The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle is proud to present the Volunteers of the Year for 2022. Their stories are incredibly inspirational. We hope you enjoy reading about the wonderful work these volunteers perform in our community.
Beth El Congregation of the South Hills
Beth Pomerantz is a chameleon. When she is not managing the Sisterhood Judaica Shop, volunteering at Bingo, or fulfilling her responsibilities as assistant financial secretary, she can often be found in the office answering phones, keeping member email addresses up to date, helping with mailings and so much more. She initiated Beth El’s condolence letter initiative and assists with yahrzeit plaque lighting. Beth is a regular Morning Minyannaire and reads Haftarah during services. Our community is strengthened by the gift of Beth’s time and talent that she shares with a smile.
Joseph Jolson has been a member of Congregation Beth Shalom for over 30 years. Besides celebrating numerous life cycle events at Beth Shalom, he coordinated the effort that led to Journey of the Spirit: Beth Shalom’s Israel Experience for Adults. He remains committed to maintaining and improving Beth Shalom’s facility and reducing its carbon footprint. Joe serves on the board of trustees, executive, finance and house committees, budget and investment subcommittees and the annual contribution task force. Our community is grateful for Joe’s efforts and congratulate him for being Beth Shalom’s Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle Volunteer of the Year.
The Branch (JRS)
The Branch, formerly Jewish Residential Services, is proud to recognize Debby Rubin as our Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle Volunteer of the Year for 2022. As co-chair of the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse Advisory Committee and vice president of The Branch’s board of directors, she has devoted countless hours to the organization. Debby’s leadership is collaborative, engaged and dedicated. The Branch is stronger with her clear thinking, knowledge, and good judgment. During her time with the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse she has worked tirelessly along with co-chair Jan Harris to reimagine subcommittees and energize volunteer members. This has greatly contributed to the growth of the Clubhouse in offering a warm, welcoming community, supporting adults whose lives have been disrupted by mental health difficulties. We are ever grateful for Debby’s amazing involvement and leadership.
Chabad on Campus
Dr. Elaine Berkowitz is the ultimate volunteer — someone who believes in a cause and puts in the effort to help make it happen. Elaine recognized that Chabad on Campus is providing vital services for Jewish students on Pittsburgh’s campuses. She came, she joined in, and she helped to make a real difference.
No job is too small or too big for Elaine. Whether tables need to be set for 400 students at a Rosh Hashanah dinner, or meals need to be served to 200 students in the campus sukkah, Elaine is there to help. In her diverse life experience from an expert dentist in Pittsburgh, to a Lt. Colonel in Iraq, Elaine brings all of her expertise into volunteering with grace and compassion. We are proud and grateful to designate Dr. Elaine Berkowitz as our volunteer of the year!
Chabad of Cranberry
We first met Ray Dickter on Chanukah last year at the annual Cranberry Township Menorah lighting. Ever since then, he has been a huge help in our various outreach activities and events. Be it delivering matzah to Jewish homes before Pesach, assisting with our Lag Ba’omer barbeque, or helping to build our sukkah, we know that we can always count on Ray to be there for the community.
Chabad of Monroeville
Gerri Moldovan’s commitment to Chabad and the Jewish community in Monroeville and the eastern suburbs has been tremendous. On a communal level, Gerri is an active coordinator of the Jewish Women’s Circle events and classes. Gerri also assists with family events at Chabad and heads the kiddush/oneg committee at the shul. On a personal level, Gerri is always happy to assist people in their times of need. We at Chabad of Monroeville truly appreciate everything she does for our community.
Chabad of South Hills
Chabad of the South Hills is proud to honor Sheila Grenadier. Sheila is always happy to help and does so with a smile and warmth. Sheila has been an invaluable volunteer for Chabad’s vital programs serving the elderly in our community. Each week without fail she picks up flowers for our senior care packages and delivers the flowers and smiles to different facilities every week. We are so appreciative to her for her devotion and dedication. Mazel tov to you, Sheila.
Chabad Young Professionals
Chabad Young Professionals honors Orly Olbum as volunteer of the year. Ever since Orly moved back to Pittsburgh, she has become an active member of the CYP community. She is a member of the leadership committee, which helps steer the overall direction of CYP, and is a founding board member of JBN, the new Jewish Business Network established by CYP. It is hard to imagine the growth and success of the CYP community without her endless hours of volunteering, which has made it a success. Her pride in being Jewish and her commitment to Jewish community is second to none.
Community Day School
Stephanie Shropshire has contributed to the success of Community Day School in so many ways, taking on all volunteer opportunities with a smile and a can-do attitude. She is always the first to say “yes” and brings warmth and enthusiasm to our school community. Recently, she chaired the First Grade Siddur Ceremony, co-chaired Staff Appreciation Week the past four years, and serves on the CDS Parent Association leadership team. Stephanie goes above and beyond in her volunteer and ambassador roles and makes everyone feel appreciated when working with her. She feels a deep connection to the school, and we are deeply grateful for the hard work, time and energy she has given to CDS.
Congregation Ahavath Achim (The Carnegie Shul)
Like many shuls, Congregation Ahavath Achim, the Carnegie Shul, publishes a weekly newsletter. But we believe that our newsletter, the Carnegie Shul Chatter, is a cut above the rest. The reason we believe that it is such a special publication is because of the outstanding design and layout work that can be found in each and every issue. And the reason that the design and layout, and the overall appearance, of our Chatter is so good is because of the excellent work done by our Volunteer of the Year, Ellen Roteman. Ellen spends hours each week making sure that the Chatter has a fresh and colorful appearance. The eye appeal of the Chatter grabs the attention of our subscribers, assuring that they don’t just put it aside, but that they check out and read each and every issue. Ellen has been doing this design and layout work for more than a decade and we are proud to recognize her outstanding work and dedication by naming her our Volunteer of the Year for 2022.
The Friendship Circle nominates Joanie Isenberg as Volunteer of the Year for her time and dedication as a volunteer at our programs. We were introduced to Joanie by our professional advisor, Dr. Laura Marshak, and we are so grateful. Joanie’s lifelong background in disability and clinical mental health has made her contribution to the Friendship Circle all the more meaningful. She has taken on a variety of roles in our adult programming and at other events, most recently at our Walk4Friendship, where she stepped in wherever she was needed. We greatly appreciate her service in supporting inclusion in our community!
Ellen Garvin is a lifetime member of Hadassah and was an active member of the Ziona and Kinneret groups for over 30 years. During this time, she served on numerous programming and fundraising committees. Since 2000, she has coordinated the sales of mah-jongg cards for the Pittsburgh Chapter of Hadassah directly through the National Mah Jongg League. Funds from the sales of the cards have been used for local programming events.
The mother of three Hillel Academy students, Yoni, Yaakov and Tzipporah, Rebecca Pollack joined the Hillel Academy board in 2020 and quickly became an active member. She has chaired the Recruitment and Retention Committee, including the creation of the Class Parent Program. The class parents create opportunities for parents to meet and socialize outside of the regular school setting. A mental health therapist working with the perinatal population at the Women’s Behavioral Health Clinic at West Penn Hospital, Rebecca has welcomed with a smile every opportunity to help Hillel Academy create a sense of unity among the Hillel Academy family.
Since 2017, Aaron Leaman has been a valued volunteer and member of Hillel Jewish University Center’s board of governors. His dedication to Hillel JUC’s vision of a world where every student is inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel is why he is Hillel JUC’s Volunteer of the Year. He was most enthusiastic about “boring” finance meetings during his term as vice chair of finance and his dedication to supporting Jewish college students has been evident during his term as board chair. We are thankful to Aaron for his insights and guidance.
Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh
Barbara Shapira is a longtime ambassador and strong supporter of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, as well as the outgoing advisory board chair, a position she’s held since July 2019. She has guided the Center during some challenging and exciting times — including the COVID pandemic and the Center’s nascent relationships with Chatham University and Tree of Life. Additionally, Barbara is deeply involved with fundraising efforts. Barbara will remain an active member of the advisory board once she rotates away from the chair position; she also serves on the Yom HaShoah committee, helping to plan the Center’s largest annual event.
Jewish Association on Aging
Marian Ungar Davis’ caring and compassionate nature make her a natural fit as a Sivitz Hospice & Palliative Care volunteer. Her charm and warmth bring comfort to our hospice patients and their families during what can be a very difficult time. She knows and understands her mission and truly uplifts all with whom she comes in contact. We are grateful for Marian’s dedication to serving our community and are honored to have her as part of our JAA family.
Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh
The JCC is proud to honor Zelda Curtiss as a Volunteer of the Year. “Zelda is a servant-leader in the Center for Loving Kindness and AgeWell at the JCC,” Rabbi Ron Symons said. “You can find her at the center of an UPstander project, deeply immersed in true dialogue with neighbors and/or helping neighbors understand the value of diverse community.” Zelda is a role model who describes herself as “absolutely supportive” of the JCC’s mission in serving the community. Retired after 29 years as an attorney with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, she feels fortunate for the influences of her late mother, who never dwelled on the negative, and her late husband, Dr. Edward Curtiss, who as dean of admissions at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine appreciated the increasing diversity of the student body. “We have a responsibility to help others, no matter your limitations,” she said.
Jewish Assistance Fund
With a kind heart and a warm smile, Reva Horn has helped the local Jewish Community during times of economic vulnerability. For many years Reva has been an engaged, caring and dedicated grantor and board member. We count on her to assure that even with a small staff, we can have a big impact in the lives of members of the local Jewish community and their families by providing financial assistance every week throughout the year.
Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh
Harvey A. Wolsh, a valued and key volunteer to the many organizations he has been associated with, is president of the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh. He chairs the investment committee and gives direction to the association’s financial future and growing endowment. Harvey Wolsh has long been a cornerstone of the JCBA, and we are grateful to him for his sustained, tireless and exemplary leadership.
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
Andrew Stewart has been involved as a volunteer in the Jewish community since joining the board of the Jewish University Center in 1995. He subsequently chaired the facilities committee for the JUC during the construction of the Edward and Rose Berman Jewish University Center and went on to be president of the agency. He is an active volunteer at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh where he is a member of the investment committee, and past chair of the administrative, audit, investment and finance committees. Andrew is past chair of the Jewish Association on Aging and a current member of the board and executive committee. He also serves on the board and executive committee of Winchester Thurston School, an independent K-12 school. Professionally, he is a partner of the Silk and Stewart Development Group. Founded in 1989, Silk and Stewart has offices in Pittsburgh and Phoenix and specializes in the development and ownership of retail, office and industrial properties.
Jewish Healthcare Foundation
Debra Caplan has served on the board of trustees for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation for the past seven years, including as board chair since 2021. Debra has also served as the board chair of WHAMglobal, one of JHF’s supporting organizations, since 2017. Her involvement in JHF’s workforce and women’s health initiatives dates back decades to the Working Hearts campaign and early work of Health Careers Futures. Debra’s deep commitment to JHF’s mission and the strategic leadership she provides have been essential to JHF and WHAMglobal’s programmatic and philanthropic success. The Foundation is incredibly grateful for Debra’s contributions in 2022.
We are proud to nominate David Goldstein as Kesher Pittsburgh’s Volunteer of the Year. Since David became involved with Kesher Pittsburgh, he has supported and guided our community in so many ways. Always asking the question “how can I help?”, no task is too great or too small. Whether arranging a piece of music or writing a d’var Torah, whether bringing his wisdom to our leadership team or helping to ensure that we embody our values for countering oppression in everything we do, our community is better and stronger because of David. Not just an all-star, he’s also a mensch and we are grateful for the many ways he blesses us.
Simone (Sheindel) Shapiro, an active member in Lubavitch Center for many years, is the kind of woman who looks around, recognizes a need and steps in to fill it. Many times, she recruits members to help and, come what may, quietly and efficiently the job gets done. Organizing seforim, binding old to look like new, encouraging and helping to facilitate security trainings, printing user-friendly guidelines “in case of emergency,” and most recently, the printing of the first Yizkor Memorial Book for Lubavitch Center. Simone is also an articulate and engaging teacher, teaching Pirkei Avot for women in person and during COVID, online. All of this and more is what Simone has gifted to our shul with her caring and generous spirit.
National Council of Jewish Women
A decades-long National Council of Jewish Women volunteer, Immediate Past Board President Teddi Horvitz steered NCJW through the pandemic with aplomb, leading Thriftique, Children’s Rooms in the Courts, MomsWork, and other programs. Rather than ride out the “storm,” Teddi instead engaged a consultant and led the board and staff through a realignment project that looked at NCJW’s projects and procedures through a lens of gender and racial equity. With Teddi’s leadership, NCJW continues to help meet the challenges of all working mothers and families as a friend and ally and to provide our network with educational and community engagement opportunities.
Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle
After a career spent in marketing and graphic design, over the past several years Dan Droz has turned his considerable talents toward a new passion: Pittsburgh’s only source of Jewish news. Years ago, Dan piloted the rebranding of Community Day School, and he has been quietly providing the same guidance and talent to the Chronicle. Dan played an instrumental role in the revamping of the Chronicle’s branding and design, including digital and print. Dan was also a key part of the Chronicle’s well-received annual campaign last December, with its memorable cover of “No news is not good news.” Dan is one of the Chronicle’s biggest cheerleaders
Repair the World
Hans Kumar is Pitt Repair’s volunteer of the year because he has shown up to our Sheridan Ave Orchard and Garden open volunteer night 11 times this growing season and even recruited others to join him. We love working with Hans and have appreciated his contributions — like making huge progress on the brick pathway project, and maintenance of the in-ground beds and fruit trees. Thank you, Hans!
Rodef Shalom Congregation
A fourth-generation member of Rodef Shalom Congregation, when Helen Orringer returned to Pittsburgh in 2008 after living in Toledo for 30 years, she jumped right into being active with our congregation. Orringer is a docent in Rodef Shalom’s Biblical Botanical Garden, welcoming guests and groups from Pittsburgh and beyond, and a member of Women of Rodef Shalom and the congregation’s choir, Rodef Shira. Passionate about early learning, Helen supports our Family Center Preschool as a committee member and a regular classroom volunteer. She is also deeply involved in helping with the Family Center’s fundraising efforts, which have included making soup, volunteering with their annual plant sale and also at their monthly snack bar during Outrageous Bingo. We are grateful not just for Helen’s service to our congregation, but also for her warm and compassionate presence in our community.
Temple Emanuel of South Hills
Temple Emanuel of South Hills is proud to nominate Melissa Bihary as our Volunteer of the Year. Melissa shared her professional expertise in HR management as chair of our HR committee, leading efforts to formalize our internal systems as well as guiding our hiring efforts for our interim rabbi, senior rabbi and the ongoing search process for a cantor to join our congregation. Melissa has served as both a trustee and vice president on Temple’s board.
Temple Sinai is pleased to recognize Harton Wolf as Volunteer of the Year. Humble, committed, caring and creative, he has served continuously as Brotherhood’s leader. Thanks to Harton’s dedicated leadership, Temple Sinai enjoys food concessions for Purim carnivals — even throughout COVID, outdoors in the pouring rain, and in frigid temperatures. From cooking Chanukah latkes and managing a kosher wine sale, to constructing the Sukkah and leading countless other activities, Harton shares his generosity of spirit with his entire congregation. Harton also assures that one of Temple Sinai’s longest-tenured congregants, a 99-year-old who lives alone, has regular company for Shabbat dinner and a ride to synagogue whenever she wants to attend. Thank you Harton.
Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh
We’re delighted to select Ella Rittri as our Volunteer of the Year. An alum of our school, she’s returned as a parent, teacher, and volunteer, whose tireless efforts enrich our school community in so many ways. Ella is extremely active in our school community; she has served as a class mother and has helped run the teacher appreciation committee for many years. A member of the Yeshiva Parent Association, she’s worked on multiple annual dinner committees, volunteered for our crowdfunding campaigns, and is a mentor in our Coffee and Conversation program, which provides one-on-one teen mentoring. No matter what is needed, Ella is generous with her time, her creativity, and her good cheer. We are proud and grateful to have her in our school community.
Young People’s Synagogue
Steven Santman has been a devoted member of Young Peoples Synagogue/Bohnai Yisrael since 2003. He served as vice president for many years and has continued to take a leadership role helping to organize — and often leads — our religious services. Each week, before the Torah is read, he offers a brief summary of the sedrah’s content to further our understanding and enrich our experience. Steve is “always there” when a synagogue task must be done and he is an exemplary volunteer and role model for our Congregation.
Zionist Organization of America
It is a blessing having Charles Saul on the ZOA Pittsburgh board of directors. He has a unique approach to analyzing situations. Whether it be with advice based on his years of experience in the legal profession, interpretations of halacha, or just plain common sense, we can count on Charlie. He has become one of the guiding lights on the board. And his participation and service to ZOA is deeply appreciated. PJC