Arthur S. Kling Award
Norma Cahen would not thank you for referring to what she does as daycare.
The J’s Early Learning Center director, and this year’s winner of the Arthur S. Kling Award, Cahan sees her work as far more significant than that.
“Early childhood is where we all began,” Cahen said, “so how can we not build up our children?”
The Kling Award honors a member of the staff for outstanding service.
Since starting at The J in 2015, Cahen, a career early learning specialist, has worked hard to develop a program infrastructure that could outlast her: the Passover Experience Friday morning Kabbalat Shabbat in the lobby, the Snowflake Shoppe holiday bizarre, and Monday Havdalah for “Pomegranates” or pre-K children.
She has also introduced a graduation ceremony for the Pomegranates. “It’s an exciting time for our children,” she said. “They have been here since they were 6 weeks old.”
She emphasizes Jewish values and mores in her programs.
“I don’t talk about religion,” Cahen said, understanding that many of the children belong to other faiths or are being raised without religion.
Raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Cahen graduated from Barry University in Miami Shores with degrees in education and administration & management. She taught at a Montessori school for 13 years before going to Temple Kol Ami in Plantation, Florida, as an early childhood director – a job she held for 23 years.
During that time, she founded a congregational day school, which stayed open for 10 years until a community day school became established. She also taught early childhood education at nearby Broward College.
She is married to Howie Cahen. The couple has four sons: Bryan (Charlene); Gary (Lauren); Mark (Jessica); Michael (Ilana); and seven grandchildren.
After she and her husband, Howie, retired to Waynesville, North Carolina, a cousin told her of an opening for an early childhood director at the Louisville J and encouraged her to apply.
“I drove up for an interview with the leaders and parents committee, and the next day, Sara [Klein Wagner] hired me,” Cahen recalled. “That was February 16, 2015. It was the first time I drove in the snow.”
Ronald & Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award
Jake Wishnia has been volunteering since he was a teenager collecting quarters for the AZA.
Back then, the 81-year-old native Louisvillian recalled, the local chapter passed out 3×5 index cards to raise money, each one filled out with information about another boy.
“I had your card, your name, what you gave last year, and I tried to get a quarter from you for next year,” Wishnia said.
So began a lifetime of volunteering.
At every stage in his life, Wishnia stepped forward to help.
In college, he joined Alpha Zeta Omega, a national professional fraternity for Jewish pharmaceutical students, raising money for Israel.
A retail pharmacist after graduation, he owned his own drug store for 25 years. But he also became active in the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, serving on the ethics committee, as its second vice president and working to procure a trailer to serve as a mobile pharmacy at disaster areas.
He also belonged to the Veteran Druggist Club, an exclusive group open to pharmacists with 25 years of professional experience. (There were never more than 25 members). The club’s dues supported scholarships for pharmacy students.
Never far from the Jewish world, Wishnia chaired the cemetery committee at Keneseth Israel, joined the board and eventually became president of the congregation.
He also joined the chevra kadisha and the Louisville Vaad HaKashruth, seeing a need for providing kosher food for visitors to the city.
“I’ve always tried to be as kosher as I can,” Wishnia said.
But other services of the Vaad came to interest him; namely, the community mikvah. He chairs the committee that manages the ritual bath and he became actively involved in finding a new location last year when a Texas developer bought the Anshei Sfard property. The deal fell through.
He is beginning his fifth year on the JCL Board of Directors. Before that, he was on the planning and allocations committee.
He is married to Carol Wishnia. The couple has five children: Sharon Glickman, Maureen Friedman, David Wishnia, Leah Mueller, Leslie Goldmeier; 14 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Currently, Wishnia is working to preserve the history of Jewish Louisville. He wants to donate AZO minutes in his possession to the Filson Historical Society, and he’s starting a project to archive the history of Jewish-owned drug stores in the state.
“I’ve already started gathering pictures of old drugstores,” he said.
Elsie P. Judah Memorial Award
When people come to lunch programs at the Senior Adult Center, one thing they can count on is a greeting from Martha Bennett, its unofficial ambassador.
“I go around and greet everyone,” Bennett said. “Sometimes, people need a hug, and I do try to remember people’s names.”
Bennett has been coming to the center for 15 years. First for lunch, then little by little, she became actively involved.
“I just enjoy coming over here,” she said.
A native of Louisville, Bennett grew up on the West End and married a Marine – Bob Bennett – at age 16. The couple was posted to bases across the country, and they had five children together.
Today, she is the grandmother of 14 and the great-grandmother of 12.
She returned to Louisville in 1964.
“No place like Kentucky,” she said. “We traveled some, saw some things, but there’s no place like Kentucky.”
In addition to helping out at the Senior Center, she has taken senior trips to Washington and Branson, Missouri.
But the most rewarding part of volunteering, she said, is helping people.
“I like helping people; I really do,” Bennett said. “I’m a good listener. For whatever reason, people tell me their worries.”
Dr. Ian Mutchnick
Julie E. Linker Community Relations Young Leadership Award
Few JCRC members have as much experience on both sides of the Green Line as Dr. Ian Mutchnick.
A son and grandson of Baghdadi and Ashkenazi Jews, he spent many summers in Israel, playing with his cousins and speaking Hebrew to everyone he met.
As an adult, though, the Norton Healthcare pediatric neurosurgeon has spent time in the clinics of Ramallah and Gaza – the Palestinian Authority – treating their children, meeting their parents and learning that the people long considered enemies by many Israelis aren’t necessarily bad guys.
“I found nothing but politeness and gratitude,” he said. “And Ramallah is nice; it’s a place you can go have a beer with a lot of young Palestinians and they can find out you’re Jewish and bad things do not happen.”
A member of the JCRC, since 2015, Mutchnick brings a little-heard perspective whenever the committee takes up an issue related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Mostly, members are drawing their understanding of the conflict from Jewish sources alone, without taking in the other side’s perspective.
But Jews need not surrender their love of Israel and Zionism to appreciate both sides of the narrative, he said. “Holding on to our truths while appreciating their truths is just good strategy.”
A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mutchnick is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Louisville School of Medicine. A former Peace Corps volunteer, he has always been interested in working on international missions,
When he learned about the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, which brings critical health care to kids in the Palestinian Authority, he considered it a chance to learn more about the conflict his family grew up with.
“I thought, not only do I have a chance to go to the Palestinian territories, but I also get to talk to them and care for their children,” he said.
He’s found the people he’s worked with “deferential” and grateful that he came. Even in Gaza, the current hotspot in the conflict, people he met didn’t care that he was Jewish.
“They’re certainly weren’t distrustful of my taking care of their children,” he added, “that’s for sure.”
Interested in becoming more active in the Jewish community, he approached JCRC Director Matt Goldberg, since the work of his community dovetailed with his own interests.
He is married to Stephanie Mutchnick. The couple has two children: Gabe,16; and Mimi, 12.
He said he is honored to be chosen to receive the Linker Award. “I’m so touched the community would think of me in that way.”
Joseph J. Kaplan Young Leadership Award
From her earliest days, Shannon Benovitz’s life was tied up in enhancing the lives of Jewish youth.
A Louisville native, she is the daughter of the late Jay Levine, a champion of youth activities who became the namesake of an BBG chapter after his death.
So, it’s not surprising that Benovitz embraced Jewish youth activities when she graduated from Indiana University and returned home to work as a marketing and PR consultant.
Benovitz got involved in the Young Adult Division in 2004 and chairs the program today. She served as a volunteer BBYO Advisor for six years and later served on both the JCL Board of Directors and the Federation Board before merger
She volunteered as a BBYO advisor for six years.
Today, she is the Director for the Louisville PJ Library, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall.
“Reading is so important,” said Benovitz, the mother of two young children Melanie, 2, and Jayson, 4. “It’s so important to teach them early and I love the message that PJ emphasizes: You’re able to connect to Judaism through story telling.
As director, Benovitz organizes activities throughout the year that connect stories to holidays and other parts of Jewish life.
She also networks with parents, mining new ideas and feedback.
“We’re looking to connect families to these stories,” Benovitz said. “I don’t think everything has to evolve around the holidays; it’s just a natural fit.”
And she works closely with PJ Library’s national office promoting the latest news from PJ Library and POJ Our way, a compendium program for kids ages 10 and older.
About 350 individuals in Louisville are connected to PJ Library and PJ Our Way.
Benovitz has also served on the JCL Board of Directors and the Federation board before the merger.
She lives in Louisville with her kids and husband, Todd Benovitz.
Benovitz said she was honored to be named the winner of the Kaplan award, calling it “a testament,” not only to her own work, but her father’s.
“I’ve been trying to carry on his legacy since his death,” she said, “so I want to dedicate this award to him.”
Lewis W. Cole Memorial Young Leadership Award
When asked about his service to Jewish Louisville, Craig Greenberg came back with a profound understatement:
“Mostly what I’m doing is helping my 12-year-old son study for his bar mitzvah later this year,” he said.
Greenberg has been actively involved in the community since his days in BBYO. (He was a Pi Tau Pi chapter member). His service has continued on the JCC Board of Directors before the merger, his efforts on behalf of a proposed Adath Jeshurun-Keneseth Israel merger, and his work with JTomorrow!, specifically in lining up an architect for the project.
An attorney by training, Greenberg has mostly worked in behind-the-scenes jobs that are necessary to move the community forward.
Beyond the community, he has made a name for himself in the hospitality industry. He president of CEO of 21c Museum Hotels, which runs mixed use contemporary hotel-museums in Louisville and six other cities. Two more are planned for Kansas City and Des Moines.
The Harvard Law School graduate grew up in Louisville and lives here today with his wife, Rachel, and sons, Daniel and Benjamin.
Honored by the award, Greenberg used the opportunity to tout his vision for a leaner Jewish Louisville, one that has few, but stronger Jewish institutions.
“We have a lot of legacy Jewish organizations that do many wonderful things,” he said, “but our resources are spread so thin that it’s an unsustainable model.
He said the community is shrinking, its people share their time with outside interests, and these will likely continue in the future.
He said a new community model, with “fewer innovative and stronger organizations,” would be better suited to survive in the decades to come.