Two close friends, Freida Posnock of the Jewish Federation of Central NJ and Wendie Ploscowe of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, have been named as Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award winners by their respective communities.
For the past eight years, National Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federations of North America has bestowed the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award on women who exemplify women’s giving. The award was established eight years ago in honor of Norma Kipnis-Wilson and the late Toby Friedland, the founders of Women’s Philanthropy’s Lion of Judah initiative. LOJ members make a minimum commitment of $5,000 to their respective communities’ annual UJA Women’s Campaign.
Ploscowe, who divides her time between homes in North Caldwell and Boca Raton, Fla., and Posnock, who lives in Monroe Township, declared themselves delighted to be sharing the honor. They met on a JFNA-sponsored trip to Israel for community leaders in 1982, and since then both have been on dozens of missions and have chaired a number of them.
The two women will be honored locally at CHOICES in the fall and nationally, along with other winners from around the country, at the International Lion of Judah Conference Sept. 10-12 in New York City.
Posnock grew up in New Orleans, in a huge extended family that was very involved with the Jewish community, with the synagogue, and with Israel Bonds, and, she told NJJN, “I virtually lived at the JCC.” When she married New Jerseyan Lenny Posnock at 19 and moved with him to Linden, she turned to the local Jewish community to find friendship and camaraderie.
With characteristic light-heartedness, she described herself as a “wild and crazy Southerner,” but she has also taken very seriously the chance to do good in and through the Jewish community. After she and Lenny moved to Clark and joined Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah, she became the congregation’s second woman president, and a Lion of Judah. “My predecessor told me that I couldn’t sit on the bima without being a Lion,” she said.
Some years later, she became one of the first women in the community to endow her LOJ. “This way, I know it will go on in perpetuity,” she said.
Working with the Central federation, Posnock has served in every major role in Women’s Philanthropy, including president, campaign chair, LOJ chair, and vice president of education. She continues to play an integral role as a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Merger Work Group, in advance of the planned merger this summer of the Central and UJC MetroWest federations.
Over the past 35 years, Posnock has received many honors, including the David Ben-Gurion and B’nai B’rith Humanity awards, and the Woman of Valor Award, the highest honor Women’s Philanthropy bestows.
She highlighted two aspects of federation involvement — taking part in missions, and always maintaining a level of giving. Bringing up her two children, she said, she always kept at hand a carefully decorated shoebox with an opening cut in the lid — a homemade tzedaka container — so that family members would remember to put cash into it all year round. With her six grandchildren, she made a habit of the tradition of giving them each a $100 Israel bond as Hanukka gifts — a habit, she said with a grin, they have come to appreciate more as they’ve gotten older.
Passion for service
Ploscowe grew up on Long Island, NY, seeing her mother work with a federation-sponsored camp for underprivileged children, and serving as president of the local chapter of National Council of Jewish Women. When she moved to North Caldwell with her husband Steve 42 years ago, five years after they got married, joining the local NCJW seemed like a natural move, she said. Getting involved with federation followed just as naturally.
She went on to become president of the NCJW Essex County Section, and to serve as a MetroWest Women’s Philanthropy president, campaign chair, and vice president and a Lion of Judah. She has also served as UJC MetroWest’s general campaign chair, the second woman in MetroWest history to hold that position. Other leadership roles within UJC MetroWest include service on the board of trustees and executive committee.
A member of the board of trustees of Daughters of Israel in West Orange, Ploscowe has also been honored by State of Israel Bonds and the American Jewish Congress for her years of service, and by UJC MetroWest with the Bessie and Julius Cohn Young Leadership Award.
She told NJ Jewish News, “In the early days, working on some of the committees, I was often the only woman in the room, but that changed rapidly.” She had been shy as a teenager, she said, but community service — begun when she was a student at Cornell University — put an end to that. With unstinting support from her husband, and while bringing up their son and daughter, she learned the ropes.
“Some days have been harder than others, but I’ve loved being involved,” she said. The work and the missions to various parts of the world “have given me opportunities I could never had any other way.”
Ploscowe worked to help free Jews from the former Soviet Union and supported the campaigns to build the MetroWest High School in Ra’anana, Israel, and the Women’s Center in Cherkassy, Ukraine. Along the way, she has mentored many people, pleased, she said, to see a new generation getting involved and sharing her passion for service.
Also sharing that commitment are her children and five grandchildren, who have followed in her philanthropic footsteps.