The YM-YWHA of Union County will honor a couple with a long history of involvement with the Y and the local community, and a couple who have more recently come on board.
At the Y’s Annual Raffle Dinner, to be held on Sunday, Jan. 11, Laura and Aaron Cohen, of Garwood will be honored with the Community Leadership Award, and Bella and Daniel Baum of Elizabeth will receive the Young Leadership Award.
“We choose people who go above and beyond in their contribution to the Jewish community and to the Y — in their leadership and the way they give of themselves — and whose example hopefully inspires others,” said Jani Jonas, the assistant executive director of the Y.
She pointed out that for both couples, their first connection with the Y was via their children. “Their entry point was enrolling the kids in our childcare program,” Jonas said. In the case of the Cohens, that was in 1981. With the Baums, it was soon after they settled in Elizabeth 11 years ago.
The Cohens, who have three grown children, Sarah, Aviva, and Jonathan, and three grandchildren, joined the Y in 1981.
Aaron, a senior technical executive consultant in the information technology industry, is a past president of the Y and continues to serve on the board of trustees. In 2000 he received the Abraham Izak President’s Award.
He has served as copresident of Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford with Laura, and continues to serve there as a trustee. He is also a past member of the board of trustees of the former Jewish Federation of Central NJ, as was Laura, who was an officer on the board. She now serves as a trustee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and is also a trustee and member of the executive board of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
Laura, a senior credit analyst at Hewlett-Packard Financial Services Company, served for a number of years as treasurer of the executive board of the Y and is currently a vice president. In 2011, she received the Y’s President’s Award.
Aaron has multiple sclerosis, and the family has been involved in supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Laura received the Mission Possible award from its Greater North Jersey Chapter for volunteering as captain since 2002 of the top-ranked Walk MS fund-raising team “The Mitzvah Squad.”
In addition to serving with Aaron as copresident of Beth-El Mekor Chayim, since 2008 Laura has been teaching Torah and haftara reading and other ritual skills to teens and adults in weekly drop-in sessions known as Torah with Laura.
Bella Baum grew up in Staten Island, Daniel in Brooklyn; they met as students at Yeshiva of Flatbush High School. They moved to Elizabeth 11 years ago.
Bella is a physician’s assistant and works at Garden State Bariatrics & Wellness Center in Millburn. Daniel serves on the Y’s executive committee, and on the board of trustees of Congregation Adath Israel in Elizabeth. He is a vice president at CIT Group, in the corporate treasury area and held prior positions at JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.
The Baums have three children: Sophie, Emily, and Joey. The oldest two attend the Jewish Educational Center Yeshiva; the youngest is in daycare at the Y, as his older siblings were before him.
The Raffle Dinner is the Y’s major fund-raiser of the year. Proceeds help support camp scholarships and senior adult and youth services. Raffle prizes include a trip to Israel or $2,000 pre-paid credit card, a computer package or $1,000 of Y services, and a camera/video package or $500 of Y services.
The Y is a beneficiary agency of the Greater MetroWest federation.