Rabbi Hillel admonishes Jews not to separate themselves from the community. Along those lines, it seems that the leadership of Meadowlands Country Club takes these words to heart, incorporating Hillel's call to communal responsibility into its mission statement. " … It is our goal to encourage a sincere sense of congeniality and fraternity while maintaining our exemplary record of support for those charitable and humanitarian activities which help to ensure our leadership role in the Philadelphia Jewish Community and the Community at large."
Club president Gilbert "Skip" Benjamin describes these words as the "guiding philosophy" behind events such as Jewish Community Day, a full day of entertainment and fundraising benefiting Federation; and Armed Forces Appreciation Day, a program that pays tribute to returning veterans from current military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Benjamin comments that Meadowlands is "steeped in a proud tradition of philanthropy and community service which began with the club's creation in 1950."
Benjamin himself stands on the shoulders of the club's first president, Sylvan M. Cohen. Cohen presided over a cabinet which included vice presidents: Max Falik, Harold Landesberg and Jack Wolgin; Alfred Carp, secretary; and Irvin Segal, treasurer.
Meadowlands current secretary, Michael Keitz, says that the founding board of the club "was comprised of many of the most respected individuals in Phila-delphia's burgeoning Jewish community." He maintains that the club's commitment to community service influenced his personal decision to join.
Keitz, a native of Elkins Park who credits Congregation Beth Sholom and its rabbi emeritus, Aaron Landes, with shaping his Jewish identity, wanted to belong to a club whose members "shared my Jewish cultural values."
Keitz, who served for two years as a member of Federation's Bux-Mont Kehillah Council, says that he was also attracted by the haimishe atmosphere of Meadowlands and its "family-friendly" environment.
"My wife, Amy and I enjoy spending time together there with our daughters, Rebecca and Sascha, and son, Evan," he says, adding that "Meadowlands caters to kids, and makes a significant effort to involve children in both recreational and charitable projects."
Andrew Geisler, who served as a co-chair of the 2010 Jewish Community Day at Meadowlands, along with Gary Itzenson and Jonathan Schwartz, shares Keitz's sense of pride in being a member of a club "that is so committed to making a tangible, hands-on difference in the lives of others."
This year's event boosted Meadowlands 2010 Jewish Community Fund contributions to nearly $775,000 and raised more than $10,000 in support of the club's special project — providing Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations for children living in Orr Shalom foster homes throughout the State of Israel.
Geisler concurs that Meadowlands "celebrates traditional family values," and defines his involvement in Federation as his "way of honoring the memory of my late mother, Phyllis" who he remembers as "a woman who was always involved in doing good deeds in our synagogue and other community organizations."
Geisler says that he is gratified by the club's hands-on approach to responding to critical community needs that have been identified by Federation, and are being addressed by Federation-supported agencies.
"Members have participated with their children and grandchildren in food drives at the Jewish Relief Agency warehouse in Northeast Philadelphia, and made deliveries together to residents at one of the apartment complexes run by Federation Housing, Inc.," he explains.
He says that "it is gratifying to offer people an opportunity to give their time and see the great work that our agencies perform in the community throughout the year," adding that "voluntarism is particularly important during today's recession-like financial environment."
Perhaps no other club charitable project is as volunteer-driven as Armed Services Appreciation Day, a program created four years ago by Meadowlands vice president Richard Ochroch and chaired this year by Meadowlands member Dr. Earl Rochvarg.
Rochvarg says that more than 100 club members volunteer their time to make the event enjoyable for the service men and women, and their families, during this June 14 Flag Day program.
"The club opens its doors to these brave men and women who have served our country," he says. "Our members prepare the greens for golfers, caddy, plan poolside activities and serve food throughout the day."
'Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam'
Rochvarg, the father of four grown daughters — two of whom observed their B'nai Mitzvot at Masada in Israel — says that he feels "very comfortable being a member of a club that celebrates such essential Jewish values as tzedakah and tikkun olam."
He describes member support of Jewish Community Day, Armed Services Appreciation Day and other community-service projects as "recognizing that those of us fortunate enough to belong to country clubs have an obligation to help those less fortunate."
And he puts that ideal into practice.
"Volunteering our time and resources to help others is not only the right thing to do," he maintains, but it is also "the Jewish thing to do."