Volunteers of the year
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Volunteers of the year

The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle is proud to present the Volunteers of the Year for 2020. We hope you enjoy reading about the wonderful work they perform in our community.

Jeniffer Feder has given her time and talent to Adat Shalom for many years. As a member of the board of directors and president of the religious school PTO, she has earned the gratitude and appreciation of parents, staff, and the entire congregation. Jen is an enthusiastic, organized leader and involved parent whose cheerful smile, welcoming presence and genuine love of our community have generated a sense of belonging among our families. From parent breakfasts to festive holiday parties, to stepping up as a co-host on Zoom High Holiday student services and so much more, Jen is the quintessential volunteer!

Wendy Panizzi is Congregation Ahavath Achim’s Volunteer of the Year for 2020, in recognition of her commitment to the Carnegie Shul. She has served as a member of the congregation’s board of directors and was recently elected secretary of the board. Up until the pandemic and the temporary cessation of services, Wendy took responsibility for providing provisions for the weekly kiddushes after Shabbos services. (Although Shabbos services have resumed, albeit with concomitant COVID-19 restrictions, our weekly Shabbos kiddushes have not.) Nonetheless, she has been actively involved in facilitating the shul’s renovation and reconfiguration this year. Her continued service and support warrant her being accorded this honor.

With over 20 years of nonprofit development experience, Andi Fischhoff was introduced to the Aleph Institute by Aryeh Sherman, who asked if she could help the Aleph Institute with proposal writing and organizational development. For the past eight years, she has met with Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel weekly and was instrumental in the development of the Shifra program which provides assistance to 78 local families. Andi is an asset to the Aleph Institute and the community at large. She helped connect the Aleph Institute with leaders in Hazelwood and the South Side who share the Aleph Institute’s commitment to working with incarcerated individuals and their families. Vogel says her dedication and commitment is indispensable.

In March, Beth El Congregation of the South Hills transitioned to virtual operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Heidi Cohen delivered hundreds of siddurim, chumashim, Haggadot, mahzorim and more contactlessly to members since then. Heidi has traveled more than 400 miles in 40 hours to help congregants stay connected. Heidi’s dedication has meant a great deal to Beth El by ensuring that no one is being left behind. A “regular” at worship services and adult education classes, Heidi volunteers her time with bingo, the annual Throwdown, shiva committee, and singlehandedly decorates the sukkah. She is also the Sisterhood’s programming vice president.

Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation proudly recognizes Sherman Weinstein as our 2020 Volunteer of the Year. Sherman is currently the first vice president of our congregation and has served as an officer on the executive committee for over 20 years. He manages our cemetery, located in McKees Rocks. Sherman instituted our annual hamantaschen bake sale using his legendary Pastries Unlimited hamantaschen recipe. Before COVID-19, Sherman was a regular attendee at our daily and Shabbat services. Thank you, Sherman!

Beth Samuel Jewish Center is honored to select Karen Beaudway as our Volunteer of the Year. Karen’s Hebrew name means “life,” and she has contributed to the life of BSJC in so many ways. Karen is past president, having served an extended term from 2015-2018, is the current chair of our Sisterhood and Book Club, chants Torah, tutors our b’nai mitzvah students, runs our annual Hanukkah Auction, chairs our annual Purim carnival committee and is in charge of making hundreds of hamantaschen every year. Karen steps up to so many tasks — wherever she sees the need, including The Lasagna Project and serving meals at The Ladle. Her contributions keep us vibrant and thriving!

Jonathan Weinkle has been a member of Congregation Beth Shalom for 21 years. He is a graduate of the Wexner Heritage Program, an author and a doctor of internal pediatrics and internal medicine. As an amateur chazzan, he helps lead services frequently and has served as a b’nai mitzvah tutor, religious services chair and a member of committees, including nominating and hiring an interim rabbi. Most recently, Jonathan has been an active participant in Beth Shalom’s COVID-19 task force, guiding synagogue decision-making. Jonathan is a contributing blogger for the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and often shares his knowledge through delivering divrei torahs.

Cliff Zlotnik is a genuinely kind and compassionate person who is blessed with many talents and interests which he shares freely with the Jewish community in general and Chabad of the South Hills in particular. He is always among the first to help when there is a need, whether it be resolving flood or smoke damage at Chabad, helping make minyan for yahrtzeits and shiva, to supporting the underprivileged in our community. He is just an all-around mensch who can be relied upon at all times.

When COVID-19 struck, Julie Harris — a guitarist, performer and teacher — immediately stepped forward to offer her time and assistance to Chabad of Squirrel Hill. In addition to playing guitar for the annual Sound of Jewish Music event, which took place virtually in the spring, she also helped deliver bags of soup and challah every Friday throughout the summer, spreading warmth and a taste of Shabbat to friends around the community. Her kindness and volunteer work were especially appreciated during this challenging period and helped foster a sense of connection at a time of physical separation.

Community Day School parent Dr. Micah Jacobs is an infectious disease specialist and associate director of infection control at UPMC St. Margaret, where he is part of the team coordinating the response to COVID-19. He has volunteered for several years to provide medical guidance to the CDS Health Office and to raise school funds, with tremendous impact in increasing individual participation in the state tax credit program resulting in scholarships for eligible students. This year, CDS is especially indebted to Dr. Jacobs, who has shared his time and expertise with the school community in COVID-19 safety planning, always demonstrating his patience, compassion, and consummate professionalism even during the most challenging times.

Dor Hadash’s Volunteer of the Year is Jim Lenkner. Almost two years ago, Jim began assisting us as our communications chair. Jim continues to assist with our technology needs. Besides Dor Hadash, he helps at Adat Shalom; the Waverly Presbyterian Church; Unity Church in Delaware; First Step Recovery Homes: Jeremiah’s Place; and Fair Districts PA. Jim has helped to revive our newsletter and create our website. With the onset of COVID-19, he assisted setting up Zoom and training us to use it. He has become an integral part of our Zoom b’nai mitzvah and High Holiday services and countless other events. We are grateful to have him as a member of our community.

The Friendship Circle recognizes Dr. Marlene Cohen Behrmann. Marlene’s journey with us began almost a decade ago. Her son volunteered with us in high school, and Marlene joined soon after at our Sunday Circle program. Since then, she has shared her time, expertise, and talent, and made many valued contributions to our organization. Most recently, she served as chair of our safety task force and has been instrumental in the sustainability and growth of our programs and mission. Marlene is an incredible resource, and we are grateful for the opportunity to learn from her, always.

Meira Russ has been an extraordinarily committed member of the Hebrew Free Loan board of directors and has used her many talents to benefit both the organization and its borrowers. As a member of the executive committee and the chair of the Strategic Initiatives task force, Meira has facilitated important progress, including policies that make interest-free loans accessible to more people. A natural and passionate advocate, Meira operates with a clear sense of people’s best interest at heart. In addition to her work at HFL, Meira volunteers in the community through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Community Day School, and in frequent anonymous acts of chesed. Hebrew Free Loan is grateful for and humbled by Meira’s thoughtful and caring leadership. 

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Dr. Harold Wiesenfeld for leading our COVID-19 reopening task force. Dr. Wiesenfeld has put in countless hours analyzing our health and safety procedures. Harold continues to take the time on a daily basis to carefully analyze all of our concerns and answer each question thoughtfully and with poise. Without his hard work and dedication, Hillel Academy, serving 400 hundred students, would not have been able to reopen this fall in a safe and meaningful way.

Since 2011, Matt Weinstein has been a valued 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. Although he has worked as a development professional within higher education institutions, he has tirelessly volunteered on Hillel JUC’s behalf to secure financial support and partnerships to ensure the continuity of future generations of Jews who make Pittsburgh their college home. We are indebted to Matt for his insights, guidance and accomplishments.

Both children of survivors, Jake and Rebecca Jacobson lead our Life & Legacy Committee, ensuring that the Center’s mission will be supported for years to come. Rebecca chairs the Generations Steering Committee, the group composed of children and grandchildren of survivors. She also shares her mother’s story of survival through our Generations Speakers Bureau. Jake is immediate past chair of the Holocaust Center Advisory Board. He led the organization following the attacks at the Tree of Life building, and oversaw new initiatives during his tenure as chair, including the Center’s training for Pittsburgh Police recruits.

Ronna Scoratow had been an amazing volunteer before COVID-19 and somehow, despite our restrictions on visitors in the building, she has still managed to bring joy and laughter (and calories) to our residents. Each week we have “Treats from Ronna.” She buys ice cream, cupcakes, sweets of all kinds, and provides magazines, crossword puzzles, and anything she can think of that will lift up the spirits of our Charles Morris folks. She sends cards, makes phone calls, sends greetings — and constantly reminds her friends that they are out of sight, but certainly not out of mind. Thanks, Ronna!

Stephen Tobe is a long-time JCC friend whose children and grandchildren are active at the JCC. When he joined AgeWell in March 2016, he immediately volunteered in the J Café. Stephen is always willing to help. He has a knack for making the people around him feel special. For him, the important part has always been about making the connections with our older adults and the other volunteers. When COVID-19 struck, Stephen was in Florida, but missing his friends from the JCC Choir and J Café, he called Amy Gold to ask how he could help. He was excited to start making telephone wellness check-in calls to our older adults. Stephen is the JCC’s 2020 awardee of the Lillian Goldstein Senior Adult Volunteer Leadership Award.

Known by so many in our community, Meyer “Skip” Grinberg has been an engaged, caring and dedicated volunteer. After many years of involvement as a board member, Skip became president, bringing his experience helping other nonprofits grow. Skip generously shares his vision, dedication and time to help the Jewish Assistance Fund. In his quiet, calm way, Skip plays a pivotal role. We count on him to assure that even with a small staff, we can have a big impact in the lives of the Pittsburgh Jewish community by providing financial assistance for immediate and pressing expenses.

Greg Engel is the president of the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh. He has served as president since 2018 and ably leads the JCBA as it expands its reach in the region. He serves on the JCBA nominating committee and is involved with hands-on projects to help beautify the cemeteries. Greg has served on the JCBA Board since 2016.

Randi Cohen enhances the work that JFCS Career Development Center does through her extensive 37-year experience in human resources. She provides additional training and career development assistance to our active job-seeking clients of diverse abilities and backgrounds, helping them to become employed. She connects with our career consultants, recommending useful action items they can incorporate into the client’s overall job search strategy. Randi is an intermediary to our partner employers while assisting at career fairs and employer events. She is a true professional, always accessible, reliable, selfless, and an ideal team player. We are truly blessed to have Randi as a partner.

For more than a decade, Jimmy Wagner has proven himself an exemplary leader at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Mr. Wagner chaired the Jewish Federation’s 2012 and 2013 annual Community Campaigns. As chair of the Federation’s Cemeteries Task Force, he helped forge a new model to care for the region’s 80 Jewish cemeteries. In addition to board service throughout the community, Mr. Wagner was the recipient of the 2012 William and Olga Stark Leadership Award. Currently, he is a vice chair of the Federation’s board of directors.

Elaine Krasik (z”l) was an active board member and officer for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and its operating arm, Health Careers Futures, from 2003-2009 and had remained a key supporter of JHF’s work up through 2020. JHF mourned her passing this year and honors all her many important contributions to our community. She was a founding member of the Working Hearts Coalition and an active member of the JHF Distribution Committee, bringing her community and legal acumen to JHF grantmaking and community involvement efforts. She also led JHF’s Health Education and Access Grant Assessment Team.

Steven Schwartz’s contribution and commitment to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community as well as to the land and people of Israel is beyond reproach. In addition to his philanthropic support, Steven has served as a mentor and motivator to so many over the years. Thanks to Steven’s efforts over many decades, Jewish National Fund-USA has connected thousands in the greater Pittsburgh region with Israel and the organization’s vision of bringing 800,000 people to the Negev and Galilee. During this most unusual year, Steven’s leadership has been the steady hand and reassuring voice of our community. As Steven steps down from the presidency, we wish to recognize his tireless efforts in support of our philanthropic work and continuation of Theodor Herzl’s legacy.

This year’s nominee is Lorrie Rabin, president-elect of the JRS board, past chair of the Clubhouse advisory board and indefatigable supporter of JRS’s mission. Lorrie’s passion is helping the Clubhouse provide colleagues with an environment that is compassionate, dignified, purposeful and meaningful. She is active in efforts to spread the word in the community about the value of the Clubhouse program and serves as a mentor to staff. Lorrie’s time and expertise have directly contributed to the success of our program.

Kesher Pittsburgh nominates Lauren Goldstein as our Volunteer of the Year with appreciation for her tireless efforts on behalf of our community. Whether playing guitar at services, co-organizing events, boosting morale, or thinking about the big picture, Lauren is committed to helping our community grow and deepen sustainably and meaningfully. However, it’s not just what she does to help but how she approaches each task: kind, warm, caring, organized, dependable and authentic, Lauren is a joy to work with and is an exemplar of our community’s values. We are so grateful that she is part of our team!

Like other community agencies, COVID-19 had a huge impact on NCJW’s operations. When the departure of NCJW’s executive director coincided with the start of COVID-19, another layer of complexity was added to an already challenging situation. In addition to her responsibilities as board president, Teddi J. Horvitz stepped right in to take on operational duties, which included managing staff, completing the PPP funding application, determining the status of our social enterprise, Thriftique and working with community partners at the Allegheny County courts regarding the Playrooms at the Courts. For Teddi, no job was too small or too big to ensure NCJW’s viability.

Cátia Kossovsky is passionate about helping the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle fulfill its mission of connecting Jewish Pittsburgh. Cátia represented the Chronicle in the Legacy Heritage OnBoard leadership development program and has used her learnings to help strengthen the Chronicle’s board. Cátia is one of those lay leaders who always says yes and is always there. She has provided tremendous value to a variety of Chronicle committees and task forces over the years. She is also always an enthusiastic ambassador for the Chronicle in the community. Cátia, an attorney, is the founder of Kossovsky Law PLLC and lives with her husband and two daughters in the North Hills.

If you’ve been to a Repair the World Pittsburgh event before, you’ve probably met Mike Kirshenbaum. Mike is a pro harvester and great at weeding the garden beds and putting the beds to rest for the winter. He is a super volunteer for our Sheridan Ave. Orchard and Garden and has a super sense of humor. He bikes everywhere, rain or shine, with safety in mind. Thank you, Mike for so consistently showing up in service for our community. We appreciate you, your dedication to food justice and living out Jewish values like tikkun olam!

Temple Emanuel is pleased to honor Rita Zolot as our Volunteer of the Year. For 15 years, Rita coordinated the operation of Temple’s gift shop, overseeing all of the purchasing, volunteer scheduling and inventory management. Evolving from a once-a-month volunteer to a weekly presence in the shop, Rita described herself not as the gift shop “manager” but instead the “decider.” For her efforts, Rita also recently received Temple’s Manny Award, the most longstanding and highest honor of any award at Temple Emanuel.

Arnie Begler has been a committed member of Temple Ohav Shalom since he and his wife Sandra joined in 2003. They were later joined by his children Josh and Isabella. Arnie has held many volunteer positions there, including being the vice president of membership prior to becoming president from June 2018 to May 2020. As president, Arnie was instrumental in substantially increasing the membership and engagement of its members and building a strong foundation for Temple Ohav Shalom’s future. Arnie continues to be very active by volunteering to help out in any way that benefits the synagogue, including being a critical member of its executive council, as immediate past president.

A past president and 40-year member, Louise Malakoff’s welcoming spirit truly embodies our mission to inspire, innovate, and include everyone who seeks a Jewish home. As head of our Caring Connection program, Louise prepares and delivers caring bags to new members; to those celebrating a birth, a wedding, or who have completed conversion; as well as to the sick or grieving. From cooking meals for congregants in need, to coordinating volunteers to give rides or run other errands, to serving as a longstanding member of Women of Temple Sinai and Tikkun Olam Center, Louise touches our community in many positive ways.

It is abundantly clear to the entire congregation how much time and effort Stacey Hausman has put into all facets of Tree of Life. Her commitment to the synagogue has never wavered. No project, activity, or event is too big or too small for Stacey to take on. In her roles as synagogue treasurer and Sisterhood co-president, Stacey has devoted countless hours to our community. She is a familiar and welcoming face at all services and functions and can be relied upon to do whatever is necessary to ensure Tree of Life’s vitality.

A native of Massachusetts, Lior Shkedi with his wife and children moved to Pittsburgh to become part of its Chabad community and Yeshiva Schools. Especially this past year, Lior has blossomed as a critical volunteer at Yeshiva Schools. His leadership, expertise, and countless hours of service as the Chair of Yeshiva’s Information Technology Committee are transforming Yeshiva’s IT platform and operations including its website and information storage. Also, as a recent member of Yeshiva’s board, he is playing an important role in navigating the financial separation of Yeshiva Schools and Lubavitch Center.

Sharon Ackerman grew up as a teen leader in Young Judaea, attending camps, and going on Year Course. When Sharon’s sons, Micah and Josh, became active in YJ, Sharon took on leadership and volunteering, supporting local programs and yearly Shabbatons. Although her sons have graduated, Sharon continues leading two yearly events. For Family House, she shops, engages volunteers to cook, serve and meet with people. Additionally, 10 years ago, Sharon spearheaded, and continues to organize, our successful and popular Rosh Hashanah Honey Sale. Thanks to Sharon’s dedication and compassion Pittsburgh Young Judaea continues to thrive.

Stephen A. Neustein, Esq. has served ZOA: Pittsburgh in many capacities and is currently ZOA’s 1st vice president. In addition to his leadership skills, he has often lent his professional skills to ZOA. Whenever ZOA calls, Steve is up to the task. Steve has held board positions at Congregations Beth Shalom and Beth Hamedrash. He is also active with JNF and Israel Bonds. Steve is dedicated to the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs and has served as treasurer and vice president of the International FJMC. He has received numerous awards from the forementioned organizations for his volunteer activities. ZOA is fortunate to benefit from his many talents. Time permitting, he has practiced law for 42 years. PJC

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