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Belle Mead Resident Named Senior Director of Arts Center

The Count Basie Center for the Arts, New Jersey's leading nonprofit performing arts center, announced on November 30 that Lysa Israel, of Belle Mead, has joined the organization as its senior director of development.

Lysa Israel

"Lysa's career and her focus on regional, statewide and national concerns is crucial as the Count Basie Center for the Arts looks to increase its footprint through partnership programs and our work in the field of arts education," said Adam Philipson, president and CEO, Count Basie Center for the Arts. "Her familiarity with the philanthropic community will prove crucial as the Basie Center successfully navigates its way out of the of the pandemic crisis."

Israel, raised in Ocean County and Rumson, has spent more than 25 years in fundraising and development, most recently as Vice President of Development for the Somerset Health Care Foundation. She held a senior role at the Drumthwacket Foundation, and has worked for other political and not-for-profit organizations, including the Jewish National Fund, and the campaigns of George W. Bush and New Jersey governors Christie Todd-Whitman and Chris Christie.

She has founded two fundraising-focused consulting firms, is a former commissioner of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, and has served her community as head of Montgomery Township's Parent Teacher Organization and the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey Service Unit 75 in Montgomery / Rocky Hill. Israel also spent years as a guest lecturer at Rutgers' Eagleton Institute of Politics.

"The Count Basie Center for the Arts is the cultural heart and soul of the region," said Israel. "There has never been a more critical time for the arts than right now, but I know that this community recognizes and values what the performing arts bring to our lives and what the Basie gives back to our communities. I'm excited to be coming home to Monmouth County and to help people deepen their connection to the Basie organization."

Israel joins the nonprofit Basie Center as it works to overcome the financial strains of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit as the nonprofit was set to debut its $28 million expansion. The Basie's 95-year old historic theater has been shuttered since last March, canceling or postponing nearly 100 performances and erasing the nonprofit's primary source of revenue. While the Center's second venue, The Vogel, opened for small audiences in October, and the Basie Center Academy has remained operational online and through limited onsite classes, the economic realities remain, with losses surpassing $8 million for calendar year 2020.

In September, the Basie Center launched the Basie Recovery Fund, raising more than half of its $2 million dollar goal through thousands of public donations and a match established by the Basie Center Board of Trustees. In addition to grants, limited edition merchandise sales, and offsite concert events, the Count Basie Center has remained operational so that its limited performances and arts education efforts can continue to support the emotional and social wellbeing of our community.

"We are thrilled to welcome Lysa to the exceptional Basie team," said Jeremy Grunin, chairman, Count Basie Center for the Arts Broad of Trustees. "We must work to position our not-for-profit organization so, if necessary, we can endure unforeseen crises in the future. However, with possible light at the end of the tunnel, we're also preparing to get back to our mission of inspiring, educating and entertaining, and Lysa will fill a critical role to secure that possibility."


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