By Lucy Calderon
The Jewish Community of Louisville Teen Awards are awarded annually to high school student leaders who are engaged in Judaism and community service. Some of the awards are centered around involvement in the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), where Jewish teens take on leadership roles in their chapters at the local and international levels. Here is a look at the 2020 award winners:
The Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Awards are presented to incoming juniors or seniors who are leaders in their BBYO chapters, growing the program while staying active in their schools and communities. Miriam Bird has a passion for Judaism and music. Since joining BBYO, Miriam has been a KIO song leader, leading teens through prayer with music at regional events.
Miriam attended BBYO’s Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) in 2018, its International Convention (IC) in 2019 and 2020 and held the JLBBG chapter board positions of sh’licha (vice president of Jewish enrichment), s’ganit (vice president of programming) and n’siah (president). At this past year’s KIO’s Regional Convention, Miriam won B’nai B’rith Girl (BBG) of the Year.
Miriam has attended Camp Livingston and is active with the Jewish Family & Career Services (JFCS), delivering challah and grape juice to Jewish residents at Signature HealthCARE since the onset of the coronavirus. Miriam has also volunteered for WaterStep and New Roots.
At duPont Manual High School, Miriam participates in the Tri-M Music Honor Society.
Ever since the eighth grade, Hannah Geller has tried to attend every single BBYO event. On JLBBG’s chapter board she has held the positions of n’siah, morah and gizborit. At KIO’s 2019 Regional Convention, she was awarded N’siah of the Year for bringing back traditions such as pairing older members with younger members to creating more meaningful relationships.
Hannah’s aunt, Sally Weinberg, was a close friend of Nisenbaum, who helped establish The Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Awards.
Outside of BBYO, Hannah participates in North Oldham High School’s Beta Club, Girl Up program and Diversity Club. She also holds a leadership position in the Young Democrats, co-creating the chapter at her school.
The Stuart Pressma Awards go to incoming juniors or seniors who are involved in their BBYO chapters and work to grow the program while showing devotion to community service: Following his brother into BBYO, Ethan Tuvlin committed to going to all the events. He took on a leadership position to keep the chapter alive, becoming the Drew Corson AZA chapter’s moreh (vice president of membership and recruitment).
Ethan’s community service journey started with Drew Corson and took off from there. During the pandemic, Ethan and some of his friends delivered old Chromebooks and other electronic resources to needy public schools students through a program called Unify Louisville.
Ethan’s personal experiences have prompted some of his service initiatives. Because of his tree nut allergy and feeling left out of Halloween and birthday parties at his school when parents brought treats he could not eat, he did not want other kids to feel excluded. So he helped his brother with his bar mitzvah project, using it as a National Honor Society (NHS) project to collect and donate toys to 10 different schools in Louisville.
This past year, Ethan was a tutor at Educational Justice, helping underprivileged youth in the West End of Louisville. He remains in contact with one of the children he helped.
At duPont Manual High School, Ethan is in the NHS, Beta Club and Key Club, all of which are programs centered around service and leadership. He created the Manual Cooking Club and participates in varsity tennis, the Manual Steering Committee and Manual’s Executive Council.
Elizabeth Davis has been involved in BBYO since the eighth grade, but it was at a CLTC in 2019 where she fell in love with the organization. Elizabeth has attended IC and served two terms on JLBBG chapter board as the positions of sh’licha and gizborit (treasurer). Elizabeth makes sure she to help her chapter with anything it needs. BBYO has changed everything for her.
Outside of BBYO, Elizabeth has participated in her school’s Pride club and service days, when she writes letters to kids in the foster care system.
Elizabeth was to visit Israel this summer through the Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI), but the trip was canceled due to the coronavirus.
The Tony Levitan Award, which honors an outstanding high school senior athlete with proven character and demonstrated leadership in sports and Jewish events, goes to Brent Mannel. Since the eighth grade, Brent has taken advantage of all the opportunities to combine sports and Jewish engagement.
Playing for Drew Corson in the annual KIO Drew Corson Basketball Tournament for five years, Brent’s teams won four out of five titles. He attended the annual JCC Maccabi Games twice – once as a golfer, once as a flag football player. He even attended BBYO’s IC where he participated in its Sports Leadership Summit.
Brent was on Louisville Male High School’s golf team for four years and its lacrosse team for three. He also completed three years of travel lacrosse.
Brent will attend the University of Kentucky this fall with an undecided major.
Ben Kaplin has played baseball since she was 6. He said that he loves the game so much that it never felt like work. He made Ballard High School’s baseball team as an eighth-grader and continued to push himself, spending summers and winters working with baseball trainers.
Ben competed in the JCC Maccabi Games three times.
Although Ben’s last season on Ballard’s varsity baseball team was cancelled due to the coronavirus, he looks forward to playing for Marietta College this fall.
The Joseph Fink BBYO Community Service Scholarship is a four-year scholarship presented to a senior who was an in BBYO during all four years of high school and also performed significant community service. Elana Berger has been involved in BBYO since eighth grade in leadership positions. She was on JLBBG chapter board for two terms as mazkirah (secretary, publicist and editor) and gizborit. She helped with regional and international programming and went to all four of her international conventions, leading her to serve as KIO’s 65th Regional S’ganit.
At Floyd Central High School, Elana was involved in NHS, World Affairs Council, the Global Citizenship Certificate program, and she performed with its orchestra. She also served as an ambassador for her school’s Culture Club. She served as a peer mentor at her school for two years, taking time out of her class schedule to help about 10 underclassmen for a total of 96-plus hours.
Elana will attend the University of South Carolina as an international business major focusing on operations and supply chain management. She hopes to contribute to more women in the business field while helping prevent pandemics through managing the chains that import medical and sanitary resources from other countries.
The Ellen Faye Garmon Awards go to incoming juniors or seniors who are involved in their BBYO chapters, working to grow the program, and their communities. Since her first convention, Jenna Shaps has sought out ways to get involved in BBYO, serving as the JLBBG chapter’s morah and s’ganit, and currently as KIO’s 66th Regional Mazkirah/Gizborit.
Jenna is the head of the Kentucky Country Day School’s Upper School Media Makers club, is fine arts editor for the school’s 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 yearbooks and a high school helper for KCD’s middle school productions. She also volunteers as an educational justice activist leader, tutoring youth in the West End of Louisville.
From attending CLTC, to KIO’s Regional Leadership Training Initiative (RLTI), to BBYO’s international convention, Katy Roemer has always been involved. She served as the JLBBG chapter’s Sunshine Girl, which promotes chapter spirit and sisterhood, morah and sh’licha.
As s’licha, Katy had planned to be part of upcoming programs that were canceled because of the coronavirus. But Katy still found ways to make an impact. Before the shutdown, she executed a Purim party and led Louisville’s International Day of Jewish Teen Service (J-Serve), when over 700 bags of food were packed for the Blessings in a Backpack program for school children.
Katy is a religious school assistant. She plays on her day school’s tennis and bowling teams and serves on the Multicultural Student Association and Student Council.
Jenna and Katy attended CLTC last year and were ready to attend BBYO’s Perlman Summer (a combination of International Leadership Training Conference [ILTC] and International Kallah) until the coronavirus changed their plans. Now, they both attend Movement Makers, a virtual summer leadership program that was created to replace the Perlman Summer program. Katy also participates in two Jewish Enrichment Innovations (JEI) programs online.