Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey
Presented to Julie Lipsett-Singer, President
Since 1973, The Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey has served as the central umbrella agency for the Jewish community of Union County and parts of Somerset, NJ. Through its Annual UJA Federation Campaign, Federation raises funds that are used to help hundreds of seniors age in place with a myriad of services and programs such as kosher meals-on-wheels, transportation and home healthcare services. Hundreds of children benefit from formal and informal Jewish education from birth through teens at its day-schools, JCCs, camps, Birthright Israel, One Happy Camper, PJ Library and JLand programs, and more. Still more families get the care they need through its partner agency Jewish Family Services, such as services like counseling, emergency relief, the Economic Response Initiative and the Union County Kosher Food Pantry.
The Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey has been a consistent supporter of the Jewish Educational Center, partnering with the JEC in numerous programs that benefit our students and our community. The annual allocation grant to the JEC represents the highest grant awarded to the JEC each year. Over the years, the Jewish Community Endowment Foundation of Federation has granted the JEC funding for an Early Intervention Sensory Integration Program in the JEC’s Early Childhood Department and a Cultural Literacy Program which allowed us to take our elementary students to plays, concerts and other performances in New Jersey and New York, and to bring special performances to the school.
We know we have always been able to count on Federation to “be there” for us and have depended upon them to enhance programming for the greater community through educational programs like the Annual Layl Iyun, the Holocaust Remembrance Program, and many others.
Around the world, Federation helps provide food, medicine, and warm clothing to the poorest and most fragile Jews in the Former Soviet Union while at the same time nurturing a revival of Jewish tradition and culture throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
In Israel, Federation reaches every corner of its society. Federation funds help ease poverty, provide academic enrichment, support victims of terror and violence, and so much more—enhancing the lives of Israelis and making sure Israel stays strong.
Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey is part of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), a national organization that brings together more than 150 federations and 450 independent communities (communities who raise money for Israel). Through its continental structure, they have the ability to reach any Jew in the world and respond to any crisis, natural or man-made. The power of this collective has enabled our community to be part of something much bigger than ourselves—to be a part of history and to literally witness miracles.
Raymond J. Lesniak, New Jersey State Senator
Public Service Award
The recipient of the Jewish Educational Center’s first Public Service Award, New Jersey State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, is the epitome of the public servant. From his US Army service during the Viet Nam Era, to his stints in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate, Senator Lesniak has put the well being of the people of New Jersey in the forefront of everything he has done.
Senator Lesniak, a lifelong resident of Elizabeth, is a graduate of Rutgers University (1971) and received his Juris Doctorate degree from St John’s Law School (1974). He served in the State Assembly from 1978-1983 and in the Senate from 1983 to the present date. He chairs the Economic Growth Committee, is Vice-Chair of the Commerce Committee and is a member of the Judiciary Committee.
As a legislator of over 30 years the Senator has been active in his support of Israel and helpful to many people within the Jewish Community.
Early in his political career, Senator Lesniak, then Assemblyman Lesniak, sponsored an Assembly Concurrent Resolution calling on the Soviet Union to end its policy of refusing to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate, citing Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
Senator Lesniak was Man of the Year of the Jewish National Fund in New Jersey and chaired the event honoring his friend, Saul Leighton, as its Man of the Year. He has established a scholarship fund at Kean University for its Holocaust Studies program.
In 2009, Senator Lesniak became only the second American, in its 20 year history, to win the prestigious international human rights award at Le Memorial de Caen, the D-Day and Human Rights museum in Normandy, France, besting thousands of contestants from throughout the world for his speech: The Road to Justice and Peace.
As a champion of children, Senator Lesniak was an original sponsor of the Opportunity Scholarship Act, and has been instrumental in trying to move it through the legislature. This bill would help children in communities with failing schools move to private schools. The JEC might benefit from this bill.
Senator Lesniak is a leader in the Democratic Party. From 1992 to 1993, he served as Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.
He is a partner in the law firm Weiner Lesniak.
Mrs. Beth Russ
Educator of the Year
Mrs. Beth Russ is the epitome of an Educator of the Year, any year. Ask any of her former students what they remember most about Mrs. Russ’ teaching and they will mention her patience, her warmth and her love of Torah.
It is the love of Torah that has guided Mrs. Russ’ life in whatever she does, wherever she’s traveled. Born in the Bronx, raised and educated in Brooklyn, she has taken the best of the New York Jewish experience and tradition to points south and back again.
From her bourgeoning academic career in the Head Start Program, after graduating Brooklyn College, to her experiences in teaching yeshiva students in Charleston, South Carolina, Binghamton, New York, Memphis, Tennessee, and at the JEC, Mrs. Russ has instilled in her students a love of learning and curiosity through a variety of multi-sensory approaches, encouraging each child individually to do his or her best.
Beth has been married to Rabbi Herbie Russ for 46 years. Raising six children in a variety of locations has been a challenge that Mrs. Russ has always relished. After 18 years of living and teaching in other parts of the country, the Russes decided it was time to relocate closer to family. They moved to Elizabeth 25 years ago, and Mrs. Russ soon joined the faculty of the JEC. Five of the Russ children were educated at the JEC, in various divisions and grades.
With parents so attuned to Torah and Jewish education, it is not surprising that four of the six Russ children have gone on to careers in chinuch. While the children and their families are spread over many US states, the closeness of the Russ family is a model of Yiddishkeit and Jewish family life. And we are certain that Bubby is the favorite person of her many grandchildren.
The JEC has been blessed to have Mrs. Beth Russ as a faculty member and mentor to many classes of JEC students, parents and colleagues. While we will miss her in so many ways, we wish her and Rabbi Russ all the best as they move into the next phase of their lives.