County honors residents at Jewish Heritage Celebration

Photo Courtesy of Glen Frieson
At the annual Essex County Jewish Heritage Celebration on Monday, April 30, are, from left, Kerri Berson Levine, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. and Joel Bloom.

NEWARK, NJ — The annual Essex County Annual Jewish Heritage Celebration on Monday, April 30, recognized the influence and positive impact that Jewish people have had, and continue to have, on the economy and culture of Essex County. During the ceremony, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. presented Star of Essex Awards to Joel Bloom, president of New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Kerri Berson Levine, a real estate executive and philanthropist.

“Dr. Bloom and Mrs. Levine have both impacted the development of our community in their own unique way. Dr. Bloom has been a leading educator and the driving force behind the transformation and expansion of NJIT. Mrs. Levine has played an integral role in creating a dynamic atmosphere in Newark’s Downtown as well as providing educational and recreational opportunities through her work with Opportunity Project and Turtle Back Zoo,” DiVincenzo said. “Essex is a mosaic of diverse ethnicities, nationalities and religions, and this celebration is our opportunity to recognize the important role that Jewish people have had, and continue to have, on our county.”

Bloom is the president of NJIT, chairman of the Greater Newark Consortium Board for Pre-College Education and vice chairman of the State Board for Communities and Schools. He joined the staff of NJIT in 1990 and has served in several capacities before becoming president, including vice president for academic and student services and as the first dean of the Albert Dorman Honors College. Prior to his career at NJIT, Bloom was a teacher and school administrator in New York City Public Schools, director of research and an instructor at Teachers College at Columbia University, and managed state and federally funded curriculum development and training centers. Bloom also served as assistant commissioner in the New Jersey Department of Education for the Division of General Academic Education from 1984 to 1990.

Bloom has been the recipient of national and state education awards, and federal, foundation and corporate grant awards. In addition, he has published journal articles and presented papers on school improvement, curriculum development, college transition and student assessment. He has served as a member of the Board of the National Technical University, State College Bound Advisory Board, Board of the Philadelphia Alliance of Minority Participation and the Board of the New Jersey Association of Partners of Education.

Bloom holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University; he has earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Hunter College.

“To get this award, in such a great city and a great county, I feel very privileged,” Bloom said. “I am very proud of our students at NJIT. Not only are we on a growth trajectory, but we are on a diversity trajectory and our students gave 52,000 volunteer hours working in parks and in schools to give back to their community.”

Levine is a vice president at The Fidelco Realty Group and a dedicated philanthropist. She focuses on a wide range of properties in urban areas throughout the Tri-State Area, including Newark, which is her family’s birthplace and the center of her civic and philanthropic endeavors. While partaking in Fidelco’s success developing distinct destinations in overlooked inner-city neighborhoods, Levine spearheads the business’ commercial leasing, securing tenants such as Chipotle, Krauszer’s, FastSigns, Redd’s Biergarten, Pure Barre and Leadership Newark, to name a few.

Philanthropically, Levine is a member of the board of trustees of the Zoological Society of NJ, which helps support Turtle Back Zoo, where she is committed to providing and enriching a recreational experience that fosters excellence in wildlife education and conservation. In partnership with Essex County, she has developed Turtle Back’s first Miniature Golf Classic. In addition, she is a trustee and treasurer of Opportunity Project Inc., a not-for-profit organization aiding in the rehabilitation and empowerment of people with brain injuries.

Levine is co-founder of GIRLTALK #takeover, a day-long event for inner-city females ages 8 through 16 that focuses on beauty, community exposure, and female health and wellness. She is also a member of the College of Arts and Science Dean’s Advisory Council at New York University, member of the advisory board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson & Union Counties, and a trustee emeritus of Newark Downtown District.

“I consider this to be one of the greatest honors because I’m standing in the same place and getting the same award that my father received from the county executive 10 years ago,” Levine said. “Preserving our Jewish heritage always will be a priority and you could say working to improve Essex County and giving back to the community is genetic,” Levine added, pointing out that generations of her family have owned businesses in Essex County.