibility” that has led to a steep increase in the organization’s relief work in Ukraine.
At The Jewish Center, addressing some 70 attendees of the annual board meeting of Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, David Zackon, the JDC’s executive director of strategic relations, said the unstable situation in Ukraine has led to suffering among Jews and non-Jews alike.
He described his organization’s global relief efforts — funded in part by federations like Princeton Mercer Bucks — including an on-the-ground network in Ukraine, where government forces are battling pro-Russian rebels in the east. JDC is already serving 1,000 locations in the strife-torn country, providing blankets, heaters, food, and homecare services to members of the Jewish community. The organization has also dispatched a team of trauma experts to train staff, caregivers, and homecare workers to deal with the immense psychological toll facing residents.
“At the best of times they are having to make terrible decisions about whether to buy food or medicine,” he said.
“It is hard to find a period when Jews were not scattered all over the world,” said Zackon. “Because of this our people have developed an acute sense of global responsibility, based on shared history, identity, and fate.
“A situation that was dire has become very dire, and what we are doing at the moment is trying to make sure they are able to survive day to day.”
The evening also included presentations in memory of federation activists Bob Lipsky and Richard Kohn, both of whom passed away recently.
Eliot Freeman lauded Lipsky, noting that his activism was a “beacon of optimism and a vision of what a community should and can be.” Freeman said Lipsky, a past federation president, mentored young leaders, helped unite many sectors of the community, and was able “to brush aside small details that obscured” what was important.
Ken Mack praised his friend Richard Kohn for his service to federation and as founder of the Jewish Community Foundation, and his activism with non-Jewish organizations, from Mercer Medical Center Foundation to the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton. Kohn, who graduated from both Harvard College and its law school, returned to his native city of Trenton, where he practiced law for 57 years.
“He did not like to be complimented, especially about things he thought should be an obligation,” said Mack.
At the gathering, Rabbi Daniel Grossman of Adath Israel in Lawrenceville and Hazan Joanna Dulkin of the Jewish Center offered prayers for three Israeli teens, then still missing, who were reported kidnapped on June 12 (the boys’ bodies were discovered June 30).
Federation leaders also reported on achievements and disappointments. Executive director Andrew Frank said that although he expects donations to the annual unrestricted campaign — which doesn’t close until the end of July — to be lower this year than last, there have been positive signs, including significant bequests, an increase in the number of returning donors, and some substantial gifts earmarked to particular agencies.
As part of a new “donor-centric” approach, he said, individuals have made contributions to fund two specific projects, PJ Library and the Jewish Community Youth Foundation, both highlighted during the meeting.
“For the current year,” Frank said, “we were able to distribute over $1.6 million to local agencies and projects, in Israel and other countries.”