A dozen years ago, Julie Lipsett Singer attended a National Young Leadership conference run by United Jewish Communities, and watched as one of its chairs addressed a crowd of some 3,000 young Jews from all over the country.
“I could never do that!” she remembers thinking. “Who are these people?”
In the years since, Singer herself became one of “those people,” and on June 7 was appointed president of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey. She succeeds Gerald Cantor.
Singer has served as chair of financial resource development for the past two years. She is a member of the personnel committee and is a past chair of the Women’s Philanthropy Campaign.
Singer is a past cochair of UJC’s National Young Leadership Department, and served as the national YLD Cabinet’s membership co-vice chair and is currently a UJC National Campaign trainer. She also served on the board of directors of the JCC of Central NJ and on its executive committee.
She and her husband, David, moved last year from Scotch Plains to Livingston to be closer to Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union in West Orange, which their three children attend. She works full time as director of development for American Friends of NATAL, Israel’s Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War.
NJJN: When you got involved with Young Leadership 12 years ago, was the possibility raised of you taking on the federation presidency?
Singer: At the time, I never would have believed that I would lead so many incredible individuals and/or organizations. It just seemed like a wonderful opportunity to better myself and give back at the same time.
NJJN: What was the first time you had a position of leadership? As a child or later, were you made aware of having “leadership material”?
Singer: My mom tells me that I was always “bossy.” She says that whenever we had workmen in the house from the time I was around four years old that I would try to take charge, but of course I don’t remember that.
NJJN: What do you feel it takes to be an effective leader?
Singer: Emotional intelligence. Good communication skills. A willingness to try new things, while understanding the historical significance to why things are done a certain way. Respect, compassion, and generosity.
NJJN: Who stands out for you as an inspiration or a role model?
Singer: My parents, first and foremost. They always volunteered to help out with everything in the Jewish community and also helped the secular community as well. All of my values and ethics I learned at home.
More recently in my leadership path, all the women who held significant leadership roles in the Central federation, like Clara Kramer, Sandy Gelfond, Toby Goldberger, Marilyn Flanzbaum, and Eleanor Rubin, in addition to the stories of women like Sylvia Brailove of blessed memory, whom I never had the honor of knowing personally.
On the professional side, Stanley Stone, the federation’s executive vice president, is also a role model. Stanley’s door is always open to whomever, whenever. That is rare in today’s world. He has taught me how important it is to treat everyone equally.
NJJN: What are some of the highlights and low points of your term as Financial Resource Development [FRD] chair?
Singer: The highlight was definitely having Lisa Israel make the case for giving at the Women’s Philanthropy Main Event last month. Mentoring new leaders and working to replace myself has to be my number one priority. Raising money has overall been challenging in my tenure as FRD chair. Not impossible, but challenging.
NJJN: What do you see as the major challenges and possibilities for your term as president?
Singer: Not to sound corny, but the possibilities are endless! Of course, I want to increase the campaign so we can help more individuals in need both in our backyard and all over the world. But I also would really like to focus on getting word out about what federation is and does, and find a way to make it resonate more with the community at large.
I love collective philanthropy because we can all give a little but make a big difference. I would like to get busy around that idea. I would also like to get new faces and opinions and ideas around the planning table.
I also just want to and need to say that from this interview it sounds like it is all about me, but it is so not all about me. I have the most amazing team of new and accomplished lay leaders poised to take on huge challenges. I also want to say that the federation professionals make all the lay leaders look smart, composed, well prepared, etc.