Federation honors past, future at its new home
Jerry Marks gets into the spirit of the evening as he auctions off mezuzas for the new federation offices.
September 25, 2012
Jewish Federation of Monmouth County’s annual Major Gifts Celebration gave the organization a chance to show off its new Holmdel headquarters and honor some of its most dedicated supporters.
With the new facility at 960 Holmdel Road under construction, federation staff made jackets and jeans part of the dress code for the Sept. 6 event and handed out souvenir hard hats.
Guests were able to see a 3,200-square-foot office that appeared close to ready for the scheduled Sept. 24 move-in date. Major remodeling was completed, and all that remained was to furnish the space.
Welcoming the guests, the federation’s president-elect, Sheri Tarrab, said, “Moving out of a strip mall and into a professional office building in the center of Monmouth County makes us accessible to all of the county’s 75,000 Jewish residents.”
Tarrab told her listeners that the more professional setting also demonstrates how “upwardly mobile, positive thinking, and cutting edge” the federation strives to be and how it can become even stronger in the years ahead.
Federation president Joe Hollander presented an award to honorees Carl and Mary Gross of Monmouth Beach. He praised the couple’s generosity and hands-on involvement with numerous federation efforts and specifically cited Carl’s work with the Boy Scouts of America, Monmouth Council.
Accepting the award, Gross told of having been executor for the will of a close relative who left a sizable amount to charity and who allowed him considerable discretion in how to dispense the funds. “I was not heir to any part of the estate,” he told the federation audience. “But because of all the good I was able to do with the money, I think I benefited more than anyone.”
His wife, Mary, said she had heard the rabbi at Chabad of the Shore counsel his congregation, “We all have things, but things can be taken away from us. No one can take from us what we have given to others.”
Attendees at the Major Gifts Celebration have all given $6,000 or more to the federation’s Annual Campaign. During the celebration, they pledged to buy mezuzas at $1,000 and up for the entrance doorway and all major offices at the new federation headquarters.
The event was chaired by Judy Klein Premselaar of Manalapan, who earlier this year earned the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award from the Jewish Federations of North America and its Lion of Judah Society, which honors women who have made substantial commitments to their community’s annual campaign. Premselaar told New Jersey Jewish News that giving tzedaka was as natural as breathing in the home in Scranton, Pa., where she grew up. She said she is just emulating the pattern set by her mother and grandmother, Lions of Judah before her. She is proud that her example has rubbed off on her children. “We have been lucky in this life, and it is our duty to give back,” she said.
Featured speaker at the program was Avraham Infeld , a Jewish educator and former president of Hillel International.
Speaker: Jews a people, not a religion
USING HUMOR and irony to make serious points, Avraham Infeld held fast to a central idea: Jews belong to a people, not a religion.
“We are not a religion and we’ve never been a religion. Judaism is the culture of the Jewish people,” said Infeld, president emeritus of Hillel International and a consultant to the Israel-based Reut Institute. “It bases itself entirely on the covenant between a people and God Almighty — not between an individual and God.”
Infeld, featured speaker at the Sept. 6 Major Gifts celebration held by the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, said he understood the concept of “peoplehood” growing up seven decades ago in South Africa. “I knew it to be so because it was what my father, a Jewish atheist, told me,” he said.
Today, davening three times a day, donning tefillin, keeping kosher, and celebrating Shabbat “at least once a week,” Infeld reported that he has often been in groups where he is the most observant individual — but the least religious.
In Infeld’s view, too many Jews — particularly in the United States — have forgotten the idea of peoplehood, and that is the “most serious danger facing the Jewish people today.”
He urged his audience to remember that Jews are a family, and that a family is obligated to hold onto its memory and pass it on to future generations.
Mission and tasks are two different things, and confusing the one with the other leads to petty jealousies and turf wars, he said.
“The prime minister of Israel and a teacher at a Jewish day school have the same mission — but their tasks are different,” said Infeld, whose wife Ellen is a native of Woodbridge. “The mission — of all Jews — is to determine how we may ensure the continued significant survival of the Jewish people.”