|From left, Howard Charish, UJA-NNJ executive vice president; Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38); Alan Scharfstein, UJA-NNJ president; Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37), and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D- 37) display a state resolution honoring the federation.|
Bigger, newer, safer, more technically advanced – these were the words used over and over again by the officials, dignitaries, staff, and guests of UJA of Northern New Jersey at the dedication on Sunday September 21 of its new building, nicknamed “50 Ike” for its address: 50 Eisenhower Drive in Paramus.
More than 150 people gathered in the conference room as staffers spoke about the new security systems, cameras that could not be seen, guards and special electronic passes, as well as about the dÃ©cor, the centralization of services, and the space – especially the space.
Alan Scharfstein, the federation’s president, said, “We hope to make this building the central location of Jewish activities in our community,” said Scharfstein.
As well as UJA-NNJ, the building houses Hillel, Jewish Educational Services, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Israel programs, as well other initiatives. It is also expected that, some time in the future, the building will house the more than 60 years worth of records compiled by the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey and its president, Jerry Nathans, now in storage at William Paterson University in Wayne.
“A building is made possible,” said Scharfstein, “by what we have done in the past, but its real value is based upon what we believe we can do together to make a better future.”
Daniel Silna, UJA-NNJ past president, said that the need for a new building was made clear when the Bergen County Police Department said that the old building in River Edge was one of the least secure in the county. Another problem was space. “For any of you who had spent time in our old building,” he said, “you noted that our staff was on top of one another.”
It was Silna who visited Paramus Mayor James Tedesco to discuss moving and the federation’s needs.
Tedesco, a guest at the dedication, said that just before that meeting with Silna, several Israeli soldiers had visited Paramus and, during a tour of the area, commented to him on the lack of security at a Paramus Mall and that they were afraid to enter it.
Tedesco said that in light of that, he told Silna’s group, “We will make this building so that you can truly and really come into this building and know that this building is safe and that those trepidations and uncertainty that those soldiers felt that day … would not happen to the people coming into this building.”
|Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) shakes hands with George Hantgan, the first executive director of the JCC, when it was in Englewood.|
He said the building is one of the most secure, technically advanced buildings in the United States.
Among the elected officals speaking at the dedication was Rep, Steve Rothman (D-9), a former head of the JCRC and former federation board member. He pointed out George Hantgan, “who in 1951 started the Englewood UJA with my mom and dad and Danny Rubin’s mom and dad and perhaps the Seidens and Epsteins and some others on the room.”
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37) received a round of applause when he announced that he is co-sponsoring a bill with Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-37) to establish the New Jersey-Israel Commission as a permanent commission in the Department of State.
After the ceremony, Barbara Joyce, assistant director of Women’s Division, conducted groups on a tour of the building. Pointing out the barriers in front of the doors and windows, she said that, in light of the shootings two years ago at the Seattle Jewish Federation, security was on everyone’s mind.
During the reception, Kimi Wei, a guest who called herself “a Jewish single mom,” said she looks forward to coming to the new facility. “There’s more parking and the building is more pleasant and you feel more welcome.”
George Hirshberg, also attending the reception, said he plans to donate some family owned artwork to the UJANNJ in order to raise money for the art gallery anticipated in the building and to repair schools in towns in Israel damaged by rockets lobbed from Gaza.
Another contributor at the reception, who gave artwork to decorate the staff offices, was Margot Brandes, who said, “I wanted to reach those people who are generally not recognized. They’re hard workers behind the scenes, so I wanted to do something for them.”
After giving the invocation, Rabbi Daniel Wolff of Cong. Beth Tefillah in Paramus said, Ã propos of the new building, that when the Epcot Center was opened in 1982, someone said to a member of the Disney family that it was too bad that their “Uncle Walt” could not see this day. The person answered, “‘He did see it and that’s why it’s here.'”