Annette Simon Sagerman’s Jewish Louisville legacy became firmly established on Sunday when two inaugural awards bearing her name were presented during the gala Generation to Generation celebration at the Louisville Marriott East.
With more than 390 people watching, most wearing stickers indicating the number of generations their families have been in Louisville, Marsha Bornstein (five generations here) accepted the first Annette Simon Sagerman L’dor V’dor Award, marking her years of service to The J.
Then Keren Benabou, a relative newcomer to Louisville from Israel (10 years here) received the Next Generation Annette Simon Sagerman Award.
The awards are intended as an enduring legacy to Sagerman, recognizing a J supporter with years of service at the same time as a newer, younger volunteer who will carry on the service.
Benabou, who missed the chance to meet Sagerman (she died in 2016 at age 92), nevertheless described the award’s namesake as “feisty, persistent and dedicated to the JCC.” She, in turn, promised to do what she can to make sure her girls grow up to be “persistent, determined and feisty Jewish ladies.”
Sagerman, known as “Aunt” because she was just that to so many Jewish Louisvillians, devoted 65 years of her life to the JCC, holding many positions in the organization, including her favorite, hospitality director, and leaving an indelible legacy at the center.
One niece, Jaye Bittner, presented Bornstein and Benabou with their awards, glass artwork that she helped design.
The many speakers shared anecdotes about Sagerman that highlighted her wit and humor.
In one story, Sagerman calmed the nerves of an out-of-town mother who called her, concerned about her daughter moving to Louisville.
“We have everything your daughter could want here,” Sagerman told her, “except for two things: her family and good rye bread.”
In accepting her award, Bornstein, a J employee for 33 years, recounted her experiences as middle school camp director, cultural arts director and her 20 years running the Jewish Film Festival.
She credited Sagerman for teaching her what she needed to know how to run these programs, right down to physically setting up and folding up the tables and chairs for events.
“You can’t put it off on someone else. You own it,” Bornstein said. “I only wish she were here tonight to edit my speech for me.”
A six-year veteran of the Israeli army, with service in the West Bank, Benabou, who has previously described herself as an ambassador for Israel in Kentucky, promised, “I will keep fighting for Israel and this Jewish community.”
Jewish Community of Louisville President and CEO Sara Klein Wagner used the program to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
And Bittner, who spoke toward the end last, pitched a fund-raising effort for camp and J membership scholarships. She said The J spent $125,000 on both this past year, and it still wasn’t enough.
“The necessity is so great that some of the needs are not being met and some of the families are being turned away,” Bittner said. “We have an opportunity this evening to keep Annette’s legacy alive, to make sure no one is turned away from our Jewish Community Center.”
Before dancing began, the program wrapped up with a video chronicling the history of The J and introducing JTomorrow!, the project to construct a new center at the current Dutchmans Lane location and provide programming at the Standard Club location off Highway 22
Wagner offered few new details about JTomorrow!, saying the next step is to meet with “stakeholders.” She did promise more news in the months to come.
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