Memphis to Jerusalem

Memphis Jewish Federation announced that the Memphis-Shoham Partnership is bringing to Memphis Zehava Shneor, mother of fallen Shoham Israeli soldier Sarit Shneor.

While in Memphis, Zehava will interact with a broad swath of the Memphis Jewish community, including Beth Sholom teens, Bornblum middle school students, Margolin Hebrew Academy middle school and girls high school students, Temple Sisterhood, Temple seniors, B’nai Tzedek teens, Young Adults, MOMentum Moms and other community members. 

Zehava will also have a special private reception for community members who met the “Collecting Miles for Sarit” 56-mile fitness challenge sponsored by the Memphis Jewish Community Center.

On October 24, 2003, while in her army service as an Observation Post Commander, Sarit was killed in a terrorist attack on her army base near the Gaza border.

Her parents decided to honor her memory by establishing an annual two-day relay race, called “Returning Home”, in which Shoham High School seniors, right before their army service, run from Sarit’s army base to Shoham, a distance of 56 miles.

“We have already been so inspired by Zehava’s commitment to keeping alive the memory and legacy of her daughter,” said Scott Notowich, Memphis chair of the Memphis-Shoham Partnership. “We are looking forward to hosting her in Memphis and deepening our connection to Israel through her personal story of tragedy and triumph.”

Members of the Memphis-Shoham Partnership Steering Committee will host Zehava in their homes February 9th-16th.

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Hannah Siegler, the daughter of Stacy and Jerry Siegler, is an 11th grade student at Lausanne Collegiate School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the costs of her Summer 2019 NFTY program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants of up to $3000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for summer 2020 are available online.

This past summer, I went to Israel with NFTY. I had been to Israel before with my family, but I was very little so I do not remember much. The second time I had gone to Israel was with Bornblum Jewish Community School for the 8th grade trip. I was with a few of my friends going into it, so I had a good time. On this trip, I was accompanied by my friends from the URJ Jacobs Camp and kids from the URJ Greene Family Camp. Since some of my camp friends weren’t going, I was nervous to meet new people and to see camp people I wasn’t really close with.

When we arrived at our first destination, we did some icebreakers. We were all tired from a long day of traveling, so it made getting to know people more difficult. We all just stuck to our own small groups for the first week, not really branching out. But by the time we got to Israel, we went from a bunch of little groups to one big community.

We spent our first few days in Israel in the Negev desert, and this was where we really bonded. We had to do everything outdoors: sleep, eat, hike, and even go to the bathroom. From then on, there were no more unfamiliar faces because we were all friends.

Hannah, left, is pictured after an event in Israel with a friend she made on her Teen Israel Experience trip to Israel, which was supported by a grant from Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund.

From the good times, such as Ben Yehuda Street, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Bedouin tents, to the not as happy moments, such as remembering those who gave their lives for Israel and hearing Holocaust survivors’ stories, we were together throughout it all.

I will cherish all the wonderful memories that I made in those 5 weeks. I know that this was a once in a lifetime kind of experience and that wherever I may be, I will always remember NFTY in Israel.

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Twenty-five years ago, the Memphis Jewish community came together to create an organization that would work to ensure that our children and grandchildren would benefit from a thriving Jewish community. This invaluable resource evolved quickly into Jewish Memphis’s trusted partner in charitable giving, the Jewish Foundation of Memphis. The Jewish Foundation kicked off its year-long 25th Anniversary celebration Tuesday, December 10, with Latkes & Vodka, an event at Dixon Gallery and Gardens honoring the Jewish Foundation’s fund holders, professional advisors, and donors.

While the signature cocktails’ names were clever – who could turn down a Legacy Libation or an EndowMint- the collective impact of Jewish Foundation donors over the past quarter-century is serious business. Since coming to life under the leadership of its first executive director Paula Jacobson and first board president Ronald Harkavy, the Foundation has worked to transform the philanthropic culture of the Memphis Jewish community to include legacy giving.

Launched in 1995 to help secure permanent financial solutions for ten partner agencies in the Memphis community- Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth, Baron Hirsch Congregation, Beth Sholom, Temple Israel, Margolin Hebrew Academy/Finestone Yeshiva of the South, Bornblum Jewish Community School, Memphis Jewish Federation, Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab, Memphis Jewish Community Center, and Jewish Family Service.

Check out the Facebook album for more photos.

Jewish Foundation Board Chair Anthony Morrison welcomed the crowd as the Latkes & Vodka program kicked off, recognizing members of the Professional Advisory Group (PAG) and its steering committee members John May, Morrow Baily, Mark Kaplan, Scott Bendure, and Shelby Peranich, and its chairman, Jason Salomon.

 “We recognize the critical role a donor’s attorney, accountant, and financial advisor play when they are considering a charitable gift,” said Anthony. “The PAG has given us a way to involve more than a hundred such advisors.” Each year the Foundation provides education programs and networking opportunities for the PAG members and serves as a philanthropic resource for the advisors and their clients. 

Many Professional Advisors were on hand to celebrate the anniversary, as well as get a first look at the new Jewish Foundation of Memphis PAG Directory.

“I’m a new member of the Professional Advisory Group and was excited to see what the Professional Advisor directory would look like,” said Lee Olswanger, Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “It turned out great, and I can’t wait to have extra copies in my office.”

Laura Linder, President & CEO of Jewish Community Partners, the managing organization that operates the Jewish Foundation, spoke briefly, celebrating the quarter century of community-focused philanthropy that led to the Jewish Foundation growing into the engine that drives Jewish Memphis. In her remarks, Laura highlighted the important achievements driven by Foundation’s work in its first 25 years, including Foundation’s Legacy initiative, B’nai Tzedek teen philanthropy program, and the hundreds of donors who have partnered with the Foundation to achieve their charitable goals.

“Today, staff and volunteer leadership continue their work to keep endowment and legacy giving at the heart of our thriving Memphis Jewish community,” said Laura. “Through these efforts, to date more than 500 legacy commitments have been made. This work will continue as we continue to build for future generations under the leadership of Foundation’s powerhouse team of Sheri Gadberry and Sarah VanderWalde.”

“For 25 years, the Foundation has worked with donors to meet them exactly where they want to be as philanthropists,” Sheri Gadberry, director of operations for Jewish Community Partners said after the event. “We’re trusted by Jewish Memphis’s philanthropic community because our work is donor-centric, which means we strive to be as adaptable as possible, working with donors to help them achieve lifetime philanthropic goals.”

According to Sheri, through its work with more than 500 fund holders, the Jewish Foundation serves as the “go to” organization in the Memphis Jewish community for charitably minded families. “With $93 million in assets and cumulative grants awarded topping $80 million, we have established ourselves as a major player in the Memphis philanthropic community.”

Mimi Grossman closed the program by speaking about her own personal experience with legacy giving, citing her recent bout with cancer.   

“Many of you may not recognize me if you haven’t seen me in a while. This is what post chemo hair looks like.” After the sympathetic laughter died down, she continued. “I’m grateful that my cancer was treatable and I am now cancer free and living every day to its fullest. But as I went through treatment, I found myself reflecting on questions like: What kind of legacy would I be leaving? What have I done to truly make a difference, not just to my children and grandchildren, but to my beloved community?”

As the programmed portion came to a close, two powerful symbols served as visual reminders of what it means to leave a legacy. During the program, guests were surrounded by the stunning pewter collection of Justin and Herta Adler, of blessed memory, two devoted Memphis Jewish philanthropists whose descendants hold funds at the Jewish Foundation. And finally, to close the evening, Josh Lipman spoke about the philanthropic legacy of his father, Ira A. Lipman, of blessed memory, before leading the crowd through a tour of the temporary exhibit Friedel Dzubas: The Ira A. Lipman Family Collection. Touring the artworks after the program, it was impossible not to ponder what we will leave behind. Jewish Foundation of Memphis is there to answer that question for anyone.  

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My experience in Israel was amazing and had a major impact on my life. The trip was filled with amazing teens and staff who made me feel excited about Israel and Judaism. My time in Israel would not have been nearly the same without all of these wonderful people I had with me. After returning home, I immediately wanted to go back, because the trip connected me so much to the country of Israel. The first time I went to Israel, I was only eight years old, so this trip was almost like the first time I had ever been, and it was a great way to experience Israel.

One aspect of the trip that I enjoyed was spending time on the beach. It was a great bonding experience with the other people on my trip. I took this as a great opportunity to create a deeper bond with not only the people of Israel, but also the beauty of Israel. I always knew that Israel was a beautiful country, but being able to see it for myself made it even more real. Pictures do not do the country’s beauty justice, and all the scenery I saw added to my experience. The bus rides were another great part of the trip because I was able to see all of the beauty within the country. Bus rides gave me a sense of Israel, by being able to see everything from my window.

Another meaningful experience was visiting the Western Wall. I went there twice, with one time being on Shabbat. The Wall was a place where I felt very connected to my Judaism. We arrived at the Wall and then we were checked by security— there were a number of armed guards— which struck me as very different from any synagogue or religious environment in America. In America, the security doesn’t feel as intense as in Israel. Everywhere I went, there were armed guards, and I have never felt safer anywhere else. I felt really good about practicing my Judaism in such a secure place. When I walked closer towards the wall, I felt very connected to it, and saying a prayer made me feel at peace. This experience brought me closer to Israel and to all of the people on my trip.

Shabbat is a very fun time for me and it is one of my favorite camp traditions, so I was very excited to experience it in Israel. The day felt even more special than any other day. On Friday, the whole country had a different feel because everybody was preparing for Shabbat. My group went to the Western Wall again, which felt different because more people were there than the last time we went, and they were all wearing fancy Shabbat clothes. I loved that everybody treated it as a special day more than the rest of the week.

My trip to Israel was an amazing journey. I had experiences that I don’t think I could have had anywhere else. I met many wonderful people and saw amazing places. It would not have been the same without the group of people who I went with. After touring Israel, I feel more connected to my Judaism and myself.

Sophie Skolnick, the daughter of Larry Skolnick, is a 11th grade student at Hutchison School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the costs of her Summer 2019 BBYO program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants of up to $3000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for summer 2020 are available at

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Alex Rochkind, the daughter of Leslie and Bill Rochkind, is an 11th grade student at Lausanne Collegiate School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the costs of her Summer 2019 BBYO program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants of up to $3000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for summer 2020 are available at

Last summer, I decided to go to Israel on a BBYO Passport program. Ever since I learned about Israel and its existence, I knew I wanted to go someday and learn about the roots of my people. I was fascinated by the geography, culture, food, and of course the history behind it all. From the minute I stepped off the EL-AL plane at Ben Gurion Airport, I fell in love.

Not only was the country beautiful, with its incredible sunsets, seas, and deserts, but also, its Jewish atmosphere was breathtaking. The way Jews walked so freely and with so much pride in their identities was something I have never witnessed back home in Memphis. I could feel the connection I had with strangers, because we were Jews who understood the struggles our people have faced in the past and even now in the present.

In the final days of the trip, my 44 new friends and I sat down for a seminar with a speaker who explained the Israel-Palestine conflict to us. This history was fascinating to me, but there was one thing in particular, which he said at the end of his presentation, that I’ll remember forever.

He said, “When you go back home to America, I hope you are less Jewish.” I looked around the room and saw confusion on everyone’s faces. Aren’t we supposed to be more Jewish? I thought. He later went on to confirm my original thought– yes, of course you are supposed to be Jewish.

But what he wanted us to take away from this was that Judaism is the only religion that is written with an “ish” at the end of its name. It’s a religion whose people have been the scapegoat for global problems, their identities a target throughout history by those who wish to destroy us. I related heavily to this, as there are often times when I’m scared to be outspoken about my Judaism because I don’t know how others will react.

This moment was when my mindset went from usually suppressing my Jewish identity to realizing how special and important it is to me.

Without my visit to Israel this summer, my connection to Judaism and the country would not be nearly as strong.  I am so grateful to have gone on such an incredible trip that I will look back on and cherish forever.

The effect of spending a month in a place where Jews aren’t the minority had a greater effect on me than I could have ever imagined. I can’t thank Memphis Jewish Federation enough for giving me this opportunity, and I can’t wait to go back to Israel one day.

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By Melissa Faber

Melissa is currently in Israel with a group of women coordinated through Memphis Jewish Federation. The JWRP MOMentum Trip to Israel is designed to empower women to change the world through Jewish values that transform themselves, their families, and our community. This year, the cohort from Memphis is exploring spiritual Tsfat, dynamic Tel Aviv, Masada’s desert magic, Shabbat in Jerusalem, and many more unique experiences. Shabbat Sholom, all the way from Jerusalem!

I was prepared to feel nothing at the Wailing Wall, ready to watch dispassionately as other women, well, wailed. People who pleaded to be cured, to bring back their children, to escape a lifeless marriage.

But the tears began flowing as the Israelis on our trip put their arms around me to escort me to the wall. How did they know I wouldn’t have had the strength to go close if they hadn’t been by my side, their hands in mine?

As we approached, there were physical obstacles in the way–white plastic chairs, women reading their versions of the Bible, Quran, or Torah, massive backpacks impeding the path. I flowed between them.

Then it hit me: something else was in the way, much stronger than a plastic chair or a backpack. It felt like a force field stopping me some three feet back. It felt like 58 years of familial conflict. 

I pushed and struggled to reach out my hand next to a woman sobbing in another language, her forehead touching the stone. As I nestled my fingertips into the cool crevices, she eased away. I was no longer being repelled; indeed, now it was if a strong magnet locked me into the stone, asking me to bend my forehead into the holes still wet with her tears. I looked up into the night sky.

Though the sun had set, the stars were blotted out by the brilliant lights illuminating the wall. And there in the murkiness was my father.

It was as if he were saying, “It’s ok, gal. You’re okay. You’re a good person, and you’re on the right track.” I could let go of the bile spewed by my mother, the conflicted genealogy of whose DNA runs in my veins. I could choose, really choose, to not be stopped.

A Jew by choice.

Melissa is pictured below, on the right. Check out the Facebook album of the group’s photos here.

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Spending the summer on NCSY JOLT Israel was truly life-changing for me. There were so many incredible aspects of this once in a lifetime trip to Israel. This was not my first trip to Israel, but it was by far the best way to experience Israel! NCSY and the Federation’s Lemsky grant gave me this opportunity to grow as a Jewish teen leader as well as give back to Israeli children.

The mission of NCSY JOLT Israel is to tour Israel in a unique way that allows for each of us to take advantage of the cultural and religious experiences that Israel has to offer, as well as work together to develop our team-building and leadership skills. One unique experience we had was herding sheep in groups. Several of us worked together to learn how to herd sheep in the most efficient way. It brought to mind for me the times of our ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, as we worked in small groups implementing old-fashioned techniques to herd the sheep. It took communication, teamwork, and a lot of mess to figure out how to do it. I grew very close with the 59 other teens who joined me on the trip! This was just one example of an activity we experienced during our amazing five weeks in Israel.

The highlight of the trip was running a ten-day camp at Zichron Menachem. The campers were all siblings of children fighting illnesses. Often, the siblings do not have the typical fun summers that Israeli children experience, because their parents are busy caring for a sick child. The camp celebrates these siblings and allows them to shine. As part of the program, we planned activities for the campers and made the experience as special as possible for them. I especially loved using all the Hebrew I have learned at Margolin Hebrew Academy to communicate with the children in the camp. Many of the other participants in JOLT Israel did not have strong Hebrew communication skills and they stayed mostly with the children who could speak English. I loved being able to talk with all the children and help them feel as special as I could!

This experience in Israel helped me grow as a person and focus on how I can give back to others and learn about my role on teams. But most importantly, I experienced Israel with my friends. Memories like climbing Masada at 5 am in a group of 60 people and dancing at the Kotel on Tisha B’Av with hundreds of American teens on NCSY trips will stay with me for many years to come.

Jason Schubert, the son of Charna and Eric Schubert, is an 11th grade student at Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided him with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the costs of his Summer 2019 NCSY program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants of up to $3000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for summer 2020 will become available at

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This past summer, I was fortunate to be able to spend 10 weeks in Israel. One of the highlights of my trip was the 6 days I spent in Shoham, Memphis’s sister city. I stayed with two host families, and I helped at the Gan (preschool), assisting in a classroom of 4-5 year olds. The families I stayed with were warm and welcoming, and I felt right at home. I got to practice my Hebrew, and I even learned some new vocabulary from the children! During my stay in Shoham, I had a glimpse into the everyday life of an Israeli family.

My summer started with Birthright and Birthright Extended trips. Then I participated in a program called Summer in Jerusalem for 6 weeks. I interned for an organization that serves children with special needs. Many of the families of these children struggle with food insecurity and poverty in general. As part of the Summer in Jerusalem program, we had classes every night in Tanakh, Jewish Philosophy, Jewish Law, and Talmud. After spending this summer in Israel, I feel an even greater connection to the land and people.  My stay in Shoham was a meaningful and unique experience for me, and was something that not many of my peers were able to do. I am so grateful for Memphis Jewish Federation for arranging my host families in Shoham and for helping me to participate in the Birthright programs.  

Rebecca Sabin is the daughter of Joanne Levine and Noah Sabin. During Summer 2019, she participated in Summer in Jerusalem, a 6-week work/study program in Israel for college students. Memphis Jewish Federation organized home hospitality for her in Shoham, Memphis’s partnership city in Israel. All Memphians traveling to Israel are invited to visit Shoham. For more information about obtaining home hospitality in Shoham during the week or for Shabbat, please call the Federation office at 767-7100.

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Cindy Finestone isn’t your typical Memphis Jewish lay leader, donor, or Federation chair. Neither she nor her husband, Mark, grew up in Memphis, and neither of them have family here.

So how did Cindy and Mark become so involved that she now serves as chair of Memphis Jewish Federation?

“My involvement in Federation allowed us the opportunity to get involved and make friends who quickly helped make us feel part of the community,” said Cindy.

Before becoming involved, Cindy didn’t know much about the function of Federation. “We made our annual contribution and that was about it,” she said. It was after a Temple Israel-sponsored trip to Israel for her son’s bar mitzvah that she learned so much more.

“We learned about the Lemsky Fund Grants available to those making a trip to Israel,” she said. “We applied for and received a grant.”

Upon their return and Cindy’s retirement from a large CPA firm, she decided to become more involved.

“Although Mark was serving on several community boards, it wasn’t until I retired that I began searching for volunteer opportunities with organizations that matched my skills and were close to my heart,” said Cindy. “I was asked to serve on Federation’s Allocation Committee to help guide the granting process, where I learned so much about the impact that Federation has on our community here and around the world. I was fortunate enough to be asked to serve in more leadership positions that made me more and more impressed with the work Federation does in our community and worldwide.”

“The work we do at Memphis Jewish Federation in phenomenal,” she continued. “We need to ensure that our community is aware of everything that we do.

“In the coming months our committed board members will fine tune our priorities and begin recruiting more people to become engaged at all levels, so we can rely on the community to accomplish those priorities,” she continued.

Cindy believes that collaboration between community members and organizations will lead to more engagement, involvement, and ultimately recruiting the next generation to sit on these boards.

“Federation-funded events are well attended by hundreds of people who are often unaware that the program is made possible because of Federation funding,” said Cindy. “Our board and staff are working diligently, through branding our goals, mission and priorities, to make sure that Memphis Jewish Federation becomes a household name.”

Cindy realizes that people associate with Federation at different points throughout their lives because their needs and interests evolve. “We want Federation to relate to individuals and families at every stage in their lives,” she said. “But first we have to engage them and involve them in the planning. What does the next generation want out of Federation? What are their passions? What resonates with them? We need their input, their ideas.”

By attending missions, conferences, and the most recent Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Tel Aviv, Cindy has had the opportunity to gain knowledge from experts and receive valuable insight into what success looks like at a Federation.

“Memphis Jewish Federation is in a great position to convene the community. We have a solid team of leaders,” she said about President and CEO Laura Linder, who brings extensive experience and commitment to the table, as do Ken Steinberg, Anthony Morrison, and the entire board.

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Part of Memphis Jewish Federation’s ongoing efforts to connect Memphis and Israel, the 70 Faces of Memphis and Shoham project was designed to form real connections between the people of Jewish Memphis and the people of Shoham, Israel, Memphis’s partner city through the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership 2Gether program. The project serves as a way to connect Jewish Memphians to each other by showcasing their unique character and contributions to the community.

By Chany Fleischhacker

Dorothy Goldwin began the “holocaust lecture circuit” with her mother, Paula Beranstadt Kelman, who was a survivor that spoke at many venues, including high schools, to ensure that what happened is not forgotten and must be prevented from happening again. She remembers her mother as a wonderful and highly positive person who always wore red lipstick.

Leo was given to her by a friend. As soon as she met him, she knew that his sweet, gentle and patient nature would lend itself for pet therapy. After intense training, they regularly visit Le Bonheur and the West Clinic, where patients look forward to his visits with great anticipation.

When her mother passed away, Dorothy began and continues to spread her mother’s message. Dorothy still has her mother’s lipstick collection, and a framed note written in her mother’s handwriting that says, “Do not hate. It will destroy you. You must live together in peace.”

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