Fort Lee Mayor Jack Alter was remembered at his funeral on Tuesday as a smart businessman, an honest public servant, a proud Jewish veteran, and someone who was very proud of his heritage.
Alter, 79, who had been mayor since 199′, died Monday in Englewood Hospital, where he had been admitted last week for cardiovascular procedures. He was in the middle of running for his fifth term in November against Republican Judith Fisher. He had previously served as a Fort Lee Borough Council member, a Bergen County freeholder, and a member of the state’s Board of Public Utilities, which he joined at the request of former Gov. James E. McGreevey. Retired as the chief executive officer of Jack Alter Associates Inc., in Roseland, he was a member of the board of directors of the Bank of New Jersey, established in Fort Lee in May ‘006.
At Cong. Gesher Shalom/JCC of Fort Lee, where Alter had been a member for more than ‘5 years, Sen. Frank Lautenberg eulogized him as a friend and a politician in the truest sense. Among the many other political figures who attended were Sen. Robert Menendez, County Executive Dennis McNerney, and Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joseph Ferriero. Alter’s adult children, Lisa and David, spoke of their father as a wonderful role model. Alter is also survived by his wife, Joan; a daughter, Karen; a sister, Renee Sains; and six grandchildren.
"I was honored to pay him tribute," said Rabbi Irving Spielman, the synagogue’s rabbi emeritus, who officiated at the funeral. "He went with me to Israel, enjoyed himself very much, and was touched by the fact that I gave him the opportunity to meet with the mayors of Be’er Sheva and Jerusalem. He was looking for insight from those who are leaders in Israel to apply to Fort Lee."
"Being mayor of Fort Lee was a labor of love for him," said Paul Kaufman, former mayor of Leonia and an attorney in Fort Lee. "Jack was a pleasure to work with because he was highly intelligent, he was a businessman, he understood issues very quickly. Our meetings were very productive, and you always walked away with a good feeling after spending time with him."
During Alter’s time in office, he worked on bringing the community a new police center, improvements to the library, a new community center, and a beautified Main Street. He also served as an advocate for Fort Lee with the Port Authority.
He served on the board of trustees of Cong. Gesher Shalom, where there was a community shiva on Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday, the day of the funeral, black bunting adorned the Fort Lee Borough Hall, and the flag was lowered to half-mast. Democratic County Committee members will meet in the next two weeks to select a new candidate for mayor.
"He was an individual who brought honor to the community as mayor and as a congregant," said Spielman. "He had a heart of gold, and most important, he was a mensch."
Alter attended New York University, where he earned a master’s degree in psychology.
A tribute was scheduled for Wednesday, during the "Movies and Music Under the Stars" event sponsored by the Fort Lee VFW and Fort Lee Film Commission. Arrangements were by Eden Memorial Chapels in Fort Lee.