Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lion of Judah Spring Reception Honored 50 Years of Jewish Women in Philanthropy

by JCPConnect-

Photo by Paige Miller, from left to right: Jill Steinberg, Jill Menuskin, Debra Saharovich, Beni Dragutsky, Jolie Kisber, Molly Wexler, Judy Felsenthal, Rhonda Saslawsky, Myrna Halperin, Beverly Buchalter, Diane Wruble, Lisa Kaufman, and Janice Ringel are seen enjoying this year’s annual Lion of Judah Spring Reception.

Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lion of Judah celebrated 50 Years of global Jewish philanthropy with a Spring Reception honoring the 135 women who wear the Lion pin in Memphis. More than 65 Lions attended in-person and virtually, enjoying a kosher luncheon at Erling Jensen – The Restaurant to celebrate a half-century of impact.

Through volunteerism, activism and philanthropy, this sisterhood of dynamic, philanthropic Jewish women embody a deep commitment to tikkun olam. The Lions play a vital role in the fight for social justice while aiding the vulnerable, preserving human dignity, and building Jewish identity in our community. Together, the Lions contribute 80% of Memphis Jewish Federation’s Annual Community Campaign, providing kosher meals for seniors, Jewish education and camp opportunities for children, initiatives to combat antisemitism, and so much more.

The Spring Reception kicked off with a brief welcome from Marty Kelman, co-founder and chairman of Federation’s Corporate Partner Kelman-Lazarov, Inc., followed by a champagne toast celebrating the milestone anniversary by Lions Co-Chairs Debbie B. Lazarov and Shelley Robbins, who led the program.

“In 1972, Miami philanthropists Norma Kipnis Wilson and Toby Friedland had a revolutionary idea- women could make a personal statement about their values and commitment to the Jewish people with an individual gift of at least $5,000 to the annual Federation campaign,” said Debbie. “This marked the creation of Lion of Judah, with Memphis Lion of Judah launching in 1985. We would not be here today without the commitment from local founders Marilyn Belz, Sarah Belz, Donna Goodman, Beattie Leach, Annette Lichterman, Lottie Lichterman, Ruth Lowenberg, Jocelyn Rudner, Louise Sklar, and Harriet Solmson. These pioneering philanthropists paved the way for all of us to understand the meaning behind the Lion of Judah pin.”

“Women choose to create lasting impact using a broad definition of philanthropy,” said Shelley. “We’ve all heard of giving the three Ts- time, talent, and treasure. But to Lions, we have two more Ts- ties and testimony. What good is our passion for philanthropy if we don’t pass it on to our ties- our family, our networks, and our community? And our testimony speaks volumes, sharing our values, our commitments, and our responsibilities.”

“Each of us are here today because we care deeply about Jewish life. Through our time and through our gifts, we have changed the lives of countless Jewish families for the better. I’m very proud to be a Memphis Lion of Judah,” said Laura Linder, CEO and President of Memphis Jewish Federation, before introducing Sheliah Gruber, Sherry Hecht Katzman, Betsy Libby, Jaclyn Marshall, Tracey Mendelson, Stefanie Mintz, Julie Brander Neiman, Jennifer Roberts, and Lynn Susser; the nine women who became Lions of Judah in the last year. “I’m so excited to welcome you all to Memphis Lion of Judah.”

Alla Olswanger Lubin was honored as this year’s recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson Friedland Award, a national recognition given every other year to a Memphis Lion of Judah-level donor who has set a high standard for philanthropy and volunteerism. Alla was chosen by her peers as a ‘woman of valor’ with a lifetime of commitment to the Jewish world. 

“Once in the receiving line, now and forever in the giving,” she said, acknowledging her gratitude at being recognized with this prestigious award. “I love my Memphis Jewish community and being Jewish!”

“Like our mothers and fathers before us, we have taken on the awesome task of making sure Jewish life continues long after we are gone,” said Legacy Committee Chair Marlene Gerson, celebrating the women who have made their donations permanent through endowments, before the candle lighting ceremony honoring the nine women whose endowments live on beyond them. “The most tangible example of this are the women of Lion of Judah who have made plans to ensure that their gifts go on forever. “Memphis can be proud of the 35 women who have made commitments to ensure their gifts will live on long after all of us.”

Special tributes to the two newest Forever Lions, Mimi Grossman and Ronna Newburger, were then given by Andie Uiberall and Louise Sklar.

The luncheon concluded with a call for Memphis to have a large cohort at this year’s International Lion of Judah Conference, to be held in December in Phoenix, AZ. In addition to Alla being formally recognized as the Memphis recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson Friedland Award, there will also be an exciting reveal. Hatched in Memphis but soon to be a world-wide Lion phenomenon, the Lion Behind the Pin philanthropic legacy kit will make its debut at the conference.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Lion of Judah, please contact Judy Lansky at, (901)-767-7100, or visit

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