A pioneering rabbi, a couple who have served as pillars of the community, and a teen humanitarian were the honorees at the annual testimonial dinner of the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. The event, held Nov. 21 at the Grand Marquis in Old Bridge, drew over 200 people to pay tribute to Rabbi Sally Priesand, JoAnn and Stuart Abraham, and Molly Cohen.
Priesand was the first woman to be ordained a rabbi by a theological seminary. For 25 years, until her retirement in 2006, she served as religious leader of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, where she remains active. A Chhange board member for six years, she has been the recipient of numerous honors, including being named, in 2010, to Good Housekeeping’s list of “125 Women Who Changed Our World.”
“Chhange gives us the opportunity to show our children through personal example what is possible when people work together to eliminate hatred and cruelty, prejudice and bullying from our midst,” said Priesand. The center demonstrates “how much stronger our community can be when we learn to treat each other with respect and dignity, with a desire to understand and honor each other’s stories and with a commitment to learning the lessons of the past so the future can be better for everyone.”
Molly was the recipient of Chhange’s first Hannah Senesh Social Action Award, citing her “courage, determination, and commitment” to fighting racism and prejudice in her school and community. Now a junior at Freehold Township High School, Molly experienced several incidents of anti-Semitism when she was in middle school. After reaching out to Chhange for guidance and with assistance from her school’s principal and staff, Molly and her family developed a program to address intolerance in the school, and she continues as a role model in combatting anti-Semitism. She received a humanitarian award from the Freehold Township Human Relations Council in 2011.
Molly told the gathering she was “honored” to be the first student to receive the award. “I truly believe that if we can educate one person at a time, and they in turn educate one person, we get closer to conquering ignorance and hatred in our world.”
The Abrahams of Manalapan were recognized for their countless hours of service to a variety of causes. They have been active members of Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen since 1967, and Stuart twice served as president of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County. A director at Bell Laboratories until his retirement 11 years ago, he teaches courses in the MBA programs at Monmouth University and New Jersey City University. JoAnn volunteers at Chhange and is the central NJ director of the anti-poverty think tank Rock and Wrap It Up. She is also leading TBA’s effort to help Union Beach recover after Superstorm Sandy. A former editor of The Jewish Voice, her articles earned her recognition by the American Jewish Press Association.
The Abrahams cited their fellow honorees at the dinner: “Rabbi Priesand is integral to Chhange’s history, and Molly Cohen is clearly a leader with a distinguished future. Both are brave and strong. We were humbled to share the evening with them, and thrilled to be honored by Chhange, an organization we’ve loved and praised for many years.”
The dinner was cochaired by Barbara Levy, Mimi Werbler, and Susan Yellin.