When an individual is honored with one of Jewish Family & Career Service’s MOSAIC Awards, it is a clear signal that that individual is a refugee or immigrant who has come to Louisville and achieved great things. It is also clear that the Louisville community appreciates their contributions, because this year’s awards ceremony, held on Thursday, May 22, drew more than 350 people, a crowd so large that the agency had to find a larger venue, the Louisville Marriott Downtown.
The focus of the evening was the 2014 class of honorees, Muhammad Babar, Johanna van Wijk Bos, Marta Miranda, Bruce Simpson and Joseph Twagilimana.
Dr. Muhammad Babar
Dr. Babar, the medical director of Oaklawn, Jefferson Place and Summerfield Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers; is past president of the medical staff at Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare (KentuckyOne Health); immediate past president of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of Kentucky and Indiana; and a board member of Interfaith Paths to Peace, Fund for the Arts and Center for Interfaith Relations.
With APPKI, he worked with Temple Shalom on earthquake relief for Haiti, and when Pakistan suffered devastating floods, he helped provide water purification systems.
Motivated by compassion and committed to religious and cultural diversity, Dr. Babar can be found mentoring children at the Americana Center, delivering toys and diapers to the Home of Innocents and helping out at the Center for Women and Families, Habitat for Humanity, St. Joseph’s Free Clinic, the Community Hunger Walk and more.
Dr. Babar accepted the award saying that he was happy and grateful to receive the award and to be part of the compassionate community of Louisville, and for the blessings of his family, but sad because of the disparities he sees around him.
He pointed out that 215 million children, age 5-17, are working difficult jobs and being robbed of their childhood because they were born to poor families who struggle to put food on the table, while 150 billion pounds of food are wasted every year in the U.S. The U.N., he said, would need only 35 billion pounds to feed all these children for a year.
He also decried the loss of life around the world to senseless violence committed in the name of a variety of causes, the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls and the attack on Malala Yousufzai, the young girl who was shot because she was pursuing her education.
Dr. Baber called on those present to light a candle and fight the darkness. He identified JFCS and many of the agencies where he volunteers as candles and dedicated his award to the kidnapped Nigerian girls.
Johanna van Wijk Bos
The Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Dora Pierce Professor of Bible and Old Testament, specialist in Biblical and feminist studies and former director and now faculty liaison of the Seminary’s Women’s Center, van Wijk Bos, originally from the Netherlands, is an advocate for issues of justice for women and the LGBTQ community. She helps groups that experience housing and employment discrimination. She is also active in the interfaith community.
JFCS is an organization that should make us all proud, she said. The MOSAIC Awards celebrate difference and ethnicity. While she said she is not a refugee, she brought an orange shawl to the event for the House of Orange.
Born during the first months of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, she remembers the people were not allowed to wear orange. On liberation day, she said, there was a sea of orange clothing. It is a symbol of liberty for all people, she added.
The president and CEO of the Center for Women and Families, Marta Miranda is an activist for social and economic justice, and author and poet and an entrepreneur. She was honored as a Daughter of Greatness speaker at the Momhammad Ali Center, is a key organizer for the Kentucky Fairness Alliance and is a member of the Kentucky Commission on Women.
She describes herself as Cubalachian – as she was born in Cuba and worked in Appalachia. She’s been a pioneer of literacy. She worked in non-profits in the fields of mental health and post traumatic stress disorder and taught social work at Eastern Kentucky University. She’s an activist and community organizer with a focus on domestic violence and fairness.
Although she’s only been in Louisville for three and a half years, Miranda says she never felt like a stranger here because the service and justice community is so strong here. She also expressed gratitude for the partnership between JFCS and the Center for Women and Families.
Her parents, she said, gave up everything to give her and her brother a life of freedom. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, which she did even though her father equated a high school diploma with a college degree and thought any education beyond high school was a waste of time.
Today, she speaks out against the injustice she sees, like the double standard that allows illegal immigrants from Cuba to get green cards while those from Haiti get sent back.
For inspiration, she has the same Martin Neimoller quote that can be found in the United States Holocaust Museum hanging on her wall reminding her that we cannot stand idly by and watch while others are persecuted because if we do, when we are persecuted, there will be no one left to speak out for us.
Originally from Scotland, Bruce Simpson is the artistic director and interim executive director of the Louisville Ballet. He is a master teacher and coach for 34 years and an accomplished performer. A storyteller through movement, Simpson is about to retire after bringing the company into the national spotlight.
Under his leadership, the company, which is marking its 60th anniversary commissioned 15 new productions, sponsors educational outreach programs and demonstrations, and runs a school with 450 students ranging from 18 months to seniors.
Before arriving in Louisville, Simpson described himself as the eternal tourist, trying to learn the culture and integrate into the communities were he worked, but he never fit in and often felt isolated. In Louisville, he said, he stopped being a tourist and found community for the first time.
Dancers, he said, dream with their feet. The minute you move and walk to your own heartbeat, you are dancing and dance can connect to the universality of the human soul without respect to background.
It is hard to learn and demanding, he added, but it seeks freedom and provides an opportunity to be with people without prejudice. Dance, he said, is the great peacemaker of the world.
After fleeing the genocide of Rwanda, Joseph Twagilimana went on to earn his Ph.D. in mathematics and today is a data mining analyst with Wellpoint Inc, and a published scholar in the field of statistical analysis.
A volunteer leader in the African refugee community, he views it as his responsibility to ease the resettlement of new arrivals. He often provides transportation and translation assistance to the newcomers and other assistance.
He helped the Archdiocese of Louisville establish its annual African Memorial Service for Victims of War and Genocide and helped found United African Countries. He’s also a volunteer with JFCS.
Twagilimana said when he first received the letter informing him that he was to receive a MOSAIC Award, he hid it from his wife because he didn’t think he deserved it. “I didn’t have one big thing I did,” he said, although he does many small things.
Two days later, when he told his wife, she said other people understand that he has done a lot and helped a lot of people, and she convinced him to accept the award.
A francophone, when he first came to Louisville in 1998, he answered an ad for bilingual individuals, and when the prospective employer found out he didn’t speak Spanish, he was told he wasn’t bilingual.
His French can be helpful. Twagilimana told the story of a diabetic man who went to the doctor every Tuesday, and every Wednesday, he was admitted to the hospital in a coma. It turned out the man had collected a lot of different medications. Every time the doctors changed his prescriptions, the man thought he was supposed to add the new medication to the old one when he was really supposed to replace the old one with the new. Twagilimana now helps him manage his medications appropriately.
Refugees need a lot of help, he said, especially older people who risk losing their benefits if they don’t learn English and become citizens. He called on others in the room to step up and help.
The Osbourn Scholarship Award
Each year at the MOSAIC Awards ceremony, KentuckyOne Health presents the Jeff and Phyllis Osbourn Scholarship to an immigrant who is pursuing a degree in nursing or another high-demand field in health care. This year, KentuckyOne Vice President Shari Craig presented the scholarship to Kofi Afuakwa, a student at Spalding University who plans to become a nurse anesthetist.
Afuakwa expressed his gratitude and said the scholarship would help him pursue his dreams and become a responsible citizen of the country.
Navigate Enterprise Center and Entrepreneur of the Year
Prior to the formal dinner and presentation, those in attendance gathered in the lobby where they had the opportunity to meet some of the budding entrepreneurs who are participating in JFCS’ Navigate Enterprise Center.
Through this program, low-income people, many of whom are immigrants, have started over 300 businesses in Louisville after completing classes that provide them with the skills they need to succeed. Many also receive small start-up loans. Several of them set up tables that night to promote their businesses – from lawn services to coffee shops and much more – and hand out business cards and flyers.
This year, JFCS also honored Muayad Alhashimi as the Entrepreneur of the Year. As Navigate Enterprise Center Director Dan Heffernan presented the award, he explained that Alhashimi’s American dream was to open a coffee shop in the United States. With Assistance from the Navigate Enterprise Center, the Marcel Coffee Shop is now open in the Iroquois Shopping Center.
With his strong management and marketing skills, personality and innovation, he is now helping other Iraqis in Louisville achieve their dreams.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and his wife, Dr. Alexandra Gerassimides, were the honorary co-chairs of this year’s MOSAIC Awards. Mayor Fischer spoke briefly about the importance of the international community to Louisville and praised JFCS’ entrepreneurship program which works in conjunction with the city’s RISE program in the Office for Globalization, directed by Suhas Kulkarni. He asked those present to step up to be coaches and mentors to help bring entrepreneurs along.
Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence Chair Louis Waterman said many of the founders of Jewish Hospital were immigrants who dreamed of a better world and translated their dreams into reality through hard work, perseverance and a refusal to take no as an answer.
Today, he continued, JHFE continues Jewish Hospital’s groundbreaking work. He pointed out that the organization has approved nearly $6 million in grant requests and research for programs for Jewish education and seniors.
JHFE was the title sponsor of the MOSAIC Awards.
JFCS Executive Director Judy Freundlich Tiell and Board President Debbie Friedman presented the MOSAIC Awards to the winners.
Rick Van Hoose of WLKY TV served as emcee for the evening, and Rabbi Laura Metzger, chair of the Louisville Board of Rabbis and Cantors, delivered the invocation.
The MOSAIC Awards
The MOSAIC Awards themselves are unique works of art created each year by different artists. This year’s awards were created by Kim Eubank and Will Armstrong.
Eubank’s original idea to make a Metal Quilt came from a combination of influences including classes at Virginia Commonwealth University, the work of the painter Piet Mondrian and architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use.”
Eubank and Armstrong created Metal Quilt pieces as wall hangings in 2002. This year’s awards are intricate copper pieces that were enameled with powdered glass and fired in a kiln before they were mounted and framed.
The Committee and Sponsors
Drs. Diane Tobin and Laura Klein were the MOSAIC Event Committee chairs. Committee members were Sheilah Abramson Miles, Jeani Bryant, Lynn Cooper, Helane Cooper, Jane Emke, Debbie Friedman, Jan Glaubinger, Janet Hodes, Micahel Iacovazzi-Pau, Khalid Kahloon, Jay Klempner, Melissa Mershon, Stephanie Mutchnick, Djenita Pasic, Vidya Ravichandran, Marsha Roth, Beth Salamon, Lori Scott, Leon Wahba and Stephi Wolff.
In addition to Title Sponsor JHFE, the MOSAIC sponsors included WLKY32, Papercone Corporation, PharMerica; and the patron sponsors were KentuckyOne Health, Brown-Forman and Heaven Hill Distilleries.