By Susan Lesh
You’ve perhaps heard an announcement saying that Bergen Ethical has a Commemorative Fund if you would like to donate money in memory or celebration of a person or event. Perhaps you’ve attended a member’s memorial and heard that donations can be sent in the member’s memory to Bergen Ethical. The money goes to the Commemorative Fund, but what is that fund?
Back in the late 1970s, people observed that small amounts of money came into the Society in memory of members. The idea behind the Commemorative Fund was to put these small amounts together. When the fund reached a couple of hundred dollars, the money was donated to outside organizations that were in line with Ethical Culture’s mission and ideals. A Commemorative Fund Committee was added to the Constitution, and the Board of Trustees elects five members to serve on the committee.
In 2013, our Board discussed the purpose of the disbursements. Some substantial donations had been made in members’ memories, and many felt the donations could be better used internally for projects. The Board and the membership, at the Fall Membership meeting, voted to have the Commemorative Fund distributions made for special projects or specific initiatives either internally or to outside organizations, with more emphasis on the internal projects. Some recent examples are construction of the sound booth, and seed money for the Brady Campaign, which began at our Society and then was spun off to become its own organization. The language of the Constitution was left vague to allow discretion and flexibility for the fund managers and the Board.
The current Commemorative Fund Committee, Chair Dan Rosenblum, Anne Wallman, Ruth Olsen, Alpana Sikder, and I, met recently to disburse some monies. Several of the small organizations with which we have ongoing relationships had created special fundraising because of the Covid crisis. Disbursements we made:
- $500 for the pandemic appeal of the Community of Friends in Action (CoFiA), a Bergen organization that assists immigrant workers and their families.
- $500 to the Center for Food Action, which provides emergency services to North Jersey’s most vulnerable.
- $500 for the Covid relief fund of the Bergen Family Center, which provides clinical counseling and advocacy support for families.
- $500 to the Hackensack Riverkeeper fund to help restore its building and resources lost in last year’s fire.
- $1,000 to the MLK Jr. Birthday Committee for its annual scholarship program.
- $3,000 to the Northern New Jersey Sanctuary Coalition in honor of Joe Chuman’s 46 years of service to the Society and in recognition of his commitment and dedication to the cause of helping asylum seekers.
Being on the Commemorative Fund Committee provides great satisfaction. We are able to help these smaller organizations as well as target projects in our Society. Please consider saying yes to serving on this committee if asked.
Susan Lesh is president of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County.