Yael Cooper, daughter of Aileen and Pace Cooper, is a senior at the Goldie Margolin School for Girls. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to offset the costs of her NCSY/GIVE (Girls Israel Volunteer Experience) program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors are eligible for grants of up to $3,000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for Summer 2022 are open and can be accessed by clicking here.

By Yael Cooper

What an amazing summer I had with NCSY/Girls Israel Volunteer Experience (GIVE)!

Not only did I have the opportunity to meet and make amazing new friends from all over the United States and Canada, but I traveled across Israel while doing chesed (volunteering) almost every day of my five-week trip.

In Israel, I had the opportunity to give back to the land and people of Israel. When I traveled to Israel with my parents in the past, it was mostly for smachot (happy family occasions), and I mostly visited only Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This summer, I was able to see more of Israel and go to many sites I have learned about in Chumash (Bible) classes at the Margolin Hebrew Academy. Some of the new places I visited were Tzfat, Efrat, Mearat Hamachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs), Hebron, Ein Gedi, Masada, and Eilat. Each day at GIVE I woke up to davening (prayers) and daily learning, constant touring with integrated chesed projects, and each evening, there were fun night activities.

There was a truly wonderful mix of volunteer experiences, such as working on a kibbutz and painting a school. I volunteered at so many diverse places including a soup kitchen, a hospital where I was able to help with medical clowning, spent time with underprivileged children, packed food at pantry packers, and made a carnival and danced with handicapped and disabled children.

I loved working with the people that live in Israel and physically working the land, and I especially enjoyed writing letters and packing treats for lone soldiers. My favorite chesed activity was making a three-day camp for siblings of children who have cancer. It provided these children a chance to escape their family’s trying challenges. Their parents were so appreciative as they are consistently short of time to spend with their healthy children because they must focus on the children with cancer who are in treatment programs. I loved watching the children smile and enjoyed creating fun projects to make their summer more uplifting. I also had a blast planning a Bat Mitzvah for seven girls who had simply never had one. Planning included decorating a facility, doing the girls’ hair and makeup, dancing, and celebrating with each of them. Seeing the girls so thrilled at experiencing their Bat Mitzvah made all the effort worthwhile.

The summer included plenty of time to have fun with my new GIVE friends. Going to the De Karina chocolate factory, swimming in the Dead Sea, visiting the Kotel, swimming at Aqua Kef water park on the Kinneret, competing in a basketball game of GIVE versus Michlelet (another NCSY program), and eating in the Shuk market are just a few of those special activities. I also enjoyed climbing Masada, sleeping in a Bedouin tent, even though it was exceptionally hot, and going on a salad trail where I was able to discover and taste the agriculture in the Negev desert. I made real connections with the people I helped in my chesed activities, my GIVE friends, and the land of Israel. I am inspired by opportunities to share chesed and there is nothing better than giving back by helping those in need in Israel.

This summer was a wonderful hands-on experience with the people who live in Israel and my experience this summer motivates me to enthusiastically commit to going back to Israel next year for a gap year after high school.

I appreciate Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my NCSY/ GIVE Israel summer experience possible.

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The week of Hanukkah saw Memphis Jewish Federation’s Shine A Light on Antisemitism initiative soar through digital channels throughout the greater Memphis community.

After securing the support of all Memphis Jewish schools, agencies, congregations and youth groups and receiving a grant from Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to help our community join the national initiative, a lay committee consisting of Janis Finan, Cindy Finestone, Margo Gruen, Jill Notowich, Charna Schubert, and Rachel Shankman brainstormed ways to catalyze conversations across a broad spectrum of communities so that people will better understand what constitutes antisemitism, what contributes to its rise, and take steps to respond.

Award-winning video production company Running Pony was engaged to produce eight videos of Memphians sharing their personal stories– one for each night of Hanukkah – to be widely disseminated via email and social media platforms with discussion questions and a link to action items and resources. The powerful videos captured a wide range of experiences including elementary school hateful rhetoric and bullying, high school teens suffering through antisemitic stereotypes and the desecration of religious objects, college students encountering swastikas and Israel-based hate, and a second-generation Holocaust survivor enduring grotesque Holocaust comparisons. The videos also showcased those who have stood up to hate including alums of Facing History & Ourselves – both a national and local partner – and the transformation of a local neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader into a peace and human rights activist. 

The broader Memphis community stepped up in solidarity with the Jewish community. Memphis University School (MUS) invited Federation to present on antisemitism and the Shine A Light campaign during their weekly Wednesday chapel, a forum that the entire school attends. Federation board member and local attorney Jason Goldstein immediately and graciously agreed to represent Federation.

“I was honored to act as Federation’s representative,” said Jason. “Being an MUS alumnus, it was a full circle moment for me for return to the school, and it was extra special to be able to talk about such a serious and important topic as antisemitism. Many in the administration and faculty made a point to come over to me afterwards and express their solidarity with the Memphis Jewish community against antisemitism. I learned about MUS’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and how the Shine A Light campaign aligns with its mission. Most importantly, I got feedback from students that the message really resonated with them and that was the whole objective of the campaign.”

Other schools in the broader Memphis community who participated in Shine A Light include Lausanne Collegiate School which held a Shine A Light program at Convocation, Christian Brothers High School’s showing of a Shine A Light video, and St. Mary’s Episcopal School, which posted a solidarity message along with a shout out to its alums, Emma Mansberg and Michele Becton, who together participated in one of the videos.

In the Jewish community, congregations, schools, youth groups and agencies held programs, posted on social media and e-newsletters, and shared the videos. Over 40 teens at Memphis’ BBYO Aleph Regional event participated in Shine A Light as well, through watching community member Rayna Exelbierd’s video on Israel-based campus hate and discussing strategies to overcome antisemitism.

“We partnered with Federation on the Shine A Light initiative because I think it’s very important for our teens in Memphis to hear about the antisemitism happening all around them,” said Zoe Goldberg, BBYO’s Delta Regional Director. “Our high school seniors need to hear the example Rayna gave. It is vital that we teach our teens, the future leaders in our community, about these hateful acts and how to react and stand up for themselves. Getting involved with their college Hillel, Chabad, or other Israel groups on campus can help support them when acts of antisemitism occur. Our teens had a great discussion around this topic, one we will continue to have.”

University of Memphis’ ZBT fraternity students gathered with Hillels of Memphis students at a Hillel-ZBT Hanukkah party (below), where another of the Shine A Light videos was shown and discussed, this one examining antisemitic graffiti that shocked students on the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK) campus in 2018 and 2019, as well as Federation’s work with UTK administrators to firmly address the issue.

“The Shine A Light on Antisemitism project exposes antisemitism through the individual lenses of Jewish people. It tells of their livid experiences with the many faces of antisemitism, from unfortunately common prejudices to outright violence against Jewish people and their faith,” said ZBT fraternity member Tristan Atkins. “After watching the video and discussing with my peers, I have a greater understanding of the adversity faced against Jewish people, and I feel more equipped to help my Jewish friends respond to antisemitism that they may face.”

Throughout this community-wide initiative, Memphians were encouraged to join a three-pronged digital antisemitism awareness campaign consisting of signing a public statement of solidarity with the Memphis Jewish community, posting social media messages with the hashtag #MemphisShinesaLightonAntisemitism, and liking, commenting, and/or sharing the eight potent videos. According to social media analytics, the videos have been viewed and shared hundreds of times.

Other video presenters not previously mentioned include Ethan Cooper, Isaac and Jeff Cowens, TM Garret, Rabbi Yonason Gersten, Dorothy Goldwin, Dr. Gordon Gruen, Cody Hunter, Jaime Marquis, and Rabbi Dr. Gil Perl. 

Currently, over 50 local organizations and companies and many more individuals, including Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, have signed onto Federation’s solidarity statement against antisemitism. Still open for signatures, the statement is available at jcpmemphis.org/antisemitism, a dedicated webpage which will continue to have resources for community members, including an incident reporting form, an opportunity to obtain a Standing Against Antisemitism yard sign, and other action items and informational resources. Learn more about how you can get involved here.

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Geo Poor, Executive Director of Beth Sholom Synagogue, did not grow up in Memphis – in fact, he only moved to the Mid-South six years ago. However, upon moving here, Geo immediately recognized and appreciated the multiple ways in which Beth Sholom provided and cared for its members and community.

“One of the key takeaways for me from the events of this past year,” said Geo in regards to the pandemic. “You just never know what circumstances may happen in the future. So I wanted to set something up to return a little extra to the community just in case I am no longer around.”

Geo drafted a will online and contacted the Jewish Foundation of Memphis in order to help him leave a legacy gift to Beth Sholom.

“I love the causes that we champion, I love the people, and I love the programs that we do. I really believe in our institution, and definitely want to support it in whatever way I can,” said Geo.

The Life & Legacy program at the Jewish Foundation of Memphis makes it easy for anyone to leave money towards their favorite non-profit organizations, and there is no minimum dollar amount.

Creating a legacy plan with the Jewish Foundation of Memphis was easier than Geo initially thought it would be. Describing the process, Geo noted how the staff at the Jewish Foundation of Memphis walked him through it in its entirety, stating “it was super easy and relatively fast.”

When speaking about how his career has impacted his decision to donate, Geo explained that “handling every single business transaction in the synagogue has been eye-opening for me and has shown me the difference every single donation makes. My legacy gift is a way for me to be more committed to the community as opposed to just to the job, and it’s a way for me to make a future impact beyond what I can do right now.”

Through the Life & Legacy program, hundreds of families have remembered their favorite Memphis Jewish organizations in their estate plans. Jewish Foundation staff is available to work with donors and their advisors, if necessary, to determine the best way they can create a meaningful legacy.

People under a certain age, or early in their careers might believe that they need to wait until they are significantly older in order to become an impactful philanthropist. However, legacy plans similar to the one chosen by Geo, have no required minimums and allow the donor to make a difference in the organization’s future.  

If you would like to find out more about leaving a legacy, contact Sarah VanderWalde at svanderwalde@Jcpmemphis.org.

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Memphis Lion of Judah Betsy Saslawsky prefers a hands-on approach to life, generally, and insists upon it in her philanthropic pursuits.

A Lion since 2018, Betsy’s connection to philanthropy stems back to her childhood dinner table, where conversations between her parents, Judy and Nick Ringel, made an early impression on her.

“They have both been involved in the Memphis Jewish community as long as I can remember,” said Betsy. “There would be conversations about volunteering at Federation’s Super Sunday, or programs at Temple Israel, where my Dad is a Past President. I specifically remember an emergency Federation campaign during the Yom Kippur War, when my parents and their peers were called to make an additional gift to support Israel at that crucial time.”

As a child, she was less aware of the financial side of her parents’ activism, but witnessing the doing of it affected her deeply. Long before she became a Lion, she took her first steps down her philanthropic path, plugging into volunteerism and philanthropy 35 years ago with a tireless energy and passion. She’s filled the years with impact, committing her mind, time, and energy to causes supporting Jewish Memphis, Israel, and projects outside of her Judaism, particularly in education equity in Memphis.

“I have been involved with Shelby County Books from Birth, I was on their board for several years. And I spearheaded the Team Read program at Temple Israel.” she said. “I feel that education is the key to solving so many problems in the community.”

“I’m proud to be a supporter of the Jewish agencies of Memphis, and philanthropy that supports Israel and Jews in need all over the world,” Betsy said. “I’m proud to support organizations that are good for Memphis, whether it’s giving through Federation, or to the Wendy & Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service and Temple Israel. I give for altruistic reasons, and feel very fortunate to help people access the services they need, whether that’s medicine, a clean place to put their head at night, or religious freedom.”

After decades of activism and involvement, Betsy doubled down on giving back when she decided early this year to enroll in a Master’s program, from which she will earn a Non-Profit Management and Leadership certificate.

“I’ve been involved in so many non-profit organizations, and for so many years, and I just needed to stretch my brain,” she said. “I’m learning about philanthropy from the academic vantage point, versus what I’ve done on the ground the past 35 years, and I’ve learned about what makes donors tick. There are people who donate for tax reasons, others because of altruistic reasons. I give because I want to improve the world and to help those who are less fortunate than me.”

Betsy appreciates recent Lion efforts to involve the sisterhood in hands-on volunteering, which has shifted into high gear during the second half of the pandemic era. She is looking forward to more events such as the Lion of Judah-initiated Baby Shower supporting the new Fogelman Jewish Family Service Baby Pantry, and LOJ’s Caring Casseroles program benefiting food-insecure college students.

Asked about fostering a sense of activism in the next generation, Betsy points back to those conversations around her childhood dinner table, and the example set by her parents.

“When my children were younger, especially as they entered their teenage years, Andy and I found charitable causes that were meaningful to them, rather than directing them to donate to or volunteer with organizations that were important to us,” said Betsy. “Our oldest, Joel, worked with the West Cancer Foundation, in memory of his grandmother who was a West Cancer Center patient, to put together items to keep chemo patients and caregivers, and their children, busy while at appointments.  Our daughter, Erin, organized weekly game nights at a shelter for women and children, and as a 3rd grader, our youngest, Matthew, came to us to ask how to donate his piggy bank savings to the American Cancer Society.”

As her kids have gotten older, Betsy has seen them grow into their activism and lean into philanthropy.

“I think about my son and daughter-in-law who live here, and are starting to get involved in charitable causes,” she said.  “My advice is to get involved, try on programs and organizations and see what causes hit your hot button. I hope I have set an example for all my children, in terms of giving back. My hope is that my children will continue the legacy for their children, and that philanthropy will be an important part of their lives, as it is for me.”

“I’m grateful to be a part of a group of women that feel philanthropy is what defines them, and who make a point to give back in every way they can,” she added.

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Spring cleaning, or cleaning for Passover, is a common annual event. What’s one thing that made preparing for Passover, and spring, different this year? Memphis Jewish Federation’s PJ Library Book Drop & Swap! Over the course of a week, families donate their gently used children’s books, culminating in a Book Swap event under the MJCC Pavilion, Sunday, March 14.

Thanks to many volunteers, and event chair and PJ Library Committee member Amy Collier, over 1,000 books were sorted and displayed for families to select for free, along with a special PJ Library Memphis Passover Fun Kit that included a craft, game, and more!

Shaina Zakalik, parent of three PJ Library kids, stopped by with her family to browse books. “The book swap was such a GREAT event!  We had such a great time and left with so many good books,” she said.  “The kids were so happy!  I hope you will make this an annual or even semi-annual event. We have a ton of books I can donate to the next one.”

“The kids have loved the books. Some we have been reading as bedtime books, and others the kids have simply picked up to read or look at on their own,” said Wendy Kleinman, parent of two PJ Library children. “They were especially fascinated by Jean Lafitte: The Pirate Who Saved America, so a big thank you to whoever donated that one! We haven’t read them all yet but I was really grateful for the opportunity to pick up some new books for free, both Jewish and secular, that I thought would interest our children.”

The remaining books will be donated to free libraries, and thanks to volunteer Jamie Magdovitz Johnson, many were donated to the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis, among other organizations. 

If your child is not already enrolled in PJ Library, a free program that sends Jewish-themed books to children from 0-12 years every month, we hope you’ll sign them up: www.jcpmemphis.org/pjlibrary. If you have any questions, email Federation’s Miriam Roochvarg at mroochvarg@jcpmemphis.org.

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In a strangely disconnected year, Dot Bilsky has relied on her long affiliation with the Memphis Jewish Federation Lions of Judah as a way to stay connected to the people and places she loves in Jewish Memphis.

“I became a Lion because my husband signed me up, and I am very grateful he did. With the support of Federation, Lion of Judah identifies needs and gives people like me a chance to do the most good with greater impact,” she said. “And now with the pandemic, the Lions are even more active because there’s more need. We respond to what’s out there. That’s what it means to be part of this sisterhood.”

A long-time Lion, Dot serves on the LOJ Tikkun Olam Committee, serves on Federation’s Senior Services Collaborative, is involved in her synagogue, and has even become something of a volunteer IT support professional for an expanding circle of friends and acquaintances during the quarantine. She has a habit of stepping in to help others meet needs and is grateful for the many opportunities provided to make a difference.

She offers the Lion’s recent Baby Shower initiative as an example of how she benefits from her connections. Led by the Tikkun Olam Committee, the Shower was launched to help Wendy & Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service at the Memphis Jewish Community Center stock its brand-new Baby Pantry, designed to ensure families in the community have access to the essentials needed to care for babies and young children.

“The Baby Shower proves my point about what Federation does for me as a Lion. I didn’t know there were babies in our community needing help, nor could I have done anything about it without the support of Federation and the Lions,” she said. “We got the word out and took in an enormous amount of supplies for the Baby Pantry. That’s the Lions. They want to do things that help. And when you ask them, they go above and beyond.”

Dot had another first-hand glimpse of the connecting power of Federation as a peripheral player in this summer’s Tech Buddy initiative, designed to help seniors in the community stay connected through technology. 

“Part of my job at Memphis City Schools and later with Apple Computers was to help people use computers in the classroom,” she said. “I got involved helping people with their new Federation-provided iPads through the back door. I’m in a book club and two of the people couldn’t participate.  I made pictures of ipad screens and added arrows to show where to click and how to get to the home screen, the mail envelope, and how to read an email or join a Zoom meeting. Word got out and people asked me to help with different things. The initial training they got from the Tech Buddy was excellent, but I was able to help them do new things they wanted to learn.”

“Just yesterday I helped a friend of mine get online because she wanted to join a Beth Sholom seniors discussion group on Zoom,” she said. “We were going down the projects that Beth Sholom had planned and while she was scanning through the list, she said: ‘Oh my gosh, Baron Hirsch is making sandwiches- we always did that.’”

“I said ‘Yeah, but this year people are doing it from home.’ She said ‘I want to do it!’  So she helped Baron Hirsch make sandwiches.”

Ultimately, Dot’s connection to the community through the Lions is precious to her, and something she doesn’t take for granted. It’s through this sisterhood that she is able to satisfy her urge to help people in the community in a meaningful way.

“I’ve helped with things that I didn’t even know were problems before Federation directed us there,” she said.  “As Lions, we not only want to give money, we want to be involved.  That’s how a lot of the women feel.  The Federation identifies needs and organizes us to make a bigger impact.  I am most grateful for what Federation and the Lions do for me and others like myself.”

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“I’m a new Lion of Judah this year, so I went into this conference with no expectations,” said Memphis Lion Janice Ringel, our correspondent ‘on the ground’ at the International Lion of Judah Conference. “If it had been an in-person conference, being so new as a Lion I probably would not have gone. But because it was virtual, I decided to tune in and see what it was all about.”

On January 24 and 25, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) held its biennial conference, attended by almost 5,000 of its member Lions, Jewish communal professionals, and leaders, and for the first time did so virtually. In another first, the event was open to all women this year, rather than Lions of Judah exclusively.

“It far exceeded my expectations. With a diverse line up of impactful speakers, compelling breakout sessions, and inspiring music, it grabbed my attention and never let go,” said Janice. “One thing that struck me more than anything was the incredible scope of women that it was reaching. Not even just across the U.S. but throughout the world. I was amazed by the collective power of this sisterhood that these women feel for each other. They bring that same power to the goals they set and the change they aim to elicit.”

(Above) Memphis Lions had the opportunity to interact with their counterparts from the Louisville Jewish community, discussing what each woman found impactful from the conference programs they attended.

More than 50 women, Lions and their guests, represented Memphis at the virtual conference. Those who were unable to attend can view the entire ILOJC online using the email you registered with or by using lion@lionconference.org. You can also browse shorter videos of individual segments on the Conference Vimeo page.

According to Janice, every segment was enriching and empowering. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.org, and a proud Lion of Judah, was the recipient of the inaugural Ruth Bader Ginsburg Award, featured in a segment in which both iconic women loomed large.

“The rabbi from the synagogue that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of blessed memory, attended, shared a personal perspective, and Justice Ginsburg’s granddaughter spoke, letting us witness a more personal side of RBG,” said Janice. “She’s such a powerful, larger than life figure, and it was nice to hear a individual account from a family member that grew up with her and was close with her.”

“Then, we heard Sheryl Sandberg speak and got to know her on a more unique level and not just as the Facebook COO and the influential figure that she is. More specifically, she talked about teaching her children the concept of Tzedakah using the holiday of Chanukah as an example. Rather than receiving presents on all eight nights, her children get gifts for four nights and give gifts to those in need on the other four nights. She also spoke about what Judaism and being a Lion of Judah mean to her, and it was very moving.”

Smaller breakout sessions offered opportunities to take a deep dive into hot topics, with Janice choosing to attend lectures on the BDS movement of college campuses and racial inequity. Back again with the full group of Lions, we heard from newly elected Congresswoman from North Carolina Kathy Manning, who gave a play-by-play, first-hand account of what it was like the afternoon of January 6 at the Capitol.

“Listening to her, you felt like you were right there with her and it was frightening and captivating to listen to. It brought you into the room with all the emotions and fear that were probably going through everyone’s minds as it was unfolding,” said Janice.

The women who step up to become Lions of Judah are drawn to it for personal reasons, but because of their emotional connection, they bring their families and their peers into the group’s orbit. Becoming a Lion is a demonstrative act, which is becoming clearer as we see second and third generation Lions step up.

“During the conference, we heard from next-generation Lions, the daughters of Lions, and that really gave me hope for the future,” Janice said. “Young people learn by what’s going on in the home, from example and what your parents teach you. There are lessons that women can teach their children about giving back to your local community, not just monetarily but by your actions. Then you take it one step further and you give back to your country and try to evoke change. And then another step and you’re asking ‘what can I do to make the world a better place?’”

“It all starts in the home and you get a sense that these women are trying to pass on and model this behavior for the next generation.”

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Momentum is swelling behind a group of young adults – some new to Memphis, others born and raised here – committed to Memphis Jewish Federation’s efforts to care for, connect, and engage Jewish people of all ages through a wide array of programs and services.

Formerly known as YAD (the Young Adult Division of Memphis Jewish Federation) FedLED emerged this year after a strategic rebranding process. Driven by young professional volunteer leaders from the Memphis Jewish community, FedLED’s work focuses on leadership, education, and fundraising. FedLED Co-Chairs Jaclyn Marshall and Martin Klazmer recruited a council whose members Emily Lennon, Jana Weiskopf, Daniel Snyder, and advisors Jason Goldstein and Aviva Freiden, are collaborating to craft opportunities to elevate young adult leadership to the next level.

After a series of popular and well attended FedLED virtual networking breakfasts for young professionals, the first open-to-the public program will be the FedLED Children’s Clothing Sale, to be held January 31 under the MJCC Pavilion. Donations of gently used children’s clothing and shoes are already being accepted at the Jewish Community Partners offices, inside the MJCC.

“As someone who is a direct product of what this community has provided, I’ve naturally always had the desire to nourish and nurture the community myself,” said native Memphian Martin. “Now as an adult who has returned to Memphis with my own family, the timing is right and the opportunity is here with FedLED. Younger people in this community need to know that older generations are looking to us to step up and be involved in whatever capacity we are able and FedLED will serve as a stepping stone for those who are. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of this organization.”

Unlike Martin, Jaclyn is a newer Memphian, and had not been involved in Jewish communal activities in California. “There was not much sense of community living in San Francisco,” she said. “In Memphis, I met moms with small kids through my own children, and now we see each other all the time.”

From these first feelings of belonging to a cohesive Jewish community, Jaclyn eventually made her way to Federation. Her first in-depth conversation with a Federation staff member opened her eyes to the organization’s tireless efforts in Jewish Memphis. “It was mind blowing,” she said. “I not only wanted to give money but wanted to give more of my time.”

She was asked to serve as a co-moderator for a Federation Women’s Philanthropy program, interviewing Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, founder of OPI Nail Lacquer, in the MJCC’s Belz Social Hall. The well-attended event sparked a new interest in Federation activities throughout the community for Jaclyn, leading her to FedLED.

“Our goal is to hold a series of fundraising events – big and small – that get people excited,” said Jaclyn. “By creating exciting events, like wine and whisky tastings, we’ll offer fun ways for people to give back while learning about Federation. It’s important to introduce our generation to the Federation model of community support through donations, and help cultivate a culture of long-term donors for decades to come.”

Having had successful experiences with clothing sales back in California, Jaclyn thought a similar initiative would be a good fit for a key FedLED demographic- Jewish parents. In addition to offering something they need, the event would also be an excellent platform to introduce FedLED to potential members.

FedLED’s Children’s Clothing Sale will be held Sunday, January 31, 1:00 to 4:00 P.M., under the MJCC Pavilion. Federation is accepting donations of gently used children’s clothing and shoes Monday through Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. at the Jewish Community Partners office, located at 6560 Poplar Ave, inside the MJCC. Donated items will be sorted and sold at the socially distanced clothing sale at the end of the month. Proceeds from the clothing sale will go towards Federation’s Home-Delivered Meals Program for isolated seniors. Masks and social distancing will be strictly enforced.

FedLED is also looking for volunteers to help sort clothing ahead of the sale and to staff the sale itself. Tasks include sorting donated goods into different categories, setting up stations at the sale, and helping with touch-free payment transactions. To volunteer, email or call Sophie Bloch, Director of Young Adult Leadership, sbloch@jcpmemphis.org or 901-452-2453.

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By Sophie Bloch, Director of Hillels of Memphis

Over these last few months, I have often thought back to my own college experience and what it would have felt like to be starting a new school year during a pandemic. I studied dance and theater, so time and time again I came back to the age-old adage that “the show must go on.” And go on, it did! In spite of physical distancing and students scattered around the country, we were still able to honor the essence of what makes Hillel.

After an incredible pilot Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF) series in the spring, twenty students participated in JLF this semester. Because JLF was virtual this semester, we were able to combine students from Rhodes College and University of Memphis into one cohort to learn together. The pandemic has put many other quintessential college activities on pause, which has left more availability for more people to participate in Jewish learning; many of the students taking advantage of virtual JLF this semester otherwise wouldn’t have been able to participate due to their class schedule, athletics, or work obligations.

We also launched a virtual learning series with Jewish faculty from Memphis universities to spotlight the incredible Jewish intellectual talent we have here in Memphis for the entire Memphis Jewish community to enjoy. Named “On One Foot” in honor of the parable about Hillel the Elder teaching a student the “entire Torah while standing on one foot: treat others how you’d like to be treated,” each program in the series features a Jewish academic speaking on their area of expertise. Each lecture was recorded and archived on the Hillel website so future learners can enjoy the lectures as well.

(Above) Professor Victor Coonin, Professor of Art and Art History at Rhodes College, spoke about “Michelangelo, Moses, and Black Lives Matter” to discover what Michelangelo’s depictions of Moses can teach us about contextualizing problematic statues from the Civil War era.

Crisis calls for Jews to step up, which is something eight Hillel student interns learned this semester during a new Fundraising and Development Internship in partnership with Memphis Jewish Federation. Students learned about the Jewish values of philanthropy as well as valuable communication skills for fundraising that will translate to any future career, all while having the opportunity to get paid for remote work. The students in this leadership role set the tone for meaningful involvement in Hillel and Jewish communal life for their peers, all while Memphis Jewish Federation got support from students in securing pledges for its Annual Community Campaign.

Even though classes were virtual this semester, many students were living in Memphis either with their families or in their off-campus apartments. Because of this, we hosted small outdoor socially distant Shabbat dinner celebrations at the Morris S. Fogelman Jewish Student Center at University of Memphis. In-town students from both campuses came together to safely celebrate Shabbat and holidays together, providing a much-needed opportunity for connection and spirituality.

The semester wouldn’t have been complete without Hillel swag- and the best part about Hillel swag is that it travels! Without the usual milestones to mark time, we benchmarked the semester with care packages that were either mailed or hand-delivered to students in honor of the start of the semester, Rosh Hashanah, and finals week. As a result of receiving care packages throughout the semester, students felt included in the Hillels of Memphis community no matter where they were spending their semester.

Whether it was through remote learning opportunities, leadership development, outdoor Shabbat and holiday celebrations, or receiving goodies in the mail, Hillel students brought their best selves forward. We have so much to learn from the compassion, dedication, and resilience of our young adult community, and now more than ever I am confident that the future of the Jewish people will thrive in their hands.

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Memphis Jewish Federation announces an official partnership between their Lion of Judah program and Memphis icons Mednikow Jewelers. Announced Friday, November 6, Mednikow is now the official Jeweler of the Memphis Lions of Judah. 

For many years, Mednikow Jewelers has been the jeweler partner of Federation’s Lions of Judah. Bob (right) and Jay Mednikow (left) have graciously and generously supported the Memphis Lions for decades by annually donating diamonds and other precious gems for each member’s Lion of Judah pin. As of November 6, the two entities entered an official partnership, with the goal of elevating philanthropy in Jewish Memphis.

As all Lions know, their pin is much more than a beautiful piece of jewelry. To the women who wear it, the pin is an internationally recognized symbol of philanthropy, commitment, Jewish values, and sisterhood.

Established in Memphis in 1891 by Russian immigrant Jacob Mednikow, the business operated downtown for many years, first from a location on Second Street, directly across from the Peabody Hotel and today operates from its East Memphis location on Perkins Extd.

“Mednikow is a family-owned jewelry store with an international reputation for excellence,” said Lion of Judah co-chair Debbie B. Lazarov. “Bob, president emeritus, and his son, Jay, president, have been serving generations of customers with beauty, quality, integrity, and imagination guiding their outstanding level of service for so many years.”

The Memphis Lions of Judah have been the beneficiaries of that service and the Mednikows’ commitment to their mission.

According to Jay, “The Lion of Judah pin recognizes the kind and courageous hearts of those who wear them with well-deserved pride. We are honored to have donated and set hundreds of diamonds to your noble program, making a significant piece of jewelry grow even more beautiful through the passing years.”

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