Though her hometown of Augusta, Georgia’s Jewish community was tiny, Memphis Lion of Judah Jeri Moskovitz nonetheless enjoyed an abundance of Jewish engagement opportunities because of intentional decisions by her parents. Her JCC President dad, Haskell Toporek, and Hadassah President mom, Dale, made sure Jeri and her siblings were plugged in and Jewishly engaged.
“Our parents wanted us to have Jewish connections, which was not easy in Augusta. They made sure it happened,” said Jeri. “We were very involved with BBYO. I went on a BBYO trip to Israel in high school. They also sent us all to Jewish camps, Blue Star and Barney Medintz. We were very involved at the Augusta JCC. We went to JCC day camp in the summer, and every Jewish kid in Augusta swam on the JCC swim team.”
Jeri and her siblings also showed early ambitions as leaders, each being elected president of their elementary and/or middle schools. Jeri points again to the influence of her parents in fostering these aspects of her personality and leadership abilities.
“There were discussions at the dinner table. We ate together every night, the six of us. Mom would leave early for a Hadassah meeting, or Dad was going to be late because of a meeting of some sort. I knew my parents were going to meetings. I knew they were involved,” she said.
She met her husband Mitch, a Memphian, as an undergrad at University of Georgia, and the two relocated to Memphis to attend the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Eager to plug in and make connections in Jewish Memphis, Jeri immediately became a BBYO advisor here.
“It’s funny, but I’m friends now with people who were in BBYO when I was their advisor,” she said.
Talk about plugging in; concurrent to launching her law career, mostly doing bankruptcy creditors work, she rolled up her sleeves and went all in as a volunteer and lay-leader, doing her small part to help shape Jewish Memphis. By her mid-20s, she sat on the Memphis Jewish Federation board and a few short years later received Federation’s Rabbi Arie Becker Young Leadership Award.
Jeri served on Federation’s Community Grants Committee for 15 years, while also contributing to various committees and subordinate boards along the way. Today, she serves on the boards for both Bornblum Jewish Community School and Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab, despite the fact that her kids, Mallory and Matthew, attended in the days it was known as Solomon Schechter, and she has yet to have a loved one require the services of MJH&R. Lately, she’s even involved as a volunteer in city government, working on Mayor Jim Strickland’s first campaign and now serving on the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Center City Revenue Finance Corporation.
While serving in these various leadership positions, Jeri began to feel a connection to a convergence of her interests and her passion through event planning. Some of her favorite events that she helped plan were Federation’s Chopped cooking competition event in 2014, Bornblum’s (then Solomon Schechter) memorable Dancing with the Stars, and Jewish Family Service’s This is Where I Leave You Movie Night fundraisers, before the organization bore the Fogelman name. She loves continuing to annually plan the successful Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival.
“I love it when people say ‘Wow, that was fun’ or ‘That was so creative,’” she said. “I’m social and enjoy having a good time. I appreciate bringing events to fruition, and seeing people enjoy being together around a common cause.”
In 2017, Jeri stopped practicing law and it was around then that she became a Memphis Lion of Judah. Always a donor to Federation’s Annual Campaign, she had been a Pomegranate for a number of years when she and Mitch felt the time was right to increase their giving level.
“Before I joined, I perceived the Lions as a group of women who were strong leaders in the community, women that wanted to make a difference. They were on boards with me, they were involved in the things I did, and I aspired to be part of the Lions,” said Jeri. “Women who are drawn to Lion of Judah do it simply because they want to help in any way they are able, and I felt that deeply.”
“Our Lions represent a wide range of women with a multitude types of backgrounds. It’s a bright, intelligent, driven group, and the kind of women with whom you would want to surround yourself. We share a goal of making a difference in the world, with a significant focus on Memphis,” she said.
Officially becoming a Lion was an emotional moment for Jeri, and she remembers vividly seeing her pin for the first time. After all of the years of giving of herself both financially and as a volunteer, she had arrived to a donation level she had strived to reach.
And to the woman who today finds herself in Jeri’s shoes a decade ago, outside of the powerful sisterhood of Lions but knowing in her heart she will someday step up, she offers a bit of advice.
“Stay active, focus on what you need to at this time in your life. The Lions will be there for you when you are ready, hopefully sooner than you envisioned. There will come a time when you say ‘I’m ready, and I’m there, and it’s time to surround myself with these outstanding women,’” she said.