February 1, 2024

Feeding the Eternal Flame

Debra Levenstein Senior Development Officer, JCF

In the January 12 issue of the New Jersey Jewish News, we printed the names of approximately 3,000 members of the Ner Tamid Society, thanking these donors who have supported the UJA Annual Campaign for at least 25 consecutive years. It took three pages in tiny print. Check it out here. 

It is quite remarkable to look at this extensive list of individuals who have consistently expressed their support of Jewish community through a gift, large or small, to Federation, year in and year out, without fail, and without diversion. Which is precisely why we call the Society by this name. 

The Ner Tamid, which translates to eternal light, most often hangs in front of and above the ark in a synagogue as a symbol of God’s presence. 

Robert Lichtman, former Chief Jewish Learning Officer at Federation, wrote in his blog in July 2018:  

“The Ner Tamid was not intrinsically eternal. It was eternal because people kept the flame alive. God’s instructions went like this: “A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar; it will never be extinguished.” 

In a Torah that measures every word, why do we need the phrase “it will never be extinguished?” If the flame is perpetual, it will not be extinguished. 

We need the admonition that “it will never be extinguished” because, without it, there is no guarantee that the flame will not go out. The second part of the sentence is where God kind of looks over the rim of her glasses and says, “You know how I know that the flame will not be extinguished? Because I’m telling you it’s your job to feed that flame. And I am confident that you will feed that flame because you know as well as I do that you need it now, you will need it tomorrow. You will always need it.” 

He likened the eternal flame to our Jewish community – always needed, and needing to be fed, to be nourished, in order to ensure it won’t go out.  

I would clarify that it’s not just the Greater MetroWest Jewish community but the community of Jews we support around the world and in Israel. Today we are in a fight for our place in the world.  We have been here for 5,000 years and under the care of our Jewish Federation in Greater MetroWest New Jersey for 100 years. We are here today and can only be here tomorrow if everyone does their part to keep the flame lit.

It is a big deal to have one’s name listed in the New Jersey Jewish News as a member of the Ner Tamid Society, and a designation I hope the entire community will aspire to by making a UJA Campaign gift each year. Not to see your name in the paper, but to know that your unrestricted gift ensures the strength and well-being of the Greater MetroWest Jewish community.    

It is also, admittedly, a challenge to ensure that our record-keeping is perfect, dating back that far. Here are names of Ner Tamid Society members who were inadvertently omitted from the listing, as well as those who are newly added to the list. 

Karen & David Anolick
Anne & Martin Baum
Marsha Hoch & Bernard Brothman 
Cindy & Jay Chazan
Carol I. Cohen
Judy Cohn
Robert Daley 
Linda & Robert Fanburg
Alice Fried
Michele & Jason Frieder
Irene & Stanley Gabay
Sandra & Erwin Ganz
Marlene & Stephen Ginsberg
Rebecca & Mitchell Gold
Harriet Goldman
Ilene & Bruce Jacobs
Rachelle & Sam Landau
Kenneth R. Kaplan
Bernard Lehrhoff
Barbara Levy
David Mayerhoff 
Marion & Howard Medow
Natalie Raskin 
Susan Roth
Meredith Rothenberg 
Lana Schachtel
Elizabeth & Louis Schlesinger 
Rosanne Skopp
Sheryl & Gary Weine
Sarabeth & Sidney Wizen 

Thank you again to these longtime donors who have trusted Federation to distribute their philanthropic dollars over the years. As we celebrate 100 years of our Greater MetroWest community, we reflect on the fact that it is only through the consistent, steady support of our donors that we’ve been able to continue our important work for a century – and that their support will enable us to strengthen our community for the next century and beyond. If you have any questions about the New Tamid Society, about creating a Jewish legacy in your name, or about the many ways you can participate in our Centennial Campaign, please reach out to me at [email protected] or (973) 929-2947.