The Legacy of Our Past Presidents

At the conclusion of Gary Aidekman’s successful three-year term as president of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ (UJC),and the election of Lori Klinghoffer as the new president, I began reflecting on our past presidents.


I wrote a blog several years ago in which I noted that eight of our past presidents were in Israel to commemorate the 30th anniversary of our Project Renewal initiative in the city of Rishon LeZion. At that time we were joined by the mayors of our five other partner cities in a celebration of a three decade relationship.


In the 16+ years, I have been MetroWest’s executive, I have served with seven presidents, all of whom are still active and whom I can call upon at any time for assistance.


The Past Presidents’ Council, chaired by Arthur Brody, serves not only as the nominating body to select officers and the president of UJC, but as a sounding board for critical issues that confront our community. I can recount examples where the Council’s sage advice provided a path to success in a number of ventures and prevented us from making strategic missteps in others.


Dr. Sidney Weinstein
Dr. Sidney Weinstein
But the individual I would like to highlight is our oldest living past president, Dr. Sidney Weinstein, with whom I had lunch last Friday. He will be moving from our community after the passing of his dear wife, Sima Jelin, to be with his family in Massachusetts. Serving as president of our Federation from 1967 to 1969, during the tumultuous Six-Day War and its aftermath, Sidney, at age 94, is still an active participant in many of our activities. These include the recent launch of our MetroWest Tomorrow Campaign and our end-of-year Board of Trustees meeting on June 23.


Sidney grew up in poverty in Portland, Maine, being only 16 months old when his father was killed in an automobile accident. He was mentored by his brother, Lewis, an illustrious attorney in the Boston area who had served as president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, the National Council of Jewish Federations, and chaired the President’s conference of major Jewish organizations. Lewis also stewarded him as he gained entrance to his alma mater Harvard.


Unlike his brother, Sidney pursued a career in chemistry, receiving his Ph.D. from New York University. He developed new products for Apex Chemicals in Elizabeth and was the founder of Chemplex. He and his first wife, Ethel, and Sima were actively involved, not only with our Federation and UJA, but with numerous other causes. He and Sima were honored several years ago by the American Jewish Committee.


Every day as I go to work, I pass by a beautiful sculpture by David Aronson given to us by Sidney, titled “The Three Singers.” This wonderful addition to our campus reminds us that when we all sing together in harmony, great things can ensue. This is the legacy of our presidents, past and present, who attempted to bring together the diverse musical notes played in the different sectors of our community into one united symphony of sound, inspiring us to work together as one community, supporting our people and the State of Israel.


Sidney, we wish you well as you embark onto the next chapter of your life.


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