NEWARK, NJ — Rabbi Clifford Kulwin of Livingston’s Temple B'nai Abraham was recently presented with a Star of Essex Award at this year’s Essex County Annual Jewish Heritage Celebration, which recognizes the influence and positive impact that Jewish people have on the economy and culture of Essex County.
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. presented awards to Kulwin as well as Marsha Atkind, chief executive officer and executive director of The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, headquartered in Millburn.
"Marsha Atkind and Rabbi Clifford Kulwin have both been influential members of our community having had great personal success in their respective careers," said DiVincenzo. "Their commitment to serving the Jewish community and improving the lives of Essex County residents, their leadership, and dedication to public service is to be praised.”
According to the county executive’s presentation, Kulwin has occupied the pulpit of Temple B'nai Abraham since 1999. He has distinguished himself as a leader with his sermons, addresses and opinion pieces featured in the Star-Ledger and the New Jersey Jewish News, which have earned him respect within the Jewish community and the community at large.
Prior to moving to New Jersey, Kulwin was a congregational rabbi in Rio de Janeiro and has maintained close ties with the Brazilian Jewish community. He is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Hebrew, which have helped him with his global work with the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Kulwin is also an active recruiter of young people to travel to Israel for summer and study programs abroad.
Kulwin graduated from Macalester College and was ordained by and received a master's degree from the Cincinnati campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He was also a Doctoral Fellow in Jewish history at Columbia University.
Kulwin said that he has lived in various places, but calls Essex County his home.
"I realized how special the Essex community was when I started working at Temple B'nai Abraham,” he said. “I will be retiring in 32 days, but when people ask me if I'm going to move, I tell them I'm already home. This honor means a great deal to me.”
The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the underserved population of Newark and the Jewish community of Greater MetroWest New Jersey.
Atkind was also previously the founding director for the Jewish Women's Foundation of New Jersey, manager of Women's Philanthropic Initiatives and manager of philanthropic initiatives for the Jewish Community Foundation. She was also the national president of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Inc., where she was responsible for the operation of the organization working to improve the quality of life for women, children and families.
Earlier in her career, Atkind served as president of The New Jersey Jewish News and president of the NCJW/Essex County section. She was also Chief Paralegal for Kreindler, Relkin, [Olick] and Goldberg.
Atkind has served on various boards throughout her career, including the Board of Governors for Tel Aviv University and Advisory Board for NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education, The Hebrew University and Jerusalem. Atkind has also received many awards and honors for her years of service including the NCJW Celebrate the Dream Honoree, the Alpha Epsilon Phi Susan Rudd Cohen Award for Outstanding Communal Service and the NCJW Hannah G. Solomon Award.
Atkind received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and American Literature from the University of Pennsylvania and also attended Columbia Law School.
"I can't tell you how touched and flattered I am to be here,” she said. “The work I've done over the last 40 years has been rewarding enough and the many people I've met have taught me so much. I've gotten so much more than I've given. This award is just the icing on the cake.”
The Essex County Jewish Heritage Celebration is part of a yearlong series of programs initiated by County Executive DiVincenzo to recognize and celebrate the diversity of Essex County. Other cultural celebrations celebrate African American Heritage, Irish Heritage, Italian Heritage, Jewish Heritage, Latino Heritage and Portuguese Heritage.