Judy Alperin Diamondstein declared what she would do with her life by the third grade; at the ripe age of nine, she knew she wanted to enter the family business.
“My dad is an executive director,” she wrote for a school assignment that proud father Stuart Alperin, then director of the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill and later CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, framed and has had hanging on his home office wall for nearly 40 years. “He makes sure everything is ok,” wrote the Cherry Hill native.
Her closing sentence is the clincher, “I think I would like to be one.”
True to her intentions, Diamondstein built a career as a Jewish professional, segueing her summer stints at the JCC Camps at Medford into her first post-college job at a JCC in Massachusetts. Following a lengthy tenure with a Jewish Federation in Lehigh Valley, PA, she was recently appointed CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven. The role is a natural fit, say those who know her well. It’s not just family destiny: Her passion for Jewish communal life and strong work ethic have led her on this path.
“The fact that she’s following in her father’s footsteps may make it more meaningful to us, but it doesn’t take away from it being her accomplishment,” said her mother Marylee Alperin, a former preschool and Hebrew school teacher and community volunteer who was president of the Jewish Federation Women’s Philanthropy division during her daughter’s formative years. “We’ve always been proud of her. With everything that she’s ever tried, she has succeeded.”
The New Haven Federation serves a Jewish community of approximately 22,000. It is considered an intermediate-sized Federation. In comparison, South Jersey is in the category with large intermediate federations, serving 50,000 residents in the region.
Diamondstein gives credit where it’s due. Her parents, she said, were her biggest role models, showing her how to mesh family life and community involvement into a career path.
“It was very organic in our family,” she said. “I grew up watching my parents put both the Jewish community and our family first. My father was sort of like the big picture guy. My mother was much more in the trenches. By the time I was three years old, I was accompanying her when she was teaching her kindergarten Sunday school classes. From the maintenance folks to administrative staff, everybody just made me feel like we were all part of an extended family.”
Her parents, she noted, not only worked as Jewish professionals. They also devoted much of their time and energy to volunteer and leadership positions both at Jewish Federation and Cong. M’kor Shalom, of which they were founding members. Her older sister Elise Waldman also worked in the family business for many years. She was the longtime director of the JCC Camp By the Sea in Margate. She currently works for Marketplace Realty in Margate.
Perhaps her own path was sealed when she married a fellow congregant, Marc Diamondstein, also from an involved Cherry Hill Jewish family. They made M’kor history in 1990 as the first congregant couple to tie the knot. After graduating from Rutgers University in 1990, Judy Diamondstein became director of youth programming at the JCC of the North Shore in Marblehead, Mass.
She and Marc relocated to Allentown in 1992, where they raised their two children. Noah, 22, a rabbinical student, is currently in Israel, and Molly, 20, is a student at Colgate College.
In Lehigh Valley, she served numerous roles as both a professional and volunteer. She was the director of the Hillel Society of Lehigh University, then director of camp, membership and program services at the JCC of Lehigh Valley. At the Jewish Federation of Lehigh Valley, she was the Annual Campaign director from 1998 to 2000 before taking a few years off from Jewish professional work when her children were young. During those years, she continued her Federation involvement as a volunteer and also served as a lay leader at her synagogue.
Returning to Jewish Federation in 2005, she came in as an associate development director, rising up the ranks to assistant executive director in 2001. She received a Sapir Award for Campaign Excellence from United Jewish Communities (now Jewish Federations of North America, JFNA). In 2013, she participated in the inaugural class of JFNA’s Fundraising University.
A few months into her new job, she is excited by her work, applying ideas she learned from her vast experiences in the field and from watching her parents in action.
Stuart Alperin, currently director of the Raymond and Gertrude R. Saltzman Foundation, said it’s exciting to listen to his daughter enthuse about her plans. He is always available to give advice but knows she won’t need much handholding from her father.
“She has a wonderful background and experience,” he said. “She worked for a very, very good Federation in Lehigh Valley. She comes to this job very well prepared.” s