Volunteers of the Year
RecognitionCelebrate those who make the community run

Volunteers of the Year

Welcome to the Chronicle's Second Annual Edition

Adat Shalom

Michele Fryncko is a volunteer par excellence at Adat Shalom, serving in many congregational roles. A member of the Executive Board of Directors since 2015, she coordinated the Contemporary Shabbat service for many years, and is dedicated to the social action committee. Michele ensures that no one goes hungry: She organizes and participates in Backpack for Hunger, the Roots of Faith Community Table, Operation Isaiah, and provides kosher meals to congregants who need them through our mitzvah team. She is also our “unofficial” event photographer. Michele’s smiling enthusiasm, energy, compassion and dedication truly embody the spirit of tikun olam.

Ahavath Achim – The Carnegie Shul

Congregation Ahavath Achim is proud to recognize Dr. Larry Block as our 2019 Volunteer of the Year.

After many years as vice president, Dr. Block took over as president of our congregation in 2012 and has been serving in that capacity ever since.

Dr. Block is also the true spiritual leader of our shul. Every week he leads much of our service, serves as our Torah reader, chants the haftorah and inspires and educates us with his d’var Torah.

We are a small congregation without a Rabbi or paid staff, but Dr. Block always works to ensure that our members have the traditional Jewish experience that they covet.

Aleph Institute

Laura Ellman is a licensed clinical social worker. For the past eight years, she has worked as a clinician with an employee assistance practice. In that capacity, Laura counsels a wide range of clients with varying issues that include interpersonal, family, substance abuse and job-related concerns. Prior to that, Laura worked as a hospital social worker at Magee Women’s Hospital and served as the clinical director of an international adoption agency where she helped to facilitate hundreds of adoptions. In addition to her work for Aleph, Laura volunteers at the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry.

Beth El Congregation of the South Hills

Beth El’s Volunteer of the Year is Cheryl Kirshner. Cheryl served as Beth El’s “first lady” for four years when her husband, Miles, was president. After his term, Cheryl became more involved serving as the coordinator for shiva minyans. Through this role, she has connected with Beth El families, taking care of details, allowing them to grieve. Cheryl has also become an invaluable volunteer at the shul’s weekly bingo fundraiser. She has made it a point to be cros-trained on all the roles so that she can step in and help with whatever needs to be done.

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Beth Jacob Synagogue
Sharon Goldstein, native of Pittsburgh, resided in New England for 25 years prior to returning to Pittsburgh in 1995 at which time she became a member of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Beth Jacob Synagogue. As the widow of the synagogue’s past president, she has remained an avid supporter by means of financial assistance, membership in the sisterhood, serving on the board of directors, and sponsor of breakfast at the yearly meetings.

Prior to retirement, Sharon was a successful business owner, substitute teacher and an active community volunteer in business, education and community. She is a devoted mother and grandmother believing in family above all.

Beth Samuel Jewish Center

If the heart of a Jewish community is the food we share, then Jerry DeSena is the heart of Beth Samuel Jewish Center. Jerry coordinates the food planning, shopping, preparation and clean-up for nearly every event at BSJC, from the weekly kiddush and holiday meals to adult education and party refreshments. She volunteers with and delivers bread to the local food pantry every week. As if that weren’t enough, she also serves on the board of directors and the ritual committee. Jerry is a giving, loving woman who makes Beth Samuel more than a synagogue—she makes it a family.

Chabad of South Hills

Scott (Chaim) Rovenger arrived in Pittsburgh from Miami, Florida just a short few months ago. In the time he has been here, he has spent hours weekly assisting at Chabad and the South Hills Jewish Community. No job is too big or small for Chaim. His dedication and devotion to Judaism and the Jewish Community is exemplary.

Chabad of Squirrel Hill

The kiddush luncheon which follows Shabbat morning services at Chabad of Squirrel Hill is enjoyed by congregants young and old, and four dedicated volunteers – Tova Feinman, Luz Manriquez, Dorit Sasson and Ya-hel Schwarcz – have graciously taken on the responsibility of making sure that the kiddush is set up and served every week without fail. Shabbat after Shabbat, this team of women ensure that a tasty and filling lunch is waiting for congregants as soon as the prayer service is over. All of us who have been lucky enough to enjoy one, or many, of these warm meals owes these kind, devoted volunteers a big thank you.

Classrooms Without Borders

Classrooms Without Borders’ Volunteer of the Year is Mary Louise Ellena. Mary Lou, an educator from La Roche University, participated in our 2019 Discovering Greece study seminar and has since devoted much of her free time in helping ensure the success and impact of our programs. Her dedication to our mission is clear from the many hours she volunteered before and during our Antisemitism, Hate and Social Responsibility conference, and her perseverance organizing community events like our Sept. 22 lecture with Jack Fairweather, demonstrate her commitment to the Jewish community. We are extremely grateful for Mary Lou’s partnership and commitment to our mission: open minds and hearts through learning experiences that transform education and empower educators and students to change the world.

Community Day School

Kara E. McGoey, Ph.D. is a professor of school psychology at Duquesne University. Dr. McGoey first became involved at Community Day School in 2010 when she volunteered her expertise as a key architect of our Mensch Project, helping the school integrate Jewish values into a Positive Behavior Support model. She has partnered with CDS over the past decade by providing volunteer consultation to teachers and social-emotional support and interventions for students. The families and staff of CDS are especially indebted to Dr. McGoey and her team for the critical and compassionate care they delivered after the October 27 synagogue attack.

Congregation B’nai Abraham

Congregation B’nai Abraham’s Volunteer of the Year is Shirley Grossman. Actually, she could have claimed this title many years. She is a long-time member of the board of directors, where she serves as secretary, but it’s her “hands on” volunteer work that sets her apart. As house chair, she logs countless hours in the building. Shirley always is beautifying our space in a myriad of ways, from instructing our janitorial staff to polishing our silver. As hospitality chair, she makes sure we always have an oneg, often with her delicious homemade desserts. As if that wasn’t enough, she is now filling in as the cantor’s assistant. Every shul should be lucky enough to have a Shirley Grossman!

Congregation Beth Shalom

Adam Kolko has been a member of Congregation Beth Shalom for over 20 years. Along with Eydie, Elana and Dalia, they have celebrated baby namings and bat mitzvahs along the way. Adam is extremely proud to represent the Beth Shalom community, a family of young and old that provides inspiration on a daily basis.

Dor Hadash

Undoubtedly, leading a congregation after a mass shooting is a difficult and challenging task. What is less clear, is the challenge of leading a lay-led congregation that is used to deliberation and consensus building at a time of upheaval, when decisions needed to be made swiftly. Ellen Surloff did this with poise, dignity and strong leadership. Ellen has served on the Dor Hadash board for three and a half years and during her early tenure helped us plan our long-term stay in the Tree of Life building. While this plan was upended last October, Ellen’s unwavering commitment, her calm, and her common sense have helped Dor Hadash through major transitions this year, including finding a new home, staff for our services and Hebrew school, and myriad of legal and financial issues. Dor Hadash is stronger for her leadership and grateful for her commitment.

Friendship Circle

Brendan Clancy was an obvious choice when nominating an individual from the Friendship Circle who shows outstanding volunteer work. Brendan, a Friendship Circle member for over 13 years, says “yes” to every opportunity to help out whether it is at programs, around the office, or in his community. He has spent years as a Friendship Fellow, volunteering his time around the Friendship Circle office. He is a vital part of the workplace and is always working hard to help things run more smoothly. Brendan sets up for our programs, helps us stay organized, and is always willing to be one of our heavy lifters. His energy and excitement make the whole office smile. About once a month, the Friendship Circle will volunteer at the JFCS Food Pantry in Squirrel Hill. Brendan shows up to every session and puts hard work in to make sure food is sorted into bags for people who come to the food pantry. Brendan has also been a long-time participant in I-Volunteer programs with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Hadassah Greater Pittsburgh

Family House is an important Hadassah mitzvah. Amy Shugerman Glasser has been the coordinator for the past seven years. She never realized how this project could change her life and the lives of others that Hadassah cooks for. “To see how the Family House guests and staff are so appreciative and touched by the generosity of our caring Hadassah members, friends and family is rewarding,” said Amy. This project shows the part of Hadassah that she is so proud of and goes along with its logo, “The power of women who do.” Amy says she is blessed with the best team leaders and volunteers who keep giving of themselves to help others. Hadassah is honored to have Amy chairing this meaningful project.

Hebrew Free Loan of Pittsburgh

Laurie Moritz has been a board member at the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Pittsburgh since 2012. In addition to regularly serving on HFL’s loan committees, she serves on the executive committee as secretary/ treasurer and participates on the strategic initiatives task force. Laurie has generously volunteered hours of her time to these endeavors as well as assisting staff with organizing HFL’s accounts and funds. Laurie’s commitment to the community extends to the YWCA, where she serves on the investment committee. Professionally, Laurie is a senior administrative officer for BNY Mellon Wealth Management, specializing in the delivery of custody and administrative services to endowments and foundations.

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh

For the past six years Dayna Greenfield has served as the track and cross country coach for Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. During that time, she has played an integral role in building our program into one of the premier middle school cross country programs in Western Pennsylvania. Dayna has the unique ability to push our students beyond their comfort limits in a warm and nurturing way. While she expects excellence, she understands that her work at Hillel is far more important than winning races. Dayna teaches our students the value of hard work, teamwork and taking personal responsibility for their actions. These lessons are vital for healthy social and emotional development in young people but sometimes hard to teach in the classroom. Dayna works tirelessly to make sure our students not only compete at the highest levels, but that they grow in these other areas as well. We are truly grateful for all that Dayna has done for our school, and we consider ourselves blessed that she is part of the Hillel Academy family.

Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh

Kris Kepler came to the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh in the week following the Tree of Life massacre in October 2018. Like many Pittsburghers impacted by that day, he wanted to give back in a meaningful way. Since then, Kris has been a valued volunteer with the Holocaust Center. His dedicated, caring spirit and calming presence have been deeply felt and appreciated by our staff, survivors and rest of the community, particularly at our public events where he is often so willing to help. The Holocaust Center is incredibly grateful to Kris for his steadfast service.

Jewish Assistance Fund

Joyce Berman shares her dedication, vision enthusiasm, and time to help the Jewish Assistance Fund. For 16 years, she has filled many roles including serving as a dedicated board member and grantor. Currently she is board vice president and very involved with the organization’s essential work of providing grants to the Jewish community. Joyce plays a pivotal role in the Jewish Assistance Fund. 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 Pittsburgh Jewish community and their families by providing immediate financial assistance.

Jewish Association on Aging

Karen Friedman adheres to a philosophy that has volunteerism at its core. She has embraced Sivitz Hospice, a service provided by JAA and, for the past three years, has donated countless hours of quality time to dying patients. Karen provides comfort and support to patients, families and loved ones who seek her calming and encouraging demeanor. Despite having no medical background, she is incredibly perceptive to physical and emotional issues, silently looking for changes in condition, for signs of agitation, of fear. Karen neither hesitates to consult with nurses, nor oversteps her bounds, and is always willing to learn.

Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh

For Margie Ruttenberg, the JCC is a “family thing.” Her mom Ilene taught preschool for 35+ years; her brother Jimmy served as board chair. Following a television news career in Washington D.C., she returned to Pittsburgh. As an active volunteer with the JCC’s Center for Loving Kindness, she helped to strategize and position the JCC to get “the public exposure that its work so deserved.” Margie set up a partnership with ABC News affiliate WTAE, which helped the JCC “reach beyond its walls to the larger community so people can not only be inspired but get involved in what we’re doing.”

The photo above shows Margie Ruttenberg with Daniel Tabares, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, when he was presented with the first Loving Kindness Award. Margie met Danny when he participated in the JCC’s “From Parkland to Pittsburgh, Stronger Together” gathering in April, for which Margie helped set up a live town hall and hour long special broadcast on WTAE at prime time “for people outside of the local community to see the kind of work we’re doing.”

Jewish Family and Community Services

Dr. Patricia Cluss has been a kind and dedicated volunteer with JFCS – AgeWell Rides, Read & Visits for four and a half years. During that time Pat has volunteered with over 32 older adults, offering them short rides to medical appointments or grocery shopping, brought them library books and spent time making friendly home visits. Each person who comes in contact with Pat describes her as a calm and caring volunteer, who is patient and warm. Those 80+ appointments have also meant that Pat has driven 370 miles — all using her own car to take our seniors where they need to go — helping them to maintain independence, while feeling connected to our community.

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

Known for his passion and his balance of “big-picture” vision with tactical know-how, Evan Indianer has generously shared his expertise in technology, analysis, business and outreach by serving on at least 20 Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh committees. He co-created Shalom Pittsburgh, a program to welcome newcomers, and made notable strategic contributions to Young Adult Division, Partnership2Gether, Federation marketing and funding and Community Scorecard. Mr. Indianer served four terms on the Federation board of directors.

A busy entrepreneur, Mr. Indianer has rolled up his sleeves to serve the Federation and the Jewish community in countless ways.

Jewish Healthcare Foundation

Richard (Dick) Simon, 98 years young, is the longest-serving trustee of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and Montefiore Hospital, with more than 65 years of combined service between the two organizations. Mr. Simon was present at the creation of the Foundation, and over his years of service, he has guided JHF as a member of its finance and distribution committees as well as heading one of its grant assessment teams. Mr. Simon is well known for his leadership, generosity and volunteer work, and he has made a deep and lasting impact on the direction and leadership of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, including his longstanding passion for the Foundation’s aging agenda.

Jewish Residential Services

Jewish Residential Services is proud to honor Bob Rosenthal as Volunteer of the Year.

Thank you, Bob, for the countless hours you spent overseeing the construction of our new home. Your generosity, dedication and expertise made this project a great success. We are thankful to have someone like you as a supporter. Whether it be overseeing building a sukkah or a six floor building, your efforts make a true difference in the lives of people with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities in our community.

National Council of Jewish Women

Since 2008, Paula Garret has been an essential part of NCJW Pittsburgh Section. She has served as the president, executive vice president and treasurer (twice); Paula has led the section in the areas of governance and strategic planning. She is also a member of the Center for Women Advisory Council.
Paula has also served on the NCJW national board since 2017 and gives her time to many other community organizations.
NCJW is lucky to have a leader like Paula Garret. We thank her for going above and beyond in her volunteer capacities. She is truly the embodiment of our values.

Repair the World

Adam Livingston is a dedicated volunteer with Repair the World at its Sheridan Avenue Orchard. Adam started volunteering with Repair more than three years ago and he continues to show up, week in and week out, at Repair programming and volunteering. The Sheridan Avenue Orchard grows fruits and vegetables for the East End Cooperative Ministry and is a space operated by Jewish values aligned with food justice. Repair is grateful for Adam and his continued dedication.

Temple B’nai Israel

Leonard Young, “Len,” has been a blessed lifeline to our Temple in times of crisis, and he enhances our religious observances.

Our Temple building had been flooded numerous times during heavy rain storms, and a section of driveway was in danger of collapse due to erosion beneath the paved surface. Facing engineering and construction costs in excess of our budget, Len analyzed the problem and discovered a blocked and deteriorated sewer line. He dug up and rebuilt the sewer line and shored up the soil erosion area, thus solving both problems. Len also landscapes the Temple grounds and trims trees and shrubs. All of the above is done without charge, except for materials and equipment rental.

Len acts as Hagbah and sounds the shofar, all with magnificence and humility. He also directed this year’s building of our sukkah.

Len is truly a pillar of strength for our Temple.

Temple Emanuel of South Hills

Lee Feldman, a Temple Emanuel member since 1982, has been an active volunteer for years. Most recently, as a member of TERMS (Temple Emanuel Retirees in Mitzvah Service), Lee planned a well-attended Seniors Health Information night, bringing in speakers from several organizations to discuss topics relevant to seniors and caregivers. Lee is now coordinating $CAMJAM, scheduled for January, which will include experts on topics such as financial and investment scams targeting seniors, as well as a program on Medicare fraud in March. Lee is a member of Temple’s Multi-faith Inclusion team and attends Shabbat services regularly with his wife Barbara.

Temple Ohav Shalom

Brian Kline, at-large board director, leads our building, maintenance and security efforts. He spends countless hours making our temple look great and makes us all feel secure. Over the last year, he has taken our monitoring, window security and alarm systems to the next level. He helped rewrite our security policy and constantly drives improved security.

He is a fixture at Saturday morning services, attends most Temple events and is always willing to lend a hand anywhere. He recently joined our TOSCEL (pre-school) Leadership team to help supervise the enhancement of our outdoor space. Brian is always there for us!

Temple Sinai

Working from early spring through October, Rachel Kudrick led the implementation of Temple Sinai’s garden committee vision to create a vegetable garden that would donate 100% of the harvest to the JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry. Applying her expertise as a master gardener, Rachel led the efforts to test the soil, design the garden’s physical layout as well as deciding which vegetables to grow based on nutrition, space and yield. She also planted and nurtured the seedlings, from organic and heirloom varieties, that were used in the garden. Rachel helped direct volunteers to weed, water and harvest the 484 square foot garden. Among the roughly 200 pounds of harvest delivered to the JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry were tomatoes, tomatillos, kale, cucumbers, wax beans, radishes, turnips and carrots. Rachel is already working with the garden committee to make portions of the garden handicapped accessible and to improve on the harvest for next year.

Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha

Alan Hausman serves as a vice president on the congregation’s board of trustees; in the past year he has been the liaison to law enforcement, has headed up efforts related to security, clean up and maintenance of the building site, and coordinated the massive effort required for Tree of Life to hold its High Holiday services at Calvary Church. Alan was part of the original team that sat in a room at the JCC on Oct. 27, 2018 and took hundreds of phone calls, dozens of meetings and supported and attended seven funerals. He has spent thousands of hours on a myriad of synagogue tasks. He always has the congregation first in his thoughts and actions.

Yeshiva Schools

We are proud to recognize Mrs. Theresa Firtell, mother of four Yeshiva students, as volunteer of the year. She is founder of Rush Messenger Service, an immediate pick-up and delivery company currently servicing Western Pennsylvania, family run and operated for over 40 years. Theresa also owns a housekeeping and cleaning service in Squirrel Hill and surrounding areas called Mess Be Gone. Her most recent endeavor, and one she’s most proud of, is Camp Chaya, a Chabad summer camp experience for middle school aged girls. Need a job done? Ask a busy person. For seven years, with enthusiasm and efficiency, Theresa successfully spearheaded Yeshiva Purim Baskets, a significant school fundraiser.

Young People’s Synagogue

In 2019/5779, Ted Stern completed a volunteer tenure of 17 years as Treasurer of Young People’s Synagogue/ Bohnai Yisrael. Through his service and counsel, YPS has met all its operational challenges and is positioned to sustain our kehila in the years to come. We are pleased to use this opportunity to acknowledge Ted as a consummate volunteer for our congregation and the community at large. pjc

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