With 123 teens participating in BBYO this year, this program can attribute a large part of its success to a devoted cadre of teen leaders who plan engaging programs, strive to make all members feel included and important and ensure Jewish content is a key to what they do. Each spring, BBYO honors the best of these leaders – who execute their responsibilities well and inspire others to follow their examples.
This year, the Ellen Faye Garmon Award will go to Laina Meyerowitz, the Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Award will go to Bradley Schwartz and the Joseph Fink Community Service Scholarship will go to Elana Wagner. The Stuart Pressma Leadership Award winners and the Tony Levitan Award winners will be announced in the May 22 edition of Community.
All these awards will be presented at the Jewish Community of Louisville Annual Meeting, Sunday, June 14, at 9:30 a.m. at the Jewish Community Center. The community is invited.
Ellen Faye Garmon Award – Laina Meyerowitz
Laina Meyerowitz, 16, is a sophomore at Ballard High School and a leader in Jay Levine BBG. A native Louisvillian who has been involved in the Jewish community since she was little, she is the first in her family to be involved in BBYO.
This year’s Ellen Faye Garmon Award winner joined the chapter two years ago. Since she already knew most of her Jewish peers in her grade, she joined because she saw BBYO as “an opportunity to be with them and see them more.
“It turned into so much more,” she continued, “because I had the opportunity to meet new people – not only from Louisville, but across our region, across the country, and even some other countries.”
In addition, BBYO gave Meyerowitz valuable leadership experiences. Since joining, she has served two six-month terms as mazkirah (vice president of communication) and is the chapter’s current morah (recruitment vice president).
As an officer and Executive Board member, Meyerowitz helps plan chapter activities. She is also regional quack chair, responsible for writing articles to be distributed during conventions. She also served as administrative assistant for the Kentucky-Indiana-Ohio Kallah in March.
Conventions are a big part of BBYO, and she has attended almost every one she has been eligible for since she joined the chapter. “I’ve probably been to 10 regional conventions and one international convention,” she said, “and I will be going to the Perlman Summer Experience this summer.” That is a six-week program that includes ILTC (International Leadership Training Conference) and International Kallah, a study program that focuses on Jewish identity.
BBYO is important to Meyerowitz because, “I really connect with people who are Jewish because the values I hold are strongly tied to my religion.” In addition, she says her BBYO friends are “people who truly want to be leaders in their community and all of my closest relationships are through BBYO.”
At Ballard, Meyerowitz is a member of Beta Club, Chemistry Club and Spanish Club. She’s also an athlete, and in the past, she danced for a studio team and swam competitively.
As a bat mitzvah present, she visited Israel in 2011. She feels a strong connection to the Jewish homeland. She has family members who live there and would like to spend some time living there.
She hasn’t made many decisions about the future yet, but she knows that she wants to use the things she’s learned in BBYO to make a difference in the world.
She is the daughter of Sandra and Victor Meyerowitz, and has a younger brother, Zev.
“I was very surprised” to receive the Garmon award, she said. “I know a lot of people apply for it. I’m excited because it will allow me to spend more time in BBYO and further the experiences I’ve had so far.” The award includes a scholarship that will help offset the expense of a future BBYO convention.
“I’m proud that my work has been recognized,” she added.
She also expressed gratitude to the Garmon family and all those who support the award.
Ellen Faye Garmon was involved in Jewish life through BBYO, the Jewish Community Center and in the general community. The daughter of Estelle and Selwyn Garmon, Ellen died in a tragic accident July 1968. At the time, the Gamma Kappa Social Club, of which she was a member, established an annual award in her memory to help further the work of high school students who shared her spirit and the ideals that were important to her. The award is given annually and is funded through the sale of all-occasion cards.
Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Award – Bradley Schwartz
Bradley Schwartz, 17, is a junior at Ballard, who adds that he used to go to Kentucky Country Day School.
While he quickly points out that he was much more active in his chapter, Drew Corson AZA, during his freshman and sophomore years, this year’s Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Award winner likes to come to BBYO whenever he can because he enjoys hanging out with his fellow chapter members, including the younger members.
Schwartz has served his chapter as s’gan (vice president) and moreh (recruitment vice president). In those roles, he helped plan a lot of programs.
The one that was most well received, he said, was an AIT (Alef in training) sleepover for new members. The group did an exercise that involved creating shakes from a wide assortment of ingredients and for their partners to drink, and at the last minute learning that they had to drink their own concoctions instead. It was about learning to respect others.
Schwartz has gone to several BBYO conventions. Earlier this year, he attended International Convention, and this summer, he’s signed up for International Kallah. “Kallah focuses on spiritualism,” he explained, “and I want to understand more of that.”
“What I get in BBYO,” he said, “is connections. I get to meet people in the region, and now, all over the world.” He plans to use the Nisenbaum Award to attend International Convention next year.
The Louisville native is a member of The Temple, where he works as a tutor for the fifth grade on Wednesdays and Sundays. He also enjoys playing guitar in services.
Schwartz also enjoys public speaking. Earlier this month, he competed in the American Legion Speech Contest. He won the local, regional and state competitions, advancing to the nationals; however, that was as far as he was able to go.
He is starting to look at colleges, but the only decision he has made so far is that he wants to study engineering.
He is son of Matt and Cindy Schwartz, and has a younger sister, Carly.
“I was surprised” to receive the Nisenbaum Award, he said, “because I was not super active” this year, although he was the year before.
“One of the reasons I got active is I looked up to Eli Gould and Ben Koby. I hope I can be that kind of leader for the younger guys.”
Schwartz is appreciative of receiving the award, calling it a great thing this gives “people the opportunity to use it to better the community and themselves.”
Stacy Marks Nisenbaum loved BBYO and was an active member of her BBG chapter growing up in Louisville. When she passed away a number of years ago, three of her close friends, Stacy Gordon-Funk, Wendy Snow and Sally Weinberg, established a scholarship program to honor her BBYO legacy. Originally begun as a BBG award, in recent years the award’s creators have given permission for recipients also to be young men who have been active in BBYO.
Joseph Fink Community Service Scholarship – Elana Wagner
At 18, Elana Wagner, the recipient of the 2015 Joseph Fink Community Service Scholarship, is finishing her senior year at Ballard High School, and will graduate in a few weeks as class valedictorian.
She will be attending the University of Maryland in the fall, where she will probably major in psychology.
At Ballard, she worked on the newspaper for three years and served as editor during her senior year.
Wagner is also an athlete. She played field hockey from third grade through her junior year, including on a club team, on the Ballard junior varsity team during her freshman year, and two years on the varsity squad.
The Fink Scholarship is reserved for those with extensive community service records, and Wagner’s accomplishments show why she merits this honor.
At Ballard, she is in Beta Club, where she serves as secretary. It is her job to track members’ service hours and come up with new projects. Mostly, she said, she connects tutors with students who need help. She, herself, is a peer tutor in math.
Wagner has been a BBYO member since eighth grade and enjoys spending time with other Jewish teens. Here, too, her passion for tikkun olam, the repair of the world, predominated.
Teaming up with Daniela Reuter, the pair planned J-Serve during their sophomore and junior years. “We changed it up,” Wagner explained. BBYO had done food drives and similar projects in the past. “We created a carnival with the theme Hunger is Not a Game. You have to donate a can of food to attend.”
They saw this as “an event more teens would be interested in and, at the end of the day, they could see tangible results.” The food that was collected was donated to the Jewish Family & Career Services Food Pantry.
For Wagner, summertime means Camp Livingston. This summer, her 11th at Livingston, she will be a counselor. Last year she participated in the Hadracha Program to prepare her for the responsibilities she is taking on this year. The summer before that, she traveled to Israel with the Camp Livingston program.
With all of this, Wagner still finds time to work at the JCC. She has helped with Summer Camp and works Spring and Winter Camp, in the J-Play program and at JCC birthday parties.
A member of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, she is also a Hebrew teacher, and in her spare time, she loves to read.
She is the daughter of Sara and Howard Wagner, and has an older sister, Talia, and a younger sister, Yael.
“I know this is an honorable award,” she said, “and I’m very excited to receive it.”
The Joseph Fink Scholarship honors the memory of a man who devoted his life to coaching, counseling and helping teens. He was always available at the Jewish Community Center to listen, advise and encourage young people.