Among the younger donors to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Annual Community Campaign, 23-year-old Kayla Klazmer was born and raised in Jewish Memphis, and as a fifth-generation Memphian, her family ties to the community are deeply rooted. Kayla’s parents, Barbara and Scott Klazmer, encouraged her from a young age to embrace her religion and culture, and to be an active member of her community. As a child, she attended Margolin Hebrew Academy from 1st-3rd grade and Solomon Schecter in 4th and 5th grade. Kayla remembers giving tzedakah at Baron Hirsch, as well as formative experiences from her high school days attending Margolin Hebrew Academy and Six Points Sports Academy, an athletics summer camp for Jewish youth. Kayla has also enjoyed attending the Memphis Jewish Community Center from a young age.
“The Memphis Jewish Community Center (MJCC) is so special to me. My parents gave me one of the greatest gifts by being members. I went to preschool there, and my niece and nephew are now both going as well. It is so cool to see how generational it is. I am also super active, so it is a second home to me not only by being in the gym but there is a huge community feeling that makes it feel like home,” Kayla said.
“As a family, we would always do things to give back,” said Kayla. “It wasn’t always necessarily to Jewish organizations, but often was. My parents have donated to the MJCC, and I always love seeing our name on the Jewish star on the way to the gym. They also have a Jewish Foundation of Memphis Donor Advised Fund, which they use for philanthropy, and they make an annual gift to Memphis Jewish Federation. Recently, they made a gift to endow the Wendy & Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service at the MJCC. I think it’s important for Jewish people to do good things, like being charitable, because giving back is an important opportunity to make the world a better place.”
For her Bat Mitzvah project, she led a drive to collect shoes for underprivileged aspiring tennis players, a sport that is one of her main passions. This early act of giving back inspired her, and now as a young adult Kayla finds time to pursue beneficial activities that build upon her Jewish foundation, citing her father and brother, Martin, as inspiration for her philanthropy.
“They have both served on the Federation board, and my dad has always been generous with his time and money, which I have always respected him for. I’m definitely taking after him in that way, through my own donations to Federation’s Annual Campaign,” Kayla noted. “Helping others has always been something that means a lot to my family because it is always important to support our community.”
“I hope that my philanthropy hopefully makes an impact on at least one person, and also inspires my friends or people that I’m around to do the same thing,” said Kayla.
Kayla attended college at the University of Tampa and played on the school’s collegiate tennis team before transferring to play tennis for the University of Memphis. While at the University of Memphis, Kayla became even more active in our local Jewish community, through participation in Hillels of Memphis programs like the Jewish Learning Fellowship and serving in Hillel leadership.
“I thought that the Jewish Learning Fellowship was a super cool experience,” remarked Kayla. “There were tons of different students from every background of Judaism, whether they were not religious, relatively religious, or very religious. It was interesting just connecting and getting to know people on a deeper level that we don’t usually talk about during day-to-day life as a student, and I really enjoyed learning about topics which connect us all together.”
Kayla would often attend Shabbat dinners and holidays at Hillel during her years at the University of Memphis. Due to her passion and participation in these events, she was considered by Sophie Bloch, the Director of Hillels in Memphis, to be an excellent social connector who often brought in and welcomed new Jewish students to Hillel. Hillels of Memphis is a program of Memphis Jewish Federation.
In the winter of 2020, Kayla graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in Sport Management and a minor in Marketing. She found work for the Memphis Grizzlies, where she is currently employed as an Account Executive. With the Grizzlies, Kayla also donates her time to participate with camps for children.
“We do camps with kids who are less fortunate, bring them into the stadium, let them play around, and give them the opportunity to have meaningful experiences,” she said. “I help facilitate the children’s activities. Also, there was recently a garage sale that the Grizzlies put on that I helped with profits going to St. Jude.”
Along with working full-time, Kayla also finds time to occasionally coach tennis at the Memphis Jewish Community Center and coach private lessons. For the past two years, she has also donated to the MHA Auction by offering a package of tennis lessons. Through her participation in helping others across the board, it becomes easy to see that she is an excellent example of a young person stepping up for the community that helped raise her.