Benabou, Vaughan to co-chair YAD
[by Shiela Steinman Wallace, Editor, Community]
In keeping with his commitment to ensure that this year’s Federation Campaign is different from what has been done in the past, 2014 Federation Campaign Chair Doug Gordon has announced that this year’s YAD chairs will be Keren Benabou and Ben Vaughan.
“I’m excited that Keren and Ben have agreed to lead the Young Adult Division,” Gordon said. “They are energetic, creative and committed to the future of our community. Ben’s already taking the lead with the Uniquely Jewish series of events we introduced last year, and we, as a community recognized his accomplishments and potential by awarding him the 2013 Lewis W. Cole Young Leadership Award.
“Keren, too, accepted leadership responsibilities for our Jewish community,” he continued, “by co-chairing last year’s YAD Campaign event. She was also our featured speaker at our trap-shooting event.
“We’re very lucky to have both of them on board,” he concluded. “I’m delighted to have them as members of our team.”
While they haven’t had much time to plan yet, both have accepted the leadership roles because of their commitment to the community. Vaughan and Benabou also said they are looking forward to working together.
“The year that we are planning is shaping out to be a really amazing experience,” Vaughan said.
He hopes to inspire people to “feel more invested in the Campaign than just writing a check. They need to feel that they get something out of it.” By supporting the Campaign, he added, “you get a community that’s strong, viable and here to support you and to support itself.”
Our Jewish community is very diverse, Vaughan observed. “We do so many different things across the community for so many organizations for so many purposes, you can always find something that meets your needs.
“I want people to understand that you have to be involved if you expect things to change,” he added, and challenged YAD members to get involved and work for the changes they would like to see.
Benabou echoed the sentiment, adding that there are many ways to get involved. She called on YAD members to step forward “to chair or co-chair an event, serve on a committee for an event” or attend an event or two. Learn more about the community and the extraordinary things we do together.
Although she is relatively new to Louisville, Benabou agreed to serve as YAD co-chair because she knows the Campaign is important. “I really do care for the community,” she said. “I really want my kids to grow up in a culturally rich community.”
Since Benabou grew up in Israel, being Jewish was easy. Almost everyone around her was Jewish and Jewish practices like kashrut were the norm. In Louisville, the situation is very different.
While she and her family practice Judaism in their home, “It’s not enough,” she said. “I want my daughters to socialize with Jewish kids … and to do things in the community, at the JCC and in the synagogues so they can grow up as Jewish as they can.”
Here, she explained, it takes all of us working together to ensure the survival of the Jewish community. She is planning to use her leadership skills, and work with Ben
“First and foremost,” she continued, “we need a successful Campaign. I want our community to understand how important it is to participate and support it.” To achieve that goal, Benabou wants “to have more people at the YAD event, to raise more money than last year, and to make sure the people who attend have fun.”
To ensure YAD’s success, Benabou also wants to increase the diversity of the YAD Committee. “I want to try to get people from all segments of our community,” she said, “those in their 20’s and early 30’s, families with children in preschool programs, families with older children in BBYO and people from every synagogue and denomination.
“By having a more diverse committee,” she concluded, “I hope to plan a year full of events that engage every young adult. … We need to bring the community together.”
Benabou moved to Louisville from Israel about six years ago.
She served in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) for six years, and earned the rank of captain in the intelligence force.
Benabou is a real estate agent. She has also taken some courses at the University of Louisville, studying economics and enjoys working out regularly with a trainer at the JCC.
She and her husband, Yariv, have two daughters, Lia and Shylee.
Vaughan explained that he decided to accept the position of YAD co-chair now because, “It is the time in my life to take on more responsibility and to take the initiative. In previous years, a lot has been done, but there is a lot more that can be done.”
Vaughan is assertive, analytical, engaging and affable. He explained that much of who he is today is due to his parents’ influence. “They raised me to question, to challenge authority, so I guess my propensity for ‘rocking the boat’ stems from that.”
Growing up, he was the only Jewish student in his school and had his first experience with anti-Semitism while attending high school in Bowling Green, KY. As a teen, he traveled to Nashville every week where he participated in a group of similarly situated students (the only Jew in their respective schools).
Clearly, his solidarity with others of the Jewish faith began early. And it continued throughout college when he attended the University of Louisville pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering.
While at U of L, he was active in Hillel and served as its representative on the JCL’s Jewish Community Relations Council. Moreover, he was a campus volunteer for the JCL’s Annual Campaign. Hillel also afforded him the opportunity to attend the Spitzer Institute, a convention for college students that is run in conjunction with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum. He also conducted Israel advocacy both on campus and in the community.
Once college was behind him, and after some extensive world travels, he returned to Louisville and began to participate in the Jewish Federation’s Young Adult Division, supporting the Annual Campaign every year and coordinating the call center for Super Sunday in 2007.
Last year, Vaughan proposed a number of ideas for different kinds of Campaign events and they became the seeds for the Uniquely Jewish Event Series, some of which Vaughan chaired.