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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            Contact:          Teresa Ruiz

May 23, 2006                                                                                                   973-621-4404

                                                                                                                        Anthony Puglisi

                                                                                                                        973-621-2542

ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO HOSTS

FIRST ANNUAL ESSEX COUNTY JEWISH HERITAGE CELEBRATION          

Peter Shapiro, the First Essex County Executive, and Susan Bass Levin, Commissioner of Community Affairs, Receive Star of Essex Awards

Jerry Izenberg, Star-Ledger Columnist and Project Pride President, is Presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award

Newark, NJ The first floor lobby of the Essex County Hall of Records was transformed into a traditional Jewish gathering as Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. hosted the First Annual Essex County Jewish Heritage Celebration on Tuesday, May 23rd.

During the ceremony, DiVincenzo presented Star of Essex Awards to Peter Shapiro, Managing Director of Swap Financial Group and the first Essex County Executive, and Susan Bass Levin, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The County Executive also recognized Jerry Izenberg, a Star-Ledger columnist and Founder and President of Project Pride, Inc., with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Peter Shapiro, Susan Bass Levin and Jerry Izenberg are leaders in our community who have dedicated their lives to public service and improving the quality of life for all people,” DiVincenzo said. “I am proud to recognize them for the impact they have had on generations of lives, but also to shine the spotlight on the influence that Jewish Heritage has had and continues to have in shaping the economy, culture and future of Essex County. Our strength is our diversity, and our cultural heritage series raises awareness, fosters understanding and strengthens our pride,” he added.

Shapiro, a resident of South Orange, is Managing Director of Swap Financial Group, the leading independent advisor and arranger of interest rate derivatives in the United States. Prior to founding Swap Financial Group in 1997, Shapiro was Senior Vice President of Euro Brokers, a leading derivative specialist, and Citibank, where he served as a Senior Banker and headed the municipal derivatives business and the public finance department. Before entering the financial world, Shapiro spent 12 years in government service. He was the youngest person ever elected to the State Assembly and served for two terms from 1976 to 1980. He was elected as the first County Executive in Essex County in when Essex changed its charter, and served two terms from 1978 to 1986. He currently serves as a member of the Essex County Improvement Authority Board of Commissioners and is Chairman of the Essex County Government Review Committee.

“I am delighted to be honored and to be here with so many old friends,” Shapiro said. “Joe DiVincenzo is doing a splendid job as County Executive. For those of you who remember the fight to create a new county government, Joe exemplifies what our hopes and dreams were for this county,” he said.

Susan Bass Levin, a resident of Cherry Hill, is the Commissioner of the NJ Department of Community Affairs in Governor Jon Corzine’s administration and previously served in the same capacity during Governor James McGreevey’s administration. As Commissioner, Levin is responsible for overseeing the Divisions of Local Government Services, Codes and Standards, Community Resources, Housing, Fire Safety, the Division on Women, the Office of Smart Growth and the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development. She also chairs the NJ Meadowlands Commission, the NJ Redevelopment Authority, the Government Records Council, the NJ Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency, the New Jersey Historic Trust and the Council on Affordable Housing. Prior to joining the State, Levin served as Mayor of Cherry Hill for 14 years.

“This really means a lot to me. My parents have lived in Short Hills and Fairfield for 25 years, so I have a real attachment to Essex County,” Levin said. “Government is about helping people and bringing people together. We get a better government when we get different voices around the table and that’s what we see here in Essex as we celebrate this very special Jewish Heritage Day,” she added.

Jerry Izenberg, a resident of Shark River Island, has been a newspaperman for 55 years and a Columnist for The Star-Ledger for 42 years. In addition, Izenberg’s columns have been syndicated and appeared in newspapers around the world. He is one of only eight sportswriters to have covered every Super Bowl, has been inducted into seven Halls of Fame, is the recipient of numerous awards and has been nominated several times to receive the Pulitzer Prize. Izenberg also is President of Project Pride Inc., an all-volunteer organization that provides recreation and educational enrichment programs for youth and college scholarships for high school seniors. This year, the organization will present its 1,000th scholarship. He also organizes the Pride Bowl, which donates all its proceeds to support Project Pride.

Izenberg spoke about the influence his father has had on his life and his memories of growing up in Newark. “I really feel that this is an emotional event. This County has been my life,” he said. “I don’t deserve the credit for what we have accomplished with Project Pride because I get more from these kids and seeing the joy on their faces than they get from me,” he noted.

Rabbi Clifford Kulwin from B’nai Abraham gave a blessing to start the program and spoke about Jewish heritage and history. Entertainment was provided by Moshe K, who performed klezmer music and songs written by Jewish composers.

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.

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