Fall is the harbinger of change. At the Jewish Federation of Louisville, fall means the start of a new annual Campaign that raises money to provide support for Louisville’s Jewish agencies and services.
This year, it is also a time of change in personnel. We are saying goodbye to Chief Development Officer Stew Bromberg (see story) and Development Director Tzivia Kalmes, both of whom are moving on to new opportunities; and welcome to Hilary Zappin who has joined the Federation as the senior development associate. In addition, JCC Chief Operating Officer Sara Wagner will be helping out with the Women’s Division this year.
Hilary Zappin comes to Louisville from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton where she was director of Jewish Young Adults (YAD), Corporate Sponsorship, Volunteers, Newcomers and Women’s Philanthropy for Tzedekah. Many of these responsibilities she will undertake here in Louisville as well.
Creative and energetic, she is eager to find new ways to engage young adults in the Jewish community in a meaningful way. In Dayton, she did so by providing a variety of events, educational options and volunteer opportunities, creating a warm, welcoming community with many portals of entry and connecting with people. She plans to use her experience to help Louisville build on and strengthen its existing YAD program.
“I’m from Dayton,” Zappin said, “where I grew up in a very vibrant Jewish community.” She earned her Bachelors in political science and her Masters in public administration from the University of Dayton.
While studying for her masters in international law and dispute resolution, she and her son, Hunt, lived in London, England, for a time and attended the University of Westminster School of Law. “When we came back to the Dayton community,” she observed, “I felt disconnected in that a lot of things had changed. I didn’t feel very welcome. No one reached out to me.”
She began working for the Montgomery County Human Services Levy Campaign in 2010 and helped secure passage of the measure, winning nearly 70 percent of the vote – the highest margin of success in history. She was the data analyst and volunteer coordinator.
Following the election, she was approached by the Dayton Federation to serve as director of its YAD program. Zappin saw this as an opportunity to ensure that no one else who came to Dayton would feel as unwelcome as she did when she first returned.
She began to shift things arount to make YAD more welcoming, and soon, the group began to grow. She began writing grants to get funding to enable young adults to attend programs like TribeFest. She believes that it’s important for young people to attend national gatherings like that because “there is a synergy to being in a room with other Jewish people and unless you’ve experienced it, you’ll never understand it, and when you do it’s invigorating, it’s inspiring. It’s a very peaceful feeling that this is where I fit in. This is who I am and I’m proud of it.”
With this success, she was then promoted to take on the responsibilities at the Dayton Federation as the community outreach manager. In that position, she ran Dayton’s the B’nai Tzedek program, the PJ Library program, volunteer programs and Birthright Israel as well as the YAD. She also ran the Federation’s corporate sponsorship program through which she was able to reduce the cost of Federation programs and create new ones.
“Within one year,” she said, “I tripled corporate sponsorships.”
Zappin had already been involved with Birthright Israel recruiting when Yoni Sarason, the Midwest regional director of Birthright Next convened YAD directors from across the region to figure out ways to engage young people who returned from Birthright trips.
At that meeting, Zappin connected with Tzivia Levin Kalmes, Louisville’s YAD director at the time, and they worked together on some presentations they did for the group and developed a friendship.
Zappin suggested a collaboration between Dayton and Louisville – she would come to Louisville and see how things were done here and Kalmes would go to Dayton for a similar experience. Since the communities were both smaller and not far apart, Zappin also suggested joint youth, B’nai Tzedek and YAD programs “so they can feel more connected.”
On her visit to Louisville, she sat in on a staff meeting, learned about the wonderful programming the JCC offers and was impressed by the facility. Kalmes visited Dayton, as well.
About a month later, Louisville CDO let Zappin know that a position was coming open and asked if she were interested.
It was not an easy decision. Zappin was excited about what she was accomplishing in Dayton, including recruiting some new young leaders, creating new programs and getting Board members to understand how important it is to invest in young adults because they are the future.
By investing in young adults now, she explained, the community is educating them so they can become effective leaders and making them feel important. The community also benefits because young adults and millennials “are amazing people who have innovative ideas,” she said, “… and I really want to bring them into the fold.”
She’s particularly proud of the current YAD chair, whom she recruited. “He’s taking off,” she said. “They’re going to be building a Moishe House in Dayton. Things are going really well.”
Zappin chose to come to Louisville because she sees it as an opportunity for her to grow professionally. “I grew up in Dayton. I have a lot of connections in Dayton and I’m passionate about that community, but for me to move to a new community, learn new skills and continue my journey as a Jewish communal professional, this was an excellent opportunity.”
Zappin is married to Jamy Holiday, a rock musician who is playing with a German band based out of Dresden. He also owns his own rehab remodeling company in Dayton. He will be joining her in Louisville in December.
During the transition, her father, Denny Zappin is staying with the family here.
Her son, Hunt Zappin is 12. He’s a seventh grader at Walden School and is studying for bar mitzvah. “He just made varsity for the Louisville Rowing Club,” she said, and is the youngest member of the group to date to make varsity. He also has his black belt in tai kwon do, is a drummer, has taken summer college classes in unmanned aerial systems and hopes to become an engineer.
In the summers, Hunt goes to Camp Livingston, so, when they came to Louisville, he already had a good friend here. “He’s in love with Livingson, and has mentioned that he wants to be a counselor at Livingston one day,” Zappin said.
“I want my son to grow up to be proud to be Jewish,” she added, describing him as a young philanthropist. “I want him to continue that spirit and understand the power of giving and I feel this is the best place for me to be for him to understand the value in that.”
Zappin herself is also a performer. She’s a former talent agent and has been in movies with George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman. A few times a year she is flown to a Disney property where she spends a week teaching acting for them.
“I’m looking forward to continuing my efforts to create a welcoming, vibrant, young leadership community here in Louisville,” Zappin said. “It makes me feel empowered and happy to be part of such a viable community as this.
“Louisville itself is an amazing city,” she continued, “and I feel very welcome. Also, Keren Benabou and Laurence Nibur have been instrumental in my transition here and I really look forward to working with them in creating a dynamic young adult community.”
She is eager to meet people in the community “ I’m always up for a cup of coffee, just give me a ring.”