Home January 2023 Dr. Murray Katz Elected New Federation President

Dr. Murray Katz Elected New Federation President

State Sen. Vin Gopal spoke at the Federation annual meeting about the need to standardize and improve Holocaust and genocide education in the state. He worked with Federation on such a bill, which was passed by the senate’s education committee the previous week. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County

A Year of Accomplishment and Service Celebrated at Annual Meeting 

    A new era has begun for Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey as Cheryl Markbreiter closed out an unprecedented four years as president and Dr. Murray Katz was elected as her successor.
    At its Dec. 8 annual meeting, 125 community members turned out at Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst to hear about the many accomplishments and ways Federation is supporting the Jewish community through challenges posed by the rise in antisemitism, the humanitarian crisis to its Jewish community caused by the war in Ukraine, economic hardship exacerbated by the pandemic and helping to support Israel.
    It also honored Jerry Katcher for his many years of supporting Federation, writing a weekly column about Federation for the newsletter of the Ponds adult community in Monroe and his years of entertaining at nursing homes and Jewish events as a member of the Jewbadors, a musical group of seniors who performed in English, Hebrew and Yiddish.
    Speaking at her home synagogue, Markbreiter spoke of her 23 years of service to Federation, where she will remain on the board, and where she found “fabulous working relationships and friendship.”
    In introducing Markbreiter, Federation immediate past President Jeffrey Schwartz remarked, “Many Federation leaders have done superbly, but you have surpassed them all,” as he recounted her many acts of tzedakah.
    Federation Executive Director Susan Antman said  Federation could not even begin to express its gratitude for Markbreiter’s service and dedication.

Jerry Katcher was honored by Federation for his many years of service, Accepting the award from Federation Governor’s Council member Carol Kominsky (left) on his behalf is his daughter, Ellen Katcher

    During her two-term presidency her guidance helped steer Federation through hardships while backing initiatives that made the community safer and helped its institutions.
    Highlights include: providing hundreds of thousands of dollars and securing matching funds to aid those in crisis from Covid-19, war, natural disasters and food insecurity; training a dozen Jewish organizations to cultivate legacy giving to ensure a sound future; launching the Security Alert System for emergencies and played a pivotal role in sharply increasing security grants from $3 million to $11 million; formalizing a community approach to care for “orphaned” Jewish cemeteries; and beginning the PJ Library Ambassadors Program to connect with young families.
    Also underscored at the meeting was the initiative undertaken with state Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Dist. 11) to improve upon how Holocaust and genocide education, which has been mandated in New Jersey schools since 1994, is taught. The previous week the Senate’s education committee passed the bill.
    Gopal, a lifelong Monmouth County resident, told those gathered that he had long had an interest in Holocaust education and made a point when visiting his own grandparents in India of stopping at a Holocaust site on the way home.
    He said standardizing and improving the statewide curriculum is necessary “so that every child understands what happened and so that it never happens again.”
    Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun of Torat El opened the program with a d’var Torah that reminded the community of the lesson of Hanukkah that teaches “that we each have a divine spark” and that we “should each strive to increase the light” something he said Federation does through its efforts.

Outgoing President Cheryl Markbreiter, shown with husband, Lance,
served an unprecedented four years in the position

  Several people representing Federation beneficiaries spoke of ways that spark has increased the light for others. Malkie Ratzker, coordinator of loan services for the Hebrew Free Loan Society of New Jersey, said its mission is “to give a hand up, not a handout,” by providing interest-free loans to expand or start businesses, building families through adoption and infertility services—including egg donation and IVF—to cover medical and dental bills, new roofs, needed vehicle repairs and purchases and other needed general assistance for members of the community. Ratzker said its loans kept Jewish-owned businesses afloat during Covid.
    It has a loan repayment rate of 95-96 percent, which Ratzker attributed to the respect and dignity with which recipients are treated.
    “If it’s done right that money is being constantly recycled,” said Ratzker. “That $10,000 loan comes back to us to be loaned out again and again. We receive so much help from the Heart of New Jersey Federation. I want to thank everyone in this room for this highest level of tzedakah.”
    Lynda Levy, who received a Federation teen grant to go to Israel, said she has wanted to return to Israel since going with her family when she was 12.
    A high school senior in Monmouth County, Levy went over the summer on a five-week program through ILEAD (Israel Leadership Development), where participants gain skills through real life experiences that provide a foundation for lifelong growth and accomplishment.
    “I learned how people get along and what leads to the spread of antisemitism,” she said. “I l learned how to combat antisemitism on the left and right.”
    Moreover, Levy gained necessary insight to counter false stereotypes among friends and classmates about Israel.
    Chanale Wolosow is director of the Friendship Circle of Central New Jersey, which pairs often isolated disabled adults and children with teen volunteers for socialization. The organization sponsors holiday programs, camps and young adult programs. Its Sunday Circle offers everything from yoga, crafts, cooking, dancing and more under the guidance of a trained teacher and volunteer teen buddies. It also has a Friends at Home program that sends teen volunteers to homes for weekly play dates.
    “We provide friendship and we all need friends,” said Wolosow. “We are a really inclusive community where everyone is accepted and nurtured. Everybody has the opportunity to shine.”
    Alan Brodman is a retired teacher from East Brunswick High School where he taught constitutional law, world history and a nationally renowned Model UN. He was invited to join Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council and got to put his knowledge and skills to use on a mission to Washington, where he met with legislators, including Sen. Robert Menendez, to talk about issues important to the Jewish community.
    He has also interacted with state legators and the general community to discuss antisemitism and Holocaust education, among other items.
    Editor’s Note: After this issue went to press, we learned the sad news that Jerry Katcher passed away. The entire community sends its condolences to his family and may Jerry’s memory be for a blessing.

Debra Rubin is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.


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