The Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County got its 2014 campaign off to a rousing start by bringing in almost half its total goal at a single event.
The 60 donors gathered at the Vanguard event at the Trump National Golf Club in Colts Neck Sept. 29, who contribute at least $5,000 a year to the annual campaign, pledged $901,292 toward a $1.9 million goal.
“We are well on our way,” said Rachel Ingber, the federation’s director of financial resource development. “With the Jewish holidays coming early this year, there are still many Vanguard donors who have not yet even made their commitments.”
Campaign chair Keith Zimmerman said federation is “right on target” in its fund-raising efforts and has numerous other events planned throughout the year.
“We’re working very diligently because the community is changing, and we’re thinking of new ways of doing things differently and reaching out to people,” he said.
With an eye on the still shaky economy, the federation set a campaign goal $200,000 less than last year’s, when the federation raised $2.1 million.
“We made realistic changes,” said Zimmerman. “We’ve had some donors move out of state while others have died. However, it doesn’t mean we’ll settle for $1.9 million, but we had to be realistic for budget purposes. I’m optimistic we’ll go above that just as we went above last year’s goal.”
The day also featured memorial tributes by former federation president Lee Livingston to two longtime federation leaders, Harriet Tabak and Herb Goldstein.
He called Goldstein, who had died two weeks earlier at age 95, “a leader of his generation”; Tabak, who died in November at age 77, he said, was “committed to Jewish survival.”
Also offering remarks was Hannah Sessler of Edison, 15, who, along with Rafael Jones of New Brunswick, received a Senator Laurence S. and Edith G. Weiss Jewish Activism Endowment scholarship this past summer. The award enabled them to attend IMPACT:DC, a Washington-based Jewish leadership program.
Hannah, the daughter of Mark and Lynn Sessler and a sophomore at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, said that through this “truly remarkable” experience, she worked with disadvantaged children, gained compassion for homeless adults, and lobbied legislators on issues involving Israeli security.
“I learned how to make my voice clearly heard,” said Hannah, adding that the experience has inspired her to join federation’s J-Team of teen philanthropists.
Guest speaker was Dr. Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and director of its Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
Levitt, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst, said Hizbullah, a proxy of Iran, is a multi-faceted organization that has exported terror and criminal enterprises throughout the world, including New Jersey, in its effort to strike Israeli targets and prop up Iran. At the same time, it is also a social movement in Lebanon.
“The revolution was never meant to end at Iran’s borders,” said Levitt, whose latest book is Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.
Levitt described efforts by the FBI to crack a Hizbullah counterfeiting ring working out of a southern Jersey shopping mall, one of its many “slush funds for terrorism.”
In 2009, 26 alleged Hizbullah operatives and sympathizers were indicted on evidence gathered by an FBI informant posing as a member of the Philly mob.
“They think they’re going in together on crime,” said Levitt. “But — bada boom, bada bing — it’s over.”