Every other year, The Jewish Federations of North America asks each community to nominate a woman for the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. This award recognizes women who exemplify the spirit of the Lion of Judah by proven commitment to the Jewish community through leadership and philanthropic giving. This year, Memphis Jewish Federation is proud to announce Marlene Tenenbaum Gerson as the 2016 recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award.
Marlene, originally from Atlanta, Georgia, moved to Memphis in 1973 and has been a Jewish community leader as a volunteer and a professional for nearly five decades.
Marlene’s commitment began in her teens through B’nai B’rith Youth Organization and included serving as International B’nai B’rith Girls Vice President. When she moved to Memphis, she quickly engaged with Memphis Jewish Federation. She was tapped to take on a professional role in the early 1990s as Director of the University of Memphis Hillel, and this position led to others.
She served in various professional capacities within the Federation, including Campaign Director and Interim Executive Director. Leadership positions included many years on the board of directors and chairmanships in Young Leadership and Women’s Division. She received Federation’s highest honor while serving as chair of Young Leadership, the Arie Becker Young Leadership Award.
Marlene has also been very involved with Memphis BBYO, Wings Cancer Foundation and her synagogue Beth Sholom. She and her husband, Herb, currently split their time between Memphis and Atlanta. They are parents of two daughters and a son, who along with their spouses, have given them six grandchildren.
On Thursday, September 8 the Memphis Lions of Judah hosted an event honoring Marlene and past recipients of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award including Sylvia Marks, Mary Lynn Perl, Diane Mendelson, and Louise Sklar. Laurie Cooper, who received the award in 2014, presented Marlene with a recognition certificate and gift from Federation. Laurie spoke about her personal experience working with Marlene on various projects with the Women’s Division including mission trips to Israel.
The Lion of Judah is a symbol of today’s Jewish woman’s strength, a symbol of her caring about the organized Jewish world and a symbol of her financial commitment of at least $5,000 to the community’s Annual Campaign. Since 1972, the Lion of Judah program has brought together women of all ages and from many walks of life to play an essential role in creating social justice, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, preserving human dignity and building Jewish identity. In 1985 an amazing group of women established the Lion of Judah in Memphis. Today we have over 100 Lions of Judah in Memphis who proudly wear their Lion of Judah pins, representing sisterhood, connectedness, and empowerment.
The International Lion of Judah Conference (ILOJC) will be held in Washington, D.C., from Sunday, September 11 to Tuesday, September 13. The conference is held every two years and brings Lions of Judah together from around the world for three phenomenal days of learning, sharing and celebration. This year’s program headliners include Madeline Albright, the first female Secretary of State, and Tom Ridge, first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Marlene Gerson will be honored at the conference as Memphis Jewish Federation’s Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award recipient.