Young leadership shines at Annual Awards Meeting

Devon Oser (left) pictured here with the presenter of her award, Becky Swansburg, urged JCL leaders to incorporate young Jews and their talents, into the community. (photo by William Beasley)

Before a capacity crowd heard from this year’s honorees at the JCL Annual Awards Meeting, they first listened to Jane Goldstein, and she had a serious message.

As Goldstein, along with Jon Fleischaker, was recognized for her work as co-campaign chair this past year, she took the microphone and offered a stern warning to the audience, especially the younger faces in the crowd.

Unless those young faces step into top leadership positions, she said, there won’t be a JCL in the future.
“If you want a Jewish community in Louisville, KY, for  your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren, we need you,” Goldstein said. “We need you to advocate; we need you to give.

“I have now done this (being campaign chair) three times,” she added. “I will not do it again.”

Dr. Muhammad Babar Cheema with Fred Gross, who presented his award, and Sara Klein Wagner. Gross compared Babar and himself to “Ishmael and Isaac.” (photo by William Beasley)

It was a challenge, to be sure. But it came on a night when people who are stepping up to the challenge were being honored.

Becky Swansburg, in introducing two of the three recipients of the young leadership awards, noted something encouraging: All three are relative newcomers to Louisville; none were born and raised here.

This year’s young leadership recipients were Corey Shapiro (Julie E. Linker Community Relations Young Leadership Award), Devon Oser (Joseph J. Kaplan Young Leadership Award), and Dara Woods (Lewis W. Cole Memorial Young Leadership Award).

Oser used her time at the mic to encourage leaders to help young people with new ideas and to find ways to put them into action.

“Engage individuals at their level,” the current YAD chair said. “Each of us has a special talent. Find out what they’re passionate about and incorporate it into the community.”

Shapiro, a JCRC board member, embraced the idea of being a future Jewish leader, saying people he respected saw him as one. And Woods, who brought the MOMentum trips to Israel for young mothers to Louisville, said she was gratified to help these women lead more meaningful Jewish lives.

Corey Shapiro is putting his passion for social action to work as a member of the JCRC board (photo by William Beasley)

The young adult recipients joined the rest of this year’s honorees, including the winner of the most prestigious award, Dr. Muhammad Babar Cheema, (Blanche B. Ottenheimer Award).

“Those of you who know me, know that I am passionate about the well-being of our community,” said Babar, a Muslim and a recognized humanitarian who has spent time building bridges between Jewish Louisville and the rest of the city’s faith community. “I believe that love shows no bias toward any one faith tradition, culture, sexual orientation, political party or economic background. Love is like water that can even trickle down the closed doors of human hearts.”

Fred Gross, a Holocaust survivor and friend of Babar’s, presented him with his award. “We are, in a sense, Ishmael and Isaac,” he said.

The rest of the honorees were Alan Glaubinger (Ronald & Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award), Delores Levy (Elsie P. Judah Memorial Award), and Tom Wissinger (Arthur S. Kling Award).

In addition, the JCL presented its first Corporate Friend Award to Kindred Healthcare for its support of programming for senior adults. Matt Steinberg, senior vice president at Kindred, accepted the honor on behalf of the system.

Dara Woods brought MOMentum, a program that exposes young mothers to Israel and enhances their Jewish living, to Louisville. (photo by William Beasley)

And Teen Director Kari Semel introduced this year’s 10 teen honorees: Gabe Sherman and Marnina Goldberg (Tony Levitan Awards), Laina Meyerowitz, Charles Bessen, Abigail Geller and Max Strull (Stuart Pressma Student Leadership Development Awards), Jacob Ioffe (Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Award), Andrew Tuvlin and Carly Schwartz (Ellen Faye Garmon Awards) and Hunter Borowick (Joseph Fink Community Service Scholarship).

As the audience considered the future role of young leaders in the JCL, President and CEO Sara Klein Wagner directed their attention to the centerpieces at each table – fresh cut greens and even radishes from the Community Garden.

It was the work of JOFEE Fellow Michael Fraade, who Wagner said has quadrupled the size of the garden since coming to Louisville.

JOFEE (Jewish, Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education) is a program of Hazon, a national organization committed to healthier more sustainable Jewish communities. Wagner said Louisville is just one of 10 federations partnering with Hazon, largely because it provides a new way for young Jews to intersect with Jewish life.

“People who would like to engage with the JCL, but haven’t found an intersection,” she said, “find it at food, environment and text.”

Leave a Reply