Salamon, Vaughan to receive young leadership award

[by Art Hoffman, Freelance Writer]

The Jewish Community of Louisville announced the recipients of its 2013 Young Leadership Awards to be presented at the its Annual Meeting, Monday, June 3, at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center.

Beth Salamon will receive the Joseph J. Kaplan Young Leadership Award and Ben Vaughan, the Lewis W. Cole Memorial Young Leadership Award.

Beth Salamon – Joseph J. Kaplan Young Leadership Award

Years ago, First Lady Rosalynn Carter profoundly observed that “a leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” If her words resonate with you, then you can appreciate the challenges that a “great” leader would face. In their own distinctive styles, both Salamon and Vaughan demonstrate that capacity. Originally from Philadelphia, Salamon received her law degree from Temple University, after undergraduate work at the University of Maryland. Her professional life extended to both coasts, with a clerkship for the Family Court in Wilmington, DE, and then working for the Legislative Council in Sacramento, CA, where she drafted legislation. She arrived in Louisville about seven years ago and hit the ground running. This was an easy transition to make, though, since she stated that the Jewish community was so welcoming to them upon arrival. Experiencing that meant a great deal to her since she had not been particularly active in any Jewish community before moving here. During the past few years, she has served as the chair of Jewish Family and Career Services’ Family Mitzvah Committee, participating in the annual Hanukkah Helpers program among others. Together with her physician husband, Michael, she co-chaired the Ben Gurion Society. Additionally, she has shared her talents with the National Council of Jewish Women as well as JFCS. As she put it, smiling warmly, “I don’t say no to anyone.”

As a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council, she was invited with others to meet with Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul in late January to discuss several topics, including the United States’ support for Israel. During a visit to Sen. Mitch McConnell›s office with NCJW two years ago, she exchanged views with staff about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She welcomed these opportunities, which strengthened her convictions about the need for political activism to effect change. However, she is pragmatic in her approach. Half joking, half serious, she said, “We won’t be invited back if we are too obnoxious. So we leave information and hope that the dialogue continues.” Taking the long view in her outlook on how positive change takes place, she concludes: “the key is to educate folks one person at a time; none of this happens overnight.”

When asked about her passion for community service, her overarching philosophy is clear: “If I don’t do it, who will?” Her urgency is heightened by awareness that due to the recession, the need for services has expanded and funds are less available. “The divide is getting greater,” she said, “and it is up to me and my generation to take on a greater role.” Inspiring words indeed, from this leader with a view of where we “ought to be.”

Raising their two sons Alex, 11, and Jack, eight, has allowed her to serve as a room parent for their classes and other school related activities. The Salamons are members of The Temple, where she was on the 50/50 Raffle Committee. She also serves on the Collegiate Gala Committee.

She is quick to acknowledge that getting things accomplished requires the collective work of all the people in the community, and in particular, other volunteers who have assisted her. It is for that reason that she is especially grateful to be singled out for this recognition. “Given the warmth and support shown me since arriving in Louisville, I am very happy to be able to give back to this community. Thank you for this award.”

Ben Vaughan – Lewis W. Cole Memorial Young Leadership Award

Meeting Benjamin Vaughan for the first time, it is easy to see how he is an ideal candidate to receive the Lewis W. Cole Award. Two traits immediately emerge: a quick analytical mind and an engaging affability. It’s not difficult to imagine then how individuals of all ages would be drawn to him in a leadership role.

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.” Vaughan related examples of interactions with college professors which, though cordial, underscored his belief that “others demonstrate/exhibit the same level of respect they wish to receive.”

Assertiveness came in handy even earlier in his educational development when he found himself to be the only Jewish student in his elementary school. “Fortunately, though, my teachers and principal were generally supportive.” His first experience with anti-Semitism occurred while attending high school in Bowling Green, KY. Again, he found resources to help cope: meeting on a weekly basis in Nashville, he was part of 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 as well as coordinating the call center for Super Sunday in 2007 round out his involvement. After several years of participating with the Campaign, Vaughan recognized a need for creating some new kinds of events. He came to the Federation staff with several ideas and they became the seeds for the Uniquely Jewish Event Series. Vaughan chaired the first event in the series in April, during which the director of the American Jewish Archives, Dr. Gary Zola, spoke about Jews and Mobility. The event was hosted and sponsored by Blue Grass MotorSport Audi.
In responding to receiving this award, Vaughan is grateful though eager to point out that “all my activities have been because there is a need and I want to help ensure that need is fulfilled. So, it is nice to know that others notice and acknowledge my contributions even if I don’t seek such public recognition for them.”

Because of his background, he was also asked to embellish upon two specific aspects. Noting that he was a Boy Scout and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, it was interesting to get his views on the controversy surrounding gay Scout leaders. Vaughan recommended the Boy Scouts get with the times and modernize their approach, and no longer use an individual’s orientation as a disqualification from serving as Scout leader. The second, in keeping with this young man’s progressive views and quest for inclusivity, dealt with some of his world travels and discussions with residents of each country. He said of his time in India, “females were not as approachable as males were because of cultural taboos/standards. India has come a long way socially but still has a long way to go before there is true equality of the sexes. Plus there was an obvious lack of social outlets, like cafes, from which so much of Western dialogue/ideology has emerged.”

Readers will recall that in Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye anguished about when to uphold tradition and when to challenge it. It’s evident that Vaughan enjoys walking the same path.

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