One of the crowning achievements announced at the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey’s annual meeting on Nov. 7 is receipt of additional funding for security measures.
Susan Antman, federation’s executive director, said in her opening remarks that $1.4 million in grants from federal and state sources had been secured for security enhancements, bringing the total to $4.2 million allocated to 59 separate local Jewish institutions over the last four years.
“While hate and security threats, poverty and mental illness, and indifference to Jewish identity among young people have increased, federation has successfully focused its sight to make an impact in these areas today and build on that impact in the days and years ahead,” she told the more-than 150 people at the meeting at Freehold Jewish Center Congregation Agudath Achim.
According to Antman, security funding, educating young people to stand up to hate, interfaith community building, and strengthening relations with law enforcement and elected officials have made the Jewish community stronger and safer.
Other initiatives she cited as being championed by federation include PJ Library, which connects children to their Jewish heritage through books and programming; the Etanim program to provide teens with leadership and entrepreneurial skills; and funding programs that alleviate hunger, poverty, and mental illness.
In response to the growing scourge of addiction, in 2019 federation gave a $50,000 seed grant to Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Monmouth County to launch a culturally sensitive Jewish center for drug and alcohol treatment and education.
Following introductory remarks, there were four panel presentations, each of which covered an area important to federation, such as caring for the vulnerable, combatting hate, investing in the Jewish future through education, and strengthening Jewish cultural life.
The panel moderators gave an overview of federation’s role in their respective areas, followed by comments by community professionals or lay leaders on the panels.
For example, federation offers scholarships to camps so the youth can build Jewish identities. NJY camps executive director Janet Fliegelman said that by providing children with fun, experiential activities, campers “get Jewish content and they don’t even know it’s happening.” Studies have shown, she said, that young people who have such immersive Jewish experiences are likely to stay connected to the community as adults.
Dr. Adrienne Ross, federation’s first vice president, moderated a panel on combatting hate, which she called a “four-letter word.” She said federation has developed strong ties with the state’s homeland security interfaith advisory council, as well as members of local law enforcement.
During the panel on helping the vulnerable, Ann Salzberg, a volunteer with the more than century-old Jewish Social Service Committee of New Brunswick and Highland Park, a federation beneficiary that assists needy residents of Middlesex County, said “there’s nothing more important than helping your fellow Jews in the community.”
Prior to the start of the annual meeting there was a reception for organizations participating in federation’s Life & Legacy program, and Eric Wallenstein of Highland Park was presented with the Seymour St. Lifer Award for his fund-raising achievements. In 2019 the Life & Legacy program brought in gifts with a future value of more than $12.5 million earmarked by donors for 30 various partner organizations.
Federation President Cheryl Markbreiter told the attendees, “You have the power to make a difference and make good things happen.”