Rabbi Neal Borovitz is unreserved in his praise of Joy Kurland.
“She’s an amazing consensus-builder who passionately believes in what she does,” he said of the director of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Jewish Community Relations Council. “I think she’s the finest Jewish communal public servant I’ve worked with during my 36 years in the rabbinate,” added Borovitz, religious leader of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge and chair of the JCRC. “I took the position [at the JCRC] because of the opportunity to work with her.”
|Joy Kurland, JCRC director, to be honored by interfaith group. courtesy joy kurland|
Borovitz is not alone in appreciating Kurland’s contributions to the community. On June 5, the JCRC director, who also chairs the Bergen County Human Relations Commission, will be honored by the Interfaith Dialog Center.
According to the IDC – a Turkish organization working to foster understanding among various faith groups – the award is being given “to recognize the outstanding contributions of those who have distinguished themselves among their colleagues as well as in their communities by their services to New Jersey and humanity.” Other award-winners include Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) and New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow.
Borovitz said Kurland well deserves the award.
“I’ve known Joy for 20 years, since she became director of the JCRC, and in those years she has become a significant representative of our northern New Jersey Jewish community to the civic community and the interfaith community,” he said.
“Joy has facilitated the building of amazing coalitions,” he added, noting that her efforts have yielded one-on-one relationships between the Jewish community and other faith groups as well as larger coalitions.
Citing the teaching from Pirke Avot that the world stands upon three things – truth, justice, and peace – he said, “Joy is a person who uses education and mutual commitment to faith and to the idea of working together on tikkun olam to bring together people so that we can really live by those values.”
David Gad-Harf, interim executive vice president of UJA-NNJ, said Kurland is “not just active in interfaith work in northern New Jersey, but is known by many as the leader of interfaith cooperation and understanding,” forging “outstanding relationships with leaders of many different religious groups.”
Those relationships, he said, “have enabled us to accomplish so much more than we otherwise could have done.”
Kurland said she is “humbled” by the IDC’s decision to grant her its Peace and Understanding Award. She noted that she has worked with the executive director of that group, Levent Koc, for some eight years through the Interfaith Brotherhood-Sisterhood Committee of Bergen County.
According to Kurland, much of her career has been spent “in building coalitions among different groups and promoting mutual respect,” whether as the head of a community relations commission or on the college campus, where she worked for many years with Hillel.
“It’s near and dear to my heart,” she said, adding that “my whole upbringing focused on that.” With grandparents who escaped persecution in Russia and her grandfather’s involvement with the Workmen’s Circle, “my background growing up was to work with other groups and foster greater understanding.”
After receiving an MSW, Kurland worked with diverse groups, from the Ridgewood YWCA to the JCC in West Orange. She spent 15 years working with college students at Montclair State, Drew, and Fairleigh Dickinson.
“My proudest accomplishment is community-building,” she said, “working with all segments of the community toward unity and understanding.”