Volunteer Federation callers from left to right: Nathan Greenbaum, Ethan Vanderwalde, Natalie Mashinsky, Talya Mendelson, Brooke Sanderson, and Rafi Goldkin.

“It was nerve-racking at first but once I got the hang of it, it was amazing to be able to help and give back to my community,” said Brooke Sanderson, an NCSY teen volunteer and burgeoning Jewish community lay leader, who recently had her first experience in fundraising thanks to Memphis Jewish Federation. “It was a good feeling to be able to raise money for Federation’s Annual Community Campaign, especially knowing that many of the NCSY programs happen because of it.”

On Sunday, October 2, six teens from Memphis’ NCSY chapter visited the Federation office to make calls urging donors to support the 2023 Annual Community Campaign. Thanks to their combined effort, 62 donors pledged gifts that afternoon and more than $9,000 was raised, with more than half of the gifts increasing over last year.

“Calling members of the Jewish community was a learning opportunity for me and I learned a lot of great skills,” said teen Nathan Greenbaum. “I am thankful to Memphis Jewish Federation for everything that they do for our community.”

Memphis NCSY receives grant support from Federation’s Annual Community Campaign, empowering the organization to maintain high-level teen programming through its local Memphis chapter and through its Jewish Student Union, which creates Jewish culture clubs in public and private schools in and around Memphis.

“We want to make sure our whole entire community knows what we do at Memphis Jewish Federation, and it’s a great place to start with teenagers to let them understand how connected our community is,” said Judy Lansky, Memphis Jewish Federation’s Director of Development. “Before we taught the teens how to solicit, we talked about what Memphis Jewish Federation does locally and globally to support Jewish families. We sat down and had all the teenagers raise their hand for the different ways that they had been involved with Federation, whether it was with NCSY, Margolin Hebrew Academy, JCC sports, BBYO, summer camp connections, etc. They were all connected to Federation in many ways that they didn’t previously realize. Also, a lot of the teenagers participate in B’nai Tzedek, the Jewish Foundation of Memphis Teen Philanthropy initiative.”

“I was nervous to call people I didn’t know from my community, but this experience has really made me grow,” said teen caller Natalie Mashinsky. “I feel more comfortable calling people now because of this experience. I am so happy that I had the chance to speak to both people I knew and some that I didn’t know. I feel more connected to my community now and appreciative that I got to help Federation.”

“It was great to bring in the teens and see them give back to the community that gives to their programming,” said Rebecca Brown, a Memphis NCSY staff member. “Their excitement and eagerness to raise money for NCSY and the Memphis Jewish Federation was so inspiring to see. They are looking forward to the next call-a-thon!”

NCSY is a world-recognized organization that has played a pivotal role in the lives of Jewish teens across the globe. With the vision of Harold and Enid Boxer, of blessed memory, the Orthodox Union founded NCSY in 1954 to provide Jewish teens with an opportunity to build a strong connection to their Jewish roots through inspiration and leadership skills.

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Memphis Jewish Federation is excited to announce the hiring of Jeri Moskovitz as Israel@75 Coordinator to lead its upcoming, months-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

Within the September 2022 – June 2023 window, Jeri will collaborate with Memphis Jewish organizations, synagogues, schools, and the greater Memphis community to coordinate and market Israel programming showcasing Israel’s historic achievements and dynamic and diverse society.

Growing up in the small Jewish community of Augusta, Georgia, Jeri’s parents helped instill their love of Israel in Jeri by sending her to Israel when she was 15 years old on a BBYO-sponsored trip. Years later, she visited Israel on a Memphis Jewish Federation Mission trip in 2008. To this day, she is fascinated by this small country’s achievements in science and technology, education, music, cuisine, and so much more.

In her new role, Jeri will conceive and launch meaningful Israel-centric events and initiatives throughout the nine-month celebration. She’ll work with Federation staff, lay leaders, agency professionals and community members to design exciting and innovative social, cultural, and educational programs that energize relationships with Israel across our community. The celebration will culminate with a show-stopper signature event for the community-wide celebration of Israel, a project that plays to her unique skill set. She will also collaborate with Memphis’ partner city of Shoham, to create a joint project to mark this critical milestone.

“My husband Mitch will tell you that my mind is always ON,” said Jeri. “I am constantly coming up with new ideas and creative programming for the organizations with whom I work. I am excited that this opportunity became available, to allow me to do something that I already have been doing for years in my committee work throughout the community. I appreciate bringing events to fruition and seeing people enjoy being together around a common cause.”

A perfect fit for the new role, Jeri has experience working for the Memphis Jewish community as a volunteer and leader, and she has a deep resume in community event planning and execution. She has served on Memphis Jewish Federation’s Board and Community Grants Committee, while also contributing to various committees and subordinate boards along the way. She is currently on the Executive Board of Bornblum Jewish Day School and is the incoming President of the Memphis Jewish Home and Rehab. She’s also been 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.

“I feel a strong connection through the convergence of my interests and my passion for event planning. Some of my favorite events that I 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 fundraiser before the organization bore the Fogelman name. I also love continuing to plan the successful Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival annually,” said Jeri.

“We are thrilled that Jeri will be leading our banner Israel@75 celebration” said Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, Executive Vice President of Memphis Jewish Federation. “Her passion, energy, and creativity will surely enhance our community’s efforts to mark this significant milestone in history and Jewish life.”

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On Thursday, September 29 at 5:30 P.M., the community is invited to gather in the Memphis Jewish Community Center’s Herbert and Mary Shainberg Lobby to celebrate a community-wide effort over a span of three years to support a vital agency that is Caring for Generations in Jewish Memphis.

A community celebration of the Wendy & Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service, Caring for Generations is free and open to the public. It’s a chance to come together to celebrate life-changing programs like Judy and Larry Moss Senior Services, Finestone Home Delivered Meals, the Kay and Allen Iskiwitz Shalom Shuttle, and the Peggy E. & L.R. Jalenak, Jr. Food and Baby Pantry, as well as the leaders and donors who collaborated to realize this monumental achievement. To learn more and register, visit jcpmemphis.org/caringforgenerations.

In 2014, leaders of the Memphis Jewish community joined together to create a new vision for serving the evolving social service needs of its members. The changing demographics and needs of our Jewish community required a reimagining of our Jewish Family Service. After months of research and planning, a new model of delivering social services was created under the auspices of the Memphis Jewish Community Center, with the fundraising might of Jewish Foundation of Memphis and Memphis Jewish Federation behind it.

Fast forward to September 2022, and Fogelman JFS is an integral community organization serving hundreds of community members annually. With the support of generous donors and steered by the partnership between the MJCC and Federation/Foundation, this forward-thinking organization has honed its focus on the most important areas of work in caring for our community’s members on our growing senior population, families in crisis, special needs support, and information and referral.

“68 donors contributed more than $7.6 million to ensure that our community will always be a place that is able to Care for Generations,” said Laura Linder, President and CEO of Jewish Community Partners, which manages Federation and Foundation. “Kicked-off in fall, 2019 with a transformational lead gift from Wendy and Avron B. Fogelman and quickly followed by the generosity of Judy and Larry Moss, this historic campaign was off and running. In usual Memphis fashion, our community didn’t hesitate to stand up and be counted. This event is an opportunity to celebrate what we’ve achieved, together.”

Caring for Generations will begin with a wine and dairy dessert reception. Dietary laws will be observed. Fogelman JFS Past President Betsy Saslawsky will welcome guests from the podium, followed by remarks from Linder and MJCC President/CEO Larry Skolnick. The MJCC’s Rabbi Abe Schacter-Gampel will offer a Blessing of Giving, and Fogelman JFS Past Chair and MJCC President-elect Judy Bookman will close the program with a look ahead.

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Season 4 of the Hillels of Memphis On One Foot: Jewish Faculty Lecture Series will kick off on Friday, September 9, and features a new group of Jewish academics from Rhodes College and the University of Memphis. Lectures this season will be featured every second or third Friday of the month, starting with Professor Naomi Eichorn, Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Memphis. Hillels of Memphis is a program of Memphis Jewish Federation, which is operated by Jewish Community Partners.

“This initiative was created during COVID when there were little to no in-person events happening in the Memphis Jewish community,” said Sophie Bloch, Director of Hillels of Memphis. “It was also created when we were trying to leverage virtual programming to engage with the community. Now in its fourth season, we’ve continued the online series because of the great feedback we’ve gotten. With the speakers that we have lined up for this series, I’m sure everyone will leave feeling not only more informed on interesting topics, but also more connected to the Memphis Jewish community and to Hillels of Memphis.”

Season 4’s topics are as diverse as the lecturers, whose expertise in speech and language pathology, law and education reform, information technology, disability studies in the Middle East, and more will bring the episodes to life. Viewers can look forward to hearing from Jewish professors exploring topics related to current events and issues affecting our daily lives.

“I’m looking forward to participating in the On One Foot Jewish Faculty Series this Friday and sharing ideas related to my research and teaching interests with the Zoom audience,” said Professor Naomi Eichorn, Season 4’s first lecturer and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Memphis. “As we approach the High Holy Days and introspect about our personal and communal goals and values, it feels especially meaningful to connect with other students, faculty, and community members in learning and growth. Kudos to Sophie Bloch and Hillels of Memphis for coordinating this opportunity!”

Each hour-long lecture starts at noon, with time included for group discussion. The series is designed for any community member interested in learning and is open to everyone.

“The Faculty Lecture Series is a rare Hillel program that isn’t specifically student-focused. We intentionally created it as a community-focused program for anyone with a student’s curiosity,” said Sophie. “Any adult community member will find the topics intellectually stimulating, and the sessions also give students the opportunity to learn from professors outside of their major or department, and possibly outside of their school as well.”

“On One Foot is a wonderful program because involvement is very important in any Hillel,” said Harry Samuels, a past President of Memphis Jewish Federation who was instrumental in establishing the first Memphis Hillel as a student at then Memphis State University, and who has remained involved with the program for more than 60 years. “It’s a wonderful thing that she’s done because involvement is very important in any Hillel. When you get the Jewish professors involved, it really means something to the students, aside from the benefit of the lectures themselves.”

The sessions are open to the public, but viewers must register in advance. Click here to learn more and register. The lectures will be recorded and posted on the same webpage. Viewers can catch up with the first three seasons now and watch upcoming lectures the week after their live debut.

“I’m hoping that viewers leave with a sense of connection to the Jewish academic talent at our local institutions, and a renewed perspective of how our religion ties into more topics than we may realize,” said Sophie.

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Aaron Skahill was raised in coastal Swampscott, MA where he first developed a deep love of dogs, nature, and Boston sports. He also attended Jewish day school and Jewish summer day camps throughout his years in Massachusetts. There the seed was planted that being a part of a Jewish community, especially going to camp, was awesome.

At age 10, in 2004, Aaron moved with his family to Memphis. Aaron embraced his new hometown and made lifelong friendships from his time in Jewish Day and public schools. But his love of exploration and nature collided when he began attending sleepaway camp at Camp Sabra in the Ozarks where he later served as a camp counselor. The experiences at Camp Sabra were a core part of cementing Aaron’s love of all things nature, especially the water, as well as enhancing his connection to the Jewish community around him. This love of community and Jewish values encouraged Aaron to spend time living in Israel, first on a gap year program and then on his own in his early 20s. While living at kibbutz Magen Michel north of Tel Aviv, Aaron took up scuba diving and was immediately hooked. This proved to be one of the most important undertakings in Aaron’s life as he later would go on to continue diving, even after and during treatments for gastroesophageal cancer, which ultimately caused his death at age 28 in 2022. Along with his twin brother Sam, he was able to log 81 dives in total. As he continued diving, Aaron refined his skill as an underwater life photographer, capturing images of sea life from Hawaii to Central America to the Caribbean.

The Skahill brothers, Sam and Aaron, are pictured on one of their many scuba dives together.

Aaron loved his family, especially his twin brother Sam, the great outdoors on land and under the water, and also, particularly, his dog and sidekick, Flama. She was by his side, always in his thoughts while he traveled, well-loved by all who met her and his constant source of fun, comfort, joy, and healing throughout his final years. Fittingly, Flama loves the water and Aaron spent many hours with her as she would plunge into the Overton Park pond or inlets near his home in Massachusetts when he was a young adult.

Aaron never saw himself as the inspirational type, but trailblazers rarely do. He lived the example of an active, adventurous life despite tremendous setbacks, inspiring the hashtag from his stomach cancer community #LiveLikeAaron.

“He leaves a legacy of open arms – for people, places, and of course, dogs.”

Aaron was lucky enough to attend Jewish camp because donors made it possible. It was his great wish to help others have the same opportunities he did and hoped to make that possible through the establishment of the fund. Summer sleepaway camp is the beginning of independence for many children and enables them to find their own passions in the safety of caring mentors and the beauty of the natural world all around them. His hope is that others will be moved to contribute to this fund for the future adventurers out there!

Click here to make a contribution to Aaron’s Awesome Adventure Fund: https://jcpmemphis.givingfuel.com/aarons-fund.

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By Mike Stein, Managing Director-Investments Wells Fargo Advisors, and a member of the Jewish Foundation of Memphis Professional Advisory Group

How much thought do you give your charitable giving? Do you simply write some checks or, more likely, visit organizations’ websites, make donations, and then get on with your day? If so, you’re not alone. But is that really the most fulfilling way to do it? Here are some insights from Kia Sullivan, lead fiduciary advisory specialist with Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management:

Having supported the philanthropic efforts of many clients over the years, I have found there are a number of benefits and obstacles that need to be overcome to get the most out of the experience. First the benefits: I have seen first-hand how giving one’s time, money, and energy on behalf of others can enrich personal and cultural relationships, enhance well-being, and build stronger, more vibrant communities.

Now the obstacles: Making meaningful decisions about how, when, and how much to give is not always easy. With over 1 million charities in the U.S. and social, environmental, and economic uncertainty, the choices can be overwhelming, even stressful. As a result, I have seen some individuals restrain their charitable activity despite their strong desire to give back. Others I encounter worry that their giving is scattered, often reactive, and only moderately satisfying.

Fortunately, there are ways to enhance the process of giving so that it’s a more rewarding and joyful experience on behalf of the greater good. When my clients ask how to make the most of their charitable giving, I tell them it starts with meaning (not money). Together, we explore their values, passions, and objectives to help bring focus and intention to their philanthropy.

How can you transform your giving into a more meaningful, fulfilling endeavor? Whether giving of time or treasure, a little planning goes a long way. Here are some guidelines to help get you started:

  1. Reflect: The first thing I encourage clients to do is take a look at past and current practices of generosity. Understanding your past behaviors will help guide your direction forward. As you reflect, consider how much of your giving decisions are based on feelings of obligation, gratitude, impulse, or even guilt. What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve ever given and why? 
  2. Identify your values: Values are the core motivating principles that guide our behavior and shape how we show up in the world. Knowing the principles and characteristics that motivate you is at the heart of meaningful giving. For example, if your core values are creativity, opportunity, and independence, you may approach giving differently than one motivated by tradition, effectiveness, and collaboration. Understanding that philanthropy is as unique as your fingerprint allows authenticity and meaning to penetrate the choices you make.
  3. Find a focus and write it down: Intentional philanthropy requires exploring your interests and passions and determining what issues matter most. I suggest choosing two or three areas on which to focus the bulk of your giving. Then write a philanthropic mission statement as a way to clearly express the intent of your generosity. A mission statement answers the questions “What do I stand for and what do I want to do about it?” This focus will help you prioritize opportunities, make meaningful decisions, and even help you say “no” when an opportunity is off-target.  
  4. Engage those you love and trust: Philanthropy as a shared experience fosters a sense of interdependence and cooperation and can drive greater personal and social change than may be achieved alone. Family philanthropy is also an opportunity to connect with one another, define what you stand for as a family, and pass down generational values. Whether giving as a family unit or with a trusted tribe, be willing to stretch out of your comfort zone and learn from others and from the communities you choose to serve.
  5. Attend to the details: It’s important to address the practical details of putting your generosity in motion. Establish a budget including charitable dollars and volunteer time, and consider parameters for discretionary and responsive gifts, even for those random acts of kindness. A budget can aid in planning and decision-making, bringing peace of mind so you can feel good about doing good.

Consider taking time to reflect on how you might find more meaning and fulfillment from your expressions of generosity. Talk to a professional financial advisor if you’d like to learn more about charitable planning and inspired giving.

Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company.

This article was written by Wells Fargo Advisors and provided courtesy of Mike Stein, Managing Director-Investments in Memphis at 901-761-8151.

Wells Fargo Advisors is a Corporate Partner of Jewish Community Partners, which manages the Jewish Foundation of Memphis and Memphis Jewish Federation.

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The Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity chapter at the University of Memphis was recently recognized at their annual International Convention in recognition of their Jewish programming with Hillels of Memphis and Memphis Jewish Federation.

While it should be no surprise that a Memphis chapter was internationally recognized for its excellence, it’s worth noting that none of the men currently within the Gamma Mu ZBT chapter are Jewish. Instead, they are inspired by their chapter’s historical traditions and strive to maintain strong connections with their Chapter alumni and the local Jewish community.

Hillels of Memphis has long had a partnership with ZBT centered around various Jewish programs and events each year. Recent highlights include an annual Hamantaschen Bake during Purim, Challah Bake, and Interfaith Passover Seder. Hillels of Memphis is a program of Memphis Jewish Federation and is funded by donors’ gifts to the Annual Community Campaign.

Last year, Hillels of Memphis piloted a new partnership program in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. At this inaugural event, students learned about the historical roots of antisemitism, contemporary instances of antisemitism on college campuses, and the importance of non-Jewish allies in advocating for the safety and support of Jewish students today.

ZBT members also watched the “Shine a Light on Antisemitism” videos produced by Memphis Jewish Federation last Hanukkah, which helped the students understand ways members of the local Jewish community have experienced and confronted antisemitism. Each person at the commemoration read aloud the name of six Jews who perished in the Holocaust and held a 6-minute moment of silence to honor the lives who were lost in this atrocity.

“We enjoy learning about our fraternity’s Jewish heritage,” said Joseph Duncan, Jr., a Gamma Mu ZBT chapter member. “If it wasn’t for the group of Jewish men who founded this fraternity, I couldn’t have met this group of people who have become my best friends. Learning about our Jewish heritage is not only interesting, but it also brings us together as brothers.”

“Since I have become the Director of Hillels of Memphis, Hillel and ZBT have worked together at least once a semester. However, I know that we have always had a close connection. We are incredibly proud of the dedication ZBT has shown to maintaining authentic connections to its Jewish roots as an organization,” said Sophie Bloch, Director of Hillels of Memphis. “It’s more important than ever for the Jewish community to have non-Jewish allies combatting antisemitism alongside us, and the only way we can do that is by sharing information, talking about it, and educating each other on its prevalence.”

During the 2022 International Awards section of the convention, the University of Memphis’ Gamma Mu Chapter earned several of ZBT’s top awards and was among the finalists for the Brummer Cup, an award designated for the most outstanding chapter throughout Zeta Beta Tau. The chapter ultimately took home three awards for Excellence in Alumni Outreach & Programming, Outstanding Heritage Programming, and Risk Management. The chapter was also the runner-up for the Excellence in Chapter Programming and Outstanding Intramural Sports Participation and Performance awards.

“The Gamma Mu Chapter knows the meaning of Brotherhood for a Lifetime,” ZBT Chief Executive Officer Libby Anderson said. “Brothers worked very hard to succeed in the Standards of Excellence program this year, and the results are clear.”

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“Highland Capital Management, LLC always wants to make sure that we give to institutions who act as careful stewards of the community’s money by consistently making a positive impact,” said Steve Wishnia (pictured above), CEO of Highland Capital, a wealth management company that has been providing investment advisory services to clients since he founded it in 1987. “When we give, it’s to partners who have a mission that we agree with and lines up with our company’s morals.”

In 2021, Highland Capital became an official Corporate Partner of Jewish Community Partners, which manages the Jewish Foundation of Memphis and Memphis Jewish Federation. By investing in efforts to serve the Jewish community in Memphis, as well as those in Israel and around the world, Highland Capital demonstrates a profound commitment to tikkun olam.

“The work that non-profit organizations do is essential for strong, vibrant, well-balanced communities. Non-profits exist to meet needs, and the best of them do their work in ways no other organization or program ever could,” said Steve. “Federation and Foundation have a symbiotic relationship through Jewish Community Partners, working together to improve, enrich, and empower Jewish lives around the world, but most importantly for us our friends and neighbors in Memphis. This city’s amazing Jewish community is important to us, which is why we choose to support JCP as Corporate Partners.”

Dedicated to the practice of investment management, Highland Capital has offices throughout Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama, all run from its Memphis headquarters. Nearing its 40th anniversary, Highland Capital currently has more than $3 billion in assets under management.  

“We’re only able to support this wonderful Jewish community because of donors’ support of what we do,” said Sheri Gadberry, Senior Philanthropic Officer & Executive Vice President of the Jewish Foundation of Memphis. “This is true of the donors who hold funds at the Foundation and of those who make gifts to Federation’s Annual Community Campaign. Corporate Partners like Highland Capital are an important part of this dynamic, and we are grateful for their contributions to our shared goals.”

In addition to the company’s formal Corporate Partnership, Highland Capital team members find other ways to support Federation and Foundation. Many of their staff make family gifts to Federation’s Annual Community Campaign and hold Foundation Donor Advised Funds. Senior Vice President of Private Wealth Scott Notowich also serves on the Memphis Jewish Federation Board of Directors as its Vice Chair of Israel & Overseas.

“What inspires me are the non-profits doing important work that other agencies can’t,” said Scott. “Highland Capital chooses to support Memphis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Foundation of Memphis because of their ability to empower engaged community members to make a difference locally. For example, Federation’s educational programming and senior services are vital community resources. And Foundation Funds support non-profit efforts all over the country, but with a heavy emphasis on the Memphis Jewish community. Our support is a no-brainer.”

Scott Notowich
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In the periodic series My Jewish Journey, community members share the story of their personal relationship with Judaism and Jewish identity. Told their way and in their words, these stories are as unique and distinct from each other as the storytellers themselves, and together will begin to tell the colorful and multi-textured story of Jewish Memphis. 

Today, I am deeply engaged with the Memphis Jewish community, volunteering as a lay leader with local organizations as much as my schedule allows. I’m a Memphis Jewish Federation board member and serve as co-chair of its Annual Community Campaign and have a clear understanding of the many ways Federation supports every person and place in Jewish Memphis in some way. I am also an active member of Temple Israel and a former board member, as well as I am a past President of Plough Towers. But I often think of the path that led me here, and I am now able to track the course of my Jewish journey.

It began during a three-year period in the early 1970’s, when I was between the ages of 7 to 10 years old. It was during this time that I first became aware of my Judaism and began to understand its meaning to my family, the role that Memphis played in being Jewish, as well as our place in the overall world. Specifically, a series of events—some that were seminal moments in history, and some that were more personal—combined to influence me as to the importance of Judaism and the need to ultimately be active. Upon reflection, the lessons I learned then—50 years ago—still resonate today in our families, in the Memphis Jewish community, and abroad.

Three events which occurred in 1972 and 1973 highlighted to me how vulnerable we were as Jews. During my first summer of playing JCC T-Ball in the summer of 1972, all of the teams were pulled from the field one Sunday afternoon to gather with many in the Jewish community at the southeast side of the JCC to dedicate the Holocaust memorial which still stands to this day.

This was the first time that I had heard of the Holocaust, and I remember being confused when my parents explained to me that week that Jews were killed in Europe during World War II simply for being Jewish. Two months later, as I was just becoming a sports fan, I was glued to the Munich Summer Olympics when the 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists. Again, this was a jarring development, and I remember my parents being very upset over the tragedy.

One of the hostages, American David Berger, was originally from the town of Shaker Heights, Ohio, before making aliyah—the same suburb of Cleveland where my parents grew up before moving to Memphis. In fact, my grandmother knew David Berger’s mother. This news made a worldwide tragedy seem to be more personal and identifiable to me. 

Finally, a year later, Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur, and the entire Memphis Jewish community rallied to support Israel in its fight for survival. Attending  a carnival organized by friends of my sister, Betsy, as a fundraiser for Israel, I was now part of the effort. At this time, I was a student at a Christian elementary school, and I realized that my non-Jewish friends were not affected by these events. The lessons that I learned were that—yes, we were a small vulnerable minority in the world. However, we were also tough, and we supported each other passionately both in Memphis and abroad.

During this time, my family began to celebrate Passover with some of my parents’ best friends—Judy and Morris Kriger and their family. As we didn’t have any relatives in Memphis, the Krigers were among our local family, and celebrating Passover Seders with them became a very fun and meaningful tradition that we looked forward to every year. From this, I realized that while Judaism could be serious, it could also be festive and fun with your family and with friends.

A couple of years later, my mother began to work at what is now known as the Wendy & Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service. Soon after the Vietnam War ended in 1975, JFS was a participating agency in the effort to help Vietnamese refugees relocate to Memphis and begin a new life. During the summer of 1975, Mom dragged my sister, brother and me to the airport to welcome the refugees to Memphis, and then to help them move into apartments with supplies. These people didn’t know anyone in town, didn’t speak English, and didn’t have anything. Mom explained to us that as Jews, we gave back, helping not only our own but other people who were also in need. Besides, she explained, the Vietnamese refugees weren’t all that different from my relatives—specifically my grandfather and his siblings—who moved to the United States from Hungary in the aftermath of World War I in the early 1920’s.

Fast forward from my life as a young kid in the 1970s to my life as an adult today. The Memphis Jewish community that impacted my formative years is just as active today. In fact, most of the local agencies and institutions have impacted my family throughout our entire life cycle. My family continues to worship at Temple Israel, and my kids attended their preschool and kindergarten. The JCC continues to represent a focal point of Memphis Jewish life. Growing up in Memphis, my two sons experienced a Jewish Memphis that is in many ways even better than the one I experienced—they played  sports at the JCC and went to camp there. They also had the opportunity to attend the Bornblum Jewish Community Day School, which didn’t exist when I was a kid.

Thanks to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund, they were able to visit Israel on BBYO programs while in high school. My father recently was at Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab to rehab a broken leg. Other friends have depended on Plough Towers, or even the Fogelman Jewish Family Service to be there for them during times of need. We all know the expression “To whom much is given, much is expected.” The Memphis Jewish community is an incredibly unique and special community. We are blessed and fortunate to have a community that is giving, connected, spiritual, and fun. In one way or another, every Jew in Memphis has benefited from this community. Ultimately, it’s up to us to protect our community so that it’s here for the next generation of Jewish Memphians to experience these same benefits.

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“I am very excited to return to Israel as an adult. I first visited when I was 15, young and self-consumed. Now, 11 years later – years that hopefully made me wiser – I look forward to exploring the culture, history, and my own Jewish identity through new eyes,” said Rachel Rotter, a participant in Memphis Jewish Federation’s upcoming Young Adult Community Israel Trip. “I’ve always heard great things about Federation trips. I think the biggest benefit is the prospect of participating in a curated trip, which will allow participants to explore parts of Israel and themselves that they might not have thought to or been able to if they were traveling alone.”

Memphis Jewish Federation’s Young Adult Trip offers Jewish young adults a week of travel, engagement, and exploration from Sunday, February 12, through Sunday, February 19, 2023. Travelers will explore the Old City of Jerusalem, shop Israel’s iconic shuks, visit Tel Aviv’s artist market and spend Shabbat in the city, roar through Northern Israel on ATVs, relax in scenic Haifa, sample dishes from the best chefs in the country, and so much more.

Thanks to the generosity of a donor and Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund, the trip is heavily subsidized. The cost per participant is $2,000, excluding airfare. Travelers registering by August 15 are eligible for a 20% discount.

“Nothing compares to fresh shawarma, freshly fried falafel, and the hummus that you get in the Holy Land,” said Daniel Snyder, a Memphis Jewish Federation board member and one of the trips first registrants. “This will be my second time going to Israel, with my first time being a Birthright trip ten years ago. This time around, I’m looking forward to forming deeper bonds and building new relationships with my fellow Memphians.”

“I don’t think returning to Israel will change my relationship with my Jewish identity, but rather it will re-energize it. This will be my fourth trip, and each time I feel like I take something new home with me,” said Liza Levko, another young Memphian headed to Israel.

“Immersive experiences like this trip offer the ability to create communities in super speed, and I am excited to see where this trip leads the Memphis Jewish Young Adult community,” said Judy Lansky, Federation’s Director of Development and trip leader.

“My favorite city in Israel is Haifa, where I studied abroad in 2011,” said Judy. “There is so much diversity in the city and I especially love northern Israel because you get to see mountains and oceans. I helped plan a special stop in a Haifa Arab neighborhood called Wadi Nisnas. The neighborhood has two rival falafel stands that both claim to be the best falafel. I’m excited to take our participants to try both and of course, when we are done, we can hop down the street to another storefront with some of the most delicious baklava I have ever had!”

Reach out to Judy Lansky at jlansky@jcpmemphis.org for more information. To learn about the trip, the 20% discount, and to sign on to the trip, visit jcpmemphis.org/yacit.

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