A sold-out crowd of 256 Memphis Jewish women (and a few men) gathered on Tuesday, January 10 to support Memphis Jewish Federation’s annual campaign and celebrate Women of Strength Ricki Krupp and Alla Olswanger Lubin.
The event was a showcase of Women of Strength through a Federation lens, featuring second-generation jeweler, third-generation Holocaust survivor, mother of four, and Brooklyn-based entrepreneur Freida Rothman as keynote speaker, and a touching spotlight on local Women of Strength Ricki Krupp and Alla Olswanger-Lubin. It was a celebration of Jewish philanthropy with women of every age represented and every segment of our Jewish community present, followed by an exclusive shopping opportunity with sales of Freida’s jewelry a portion of which will support Federation’s Annual Community Campaign.
“With the new year just beginning, we think about gratitude, about lessons we’ve learned. Personally, I have reflected on this amazing community I moved to five years ago, the friends and relationships I’ve built, and the great experiences my children and family have been lucky to have in this community,” said Jaclyn Marshall, who along with Debbie Rosenthal, Jody Shutzberg, and Jessica Sukholdolsky served as a co-chair of the event.
“Look around this room,” she continued. “It’s because of women like you and your support of Federation that our community continues to thrive, and that we’re able to meet every need in our community.”
The narrative of women-driven impact threaded through the whole event, from the very name of the program all the way down to the signs identifying each guest’s table, which flashed words like ‘dependable’ and ‘tenacious.’ Beth Shalom synagogue’s Rabbi Sarit Horwitz led the group in Hamotzi and spoke about women’s roles at the vanguard of community activism. Through a web-based platform, guests contributed to a colorful word cloud, adding adjectives and nouns to a growing cluster of terms like ‘volunteering’ and ‘tzedakah’ that will become a permanent art piece in the Federation offices.
“Our Federation exists to fulfill two main purposes; to maintain a strong, cohesive local infrastructure which in turn ensures the continuity and wellbeing of the community, and to support Jews in need all over the world,” said Federation Past President Laurie Cooper, who introduced honorees Ricki Krupp and Alla Olswanger-Lubin.
“Ricki Krupp and her fantastic Ricki’s Cookie Corner & Bakery provide a constant presence that we all rely on,” said Laurie. “With her challah, Ricki is helping establish and maintain Jewish rituals and the Torah values of observing Shabbat and holidays at our family tables for all Jewish families, be they Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox. Not only does she enhance Jewish life in Memphis, she has also put us on the Jewish food map by shipping to customers all across the country.”
“When I moved back to Memphis many years ago, I kept hearing about this incredible woman who had moved here in my absence, Alla Olswanger-Lubin,” Laurie continued. “She had to hide her Jewish identity as a child in Ukraine, but today in Memphis, her children and grandchildren walk freely, and proudly say that they are Jewish, which means everything to her. (Because Federation supported her move to Memphis), Alla made a conscious decision to give back to the system that helped her establish a wonderful Jewish life in Memphis.”
After brief remarks touching on Federation’s ability to zoom out for big-picture snapshots of urgent community need and respond with comprehensive strategy, Campaign Director Judy Lansky introduced Elisheva Massel, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), one of Federation’s key global allies in its work.
“All of you have literally enabled miracles this year and over many, many years,” Elisheva said after a short video documenting JDCs ongoing work in war-torn Ukraine. “For the past 30 years, JDC has been working in this region, together with Federation, focusing on saving Jewish lives and building Jewish life. The infrastructure we’ve built there has allowed us to act quickly and effectively in times of crisis, and this is due in no small part to each and every one of you.”
For the keynote program of the afternoon, Jaclyn Marshall again came to the stage to welcome guest speaker Freida Rothman who she described as “an incredible woman, known internationally as a jewelry designer who channels her passion, strength, and resolve inherited from four Holocaust survivor grandparents into her iconic work.”
Responding to questions, Freida discussed her leap-of-faith in launching her Jewelry brand with inspiration coming from her beloved borough of Brooklyn. She has used her jewelry brand, now carried in high-end retail stores such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, to empower her teenage daughters to find their own professional and philanthropic path, and to preserve her family’s Holocaust stories for the betterment of society.
“When I introduce myself, I almost always feel compelled to include that dark history in my identity,” said Freida. “’Hi. I’m Freida Rothman, jewelry designer and granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors.’ I feel compelled to speak truth to their stories at every opportunity, to do my part to ensure history never repeats itself.”
Wrapping her segment, Freida challenged the women of Jewish Memphis to be conscious and intentional in their acts of tzedakah and community-building. She emphasized the role women have in activating their family’s philanthropy in a way that suits the unique realities of any given family at any given point in time.
To close the program, Laura Linder, President & CEO of Jewish Community Partners, which manages Memphis Jewish Federation, thanked the speakers, award winners, attendees, and those who couldn’t attend but do their part to sustain this community.
“Here today are 256 women who individually and as part of their families contribute more than $1.5 million to Federation’s Annual Community Campaign, each and every year. Your gifts, as you’ve heard this afternoon, do so much for so many,” said Laura. “Together, our impact is astounding. I hope you leave this event having a deeper appreciation for the special community we live in, and a renewed commitment to doing your part to make it even stronger.”
Jaclyn Marshall, Debbie Rosenthal, Jody Shutzberg, and Jessica Sukohldolsky Co-Chaired the event. The Host Committee included Maureen Baum, Suzanne Baum, Marion Bessoff, Ellee Breit, Jill Buring, Hallie Charney, Bari Eiseman, Jackie Evans, Janis Finan, Karen Franklin, Marlene Gerson, Shayna Giles, Myrna Halpern, Elana Kahane, Karen Karmel, Justin Katz, Lisa Kaufman, Karen Koplon, Barb Lansky, Danielle Lazarov, Debbie B. Lazarov, Emily Lennon, Aviva Lewis, Betsy Libby, Sharon Lubin, Lisa Menuskin, Lindsey Reef, Shelley Robbins, Hillary Samuels, Sophie Samuels, Stacy Siegler, Lisa Silver, Audrey Siskind, Jill Steinberg, and Kathy Wexler.