Generously gave to Jewish and secular causes
Katz, 70, a philanthropist whose family has made significant contributions to local Jewish and secular causes, died Friday, Dec. 20 at a New York hospital from complications of a stroke.
Born Marjorie Joy Nemarow, she met her husband Lewis Katz when both were teenagers at a Cong. Beth El dance at its first home in the Parkside neighborhood in Camden. As Lewis Katz forged his fortune in parking, banking, billboards and real estate, the family has been a driving force in the growth of South Jersey’s Jewish community through the years.
“They have always been givers and a part of everything we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Beth El Rabbi Aaron Krupnick, noting that the new building in Voorhees was created in two stages. “Margie and Lewis were integral in taking leadership roles in both efforts. The school building was named in honor of their children Melissa (Katz Silver) and Drew and the sanctuary in the new building is named in honor of Lewis and Marjorie.”
The family also made significant contributions to local Jewish Community Centers. Both the JCCs in Cherry Hill and Margate are named in memory of Lewis Katz’s parents, Betty and Milton Katz.
Although she also had homes in New York and Florida besides Cherry Hill, she felt special ties to the South Jersey Jewish community, said Lewis Katz.
“She loved the Kellman (Brown) Academy, where we sent our children,” said Lewis Katz. “She loved Beth El synagogue because of her friendship with Rabbi (Howard) Kahn. She loved the Katz Jewish Community Center because of her relationship with Marylee Alperin. And she loved our new synagogue because of Rabbi
“She was the most generous human being I’ve ever known and the kindest,” he added.
Katz name is a lasting contribution to the family’s generosity, she is perhaps best know for giving that reached individuals outside the spotlight.
”She was really touched by human stories and people’s plight, that was her thing,” said Jennifer Dubrow Weiss, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, noting that Katz was recently helping adults with special needs to live independent lives.
Katz’s giving and caring reached well beyond synagogue walls, and causes that were often off the beaten path, recalled Sandra Kaminer, a longtime friend. Among her projects, she invited a three-year-old boy and his mother to move into her house after being charmed by the little boy whom she met in a nail salon. She became like a second mother to the child, helping to raise him and put him through college, Kaminer said.
She was equally devoted to her friends and family and made life an adventure for those she touched, said Kaminer.
“She always had a plan and a sense of excitement around her,” said Kaminer. “You’d wake up and she’d say, ‘today, we’re going to New York!’ When you were sick, Margie was out at your door, bringing you soup, or socks if there was something wrong with your feet.”
Her intellectual curiosity was also legend, said Kaminer, noting that her friend would delve into study of topics of interest. Fluent in French, Katz led her friends on an adventure for her 65th birthday to Strasbourg, France, where she studied during college.
She was also the glue who brought family together, she said.
“When her children married, all the in-laws became her extended family,” Kaminer said. “They became like one family. She was very conscious and worked very hard to keep her family together.”
Katz grew up in Vineland and graduated in 1961 from Vineland High, where she was president of the Elvis Presley fan club. She studied French at Pennsylvania State University and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1965.
In 1966, she and Lewis married. She was a French teacher at Cherry Hill West before she had her children. Later, she owned the Cat’s Meow, a gift shop in Cherry Hill.
Her spirit and generosity has also clearly influenced her children.
When Drew, 42, was named to the “O Wow! List” in 2011 for his work with the Drew A. Katz Foundation, he cited both parents for their example.
“I grew up in a family of philanthropists. My mother had such a soft spot for those in need, like her hairdresser’s children, whom she sent to summer camp; my father built Boys & Girls Clubs in Camden, New Jersey,” Drew Katz stated about the organization which has given more than $1-million to people at risk.
Survivors include her husband, son and daughter, four grandchildren and her father, Irwin Hyman. Internment was at Crescent Memorial Park in Pennsauken.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made either to the Katz Academy Charter School, 1725 Park Blvd. Camden, NJ, 08103, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Camden County, 1709 Park Blvd. Camden, NJ 08103, or the Covenant House International, Times Square Station, Box 731, New York, NY 10108. Alternatively, contributions to charities that exemplify her spirit are encouraged. .