2017-06-07 / Voice at the Shore

Community leaders honored and CNN correspondent speaks at Federation Annual Meeting

Voice shore editor

David Lieberman is Federation’s new president. David Lieberman is Federation’s new president. The Jewish community came out in force to honor its new and long-time community leaders and to hear CNN Jerusalem correspondent Oren Lieberman speak at the Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties at the Linwood Country Club on May 10.

“Tonight we install David Lieberman as the Federation’s new president. But David can’t do it alone! Moses couldn’t do it alone! Our community will fail or succeed because we stand behind the leadership that moves our community forward. We are the hands of G-d,” said Rabbi David Weis of Beth Israel in his invocation to the roughly 175 attendees, many of whom have been leaders and board members of the Federation and its affiliated agencies.

Fortunately, our Jewish community is financially strong, said Robert Lang, chairman of the Federation’s Community Foundation, an arm of Federation that safeguards and invests community funds and distributes those funds where needed in the form of grants.

Federation Executive Director Kirk Wisemayer (left) and outgoing President Steven Scherzer (center) present the Harry Cassman Award to board member and Community Foundation Chair Robert Lang. Federation Executive Director Kirk Wisemayer (left) and outgoing President Steven Scherzer (center) present the Harry Cassman Award to board member and Community Foundation Chair Robert Lang. “With $5.5 million in total assets in 2016, plus another $255,000 to come from Jewish Federation’s annual campaign, our Jewish Community Foundation is stronger than it’s ever been,” stated Lang in his Foundation Chair’s Report.

Having a strong Foundation is especially important now that our local Jewish population is aging and shrinking, which means that Federation’s donor pool is also shrinking, he noted.

“A healthy foundation ensures there will always be a fund of last resort,” explained Lang, who also urged “those with means” to “please remember Foundation in your long-term charitable giving plan.”

Lang, an attorney who has long served on the Foundation and Federation boards, was also honored at the annual meeting with the prestigious Harry Cassman Award. Named for the founder of the local Federation (and later its Foundation), the award honors an individual who demonstrates the same kind of commitment, leadership, service and vision as Harry Cassman.

Federation’s financial health and new, younger leadership make for a promising combination, noted outgoing Federation President Steven Scherzer, who was clearly delighted to hand the reins over to David Lieberman, a 46-year-old local businessman with two young children. Scherzer hailed Lieberman as “a younger president with younger thinking” who was the ideal person to grow and revitalize Federation. “To steal a line from Star Trek, he is willing to boldly go where no one else has gone before.”

Lieberman seemed up for the challenge. “Our greatest days are ahead of us….I believe we can adapt to a changing world, together, and that we can surprise even the greatest skeptics,” he said. “By raising the bar on ingenuity and planning, on leadership and engagement, and by growing the assets of Foundation significantly, we will increase the quality of our community experience, today and tomorrow.”

For Scherzer, saying goodbye after serving two years as president was “a very emotional moment,” he said. “Many joke that the job of president, especially of the Jewish Federation, is an unenviable one, but with a great board, dedicated and efficient staff, and many truly exceptional donors to support you, it is actually an experience that defines you in ways you could never have anticipated.”

Oren Lieberman, CNN Correspondent for Jerusalem, was a special guest at this year’s Annual Meeting. Lieberman, who formerly worked for CBS 3 in Philadelphia, jokingly thanked “the world in general for making this an incredibly interesting time to be alive.” These are not just interesting times, he stressed. “You know it’s crazy when Jerusalem is a normal place to live.”

Israel is no longer the biggest story in the Middle East, he said, except for times like earlier this month, when President Trump made his first official visit.

What do Israelis think of President Trump? Conservatives, who hold a “slim majority” in Israel, are “unquestionably pro-Trump,” said Lieberman. He added that if Trump is able to restart peace talks, “regardless of what you think of Trump, that would be an accomplishment.”

He also predicted that the U.S. Embassy was unlikely to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the immediate future, since it would likely dim the prospect of peace talks resuming.

The CNN correspondent’s speech at the Annual Meeting was arranged by local native Evan Hirsch, a New York network television producer and former classmate of Lieberman’s at Syracuse University, who is the son of Larry and Miriam Hirsch.

The Hirsches, who are longtime Federation supporters and passionate supporters of Israel, received the Weinstein Award during this year’s Annual Meeting. Named for Judge Gerald and Claire Weinstein, who led the creation of our local Federation’s community partnership with Israel, the award recognizes community members who have shown exceptional commitment and leadership in defining and strengthening our community’s bond with Israel. According to Scherzer, the Hirsches have spent decades creating living links with people in Israel, by bringing Israel educators (sheliachs) to our community, leading missions to Israel, and planning and sponsoring many celebrations for Israel.

Sander Greenberg, CPA, was recognized for his generous contributions to Federation with the Campaign Achievement Award. “When people need financial support, Sandy always says ‘yes,’” noted Scherzer. “Where would our community be without Sandy’s constant love for us?”

Gail Rosenthal received the Jack I. Fox Leadership Award for her work as executive director of Stockton University’s Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center. “Gail Rosenthal, what a dynamo!” said Scherzer, a comment that brought a standing ovation. “The missions and trips you’ve promoted have changed people’s lives forever. Your work with young people helps to make ‘Never Again’ a reality,” he added.

The One Jewish Community Award was given to leaders of Shirat Hayam, a congregation formed a year ago by the merger of Temple Emeth Shalom in Margate and Congregation Beth Judah in Ventnor. “Good for you for having the guts and vision to bring together two congregations,” Scherzer told the synagogue co-presidents, who were instrumental in making the merger happen.

A “surprise” award was also given to Robert Mayer, an outgoing board member who has served on the Federation board for more than 40 years. “He hasn’t just sat on the board, he’s worked on the board!” stressed Scherzer. “Bob Mayer asks some of the most insightful and difficult questions at board meetings. We will miss him and his innumerable contributions.” 

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