4.27.12 Issue

Sherrie Saag, Communications Specialist, Jewish Federation of Omaha

They are energetic, supportive, dependable, resourceful and enthusiastic about their work. They are our community volunteers; the heart and soul of what makes Jewish Omaha tick. On Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m., the Jewish Federation of Omaha will honor the 2011 Volunteers of the Year during a special presentation at the Jewish Federation of Omaha Annual Meeting.

The entire community is invited to attend and celebrate with our award winners who volunteer tirelessly and selflessly to make our Jewish community the best it can be.

This year’s Volunteers of the Year are:

Joanie and Terry Bernstein – Jewish Social Services 

Joanie and Terry Bernstein have been dedicated volunteers for Jewish Social Services for over twenty-five years. Every Tuesday morning, they can be found escorting Blumkin Home residents to the Radio Daze program where Joanie leads a lively discussion on current events and hot topics. They stay for the day and after lunch, lead a sing-a-long program and participate in tea time.

Both volunteer countless hours towards yearly celebrations in conjunction with National Nursing Home Week. Terry takes residents fishing and to baseball games and, together as a team, have escorted residents to concerts, prothey grams, and activities too numerous to mention.             Joanie has served as board president of Jewish Social Services and is also active with the Jewish Historical Society as a board member and past president.

Lois Wine, director of volunteer services at the Home, says the valuable couple can always be counted on to help with the Country Fair, talent show, grandparent’s day and every Jewish holiday observance. In short, “this capable and compassionate couple does it all!”

Shirley Cemaj – Anti-Defamation League/Community Relations Council

According to Alan Potash, executive director, Shirley deserves recognition for her outstanding work fostering relationships with the non-Jewish and Latino communities. Shirley is an active member of the ADL/CRC Board and its Civil Rights Committee. She serves as a co-chair of the Immigration sub-committee. “Building relationships in the community is central to our work. Shirley’s bi-lingual language skills and background has enhanced our civil rights work,” said Potash. A mother and grandmother, Shirley resides in Lincoln and is a professional event planner.

Debbie Denenberg and Debbie Friedman – Jewish Federation of Omaha

They are affectionately referred to as “the two Debbies” around the Federation office and both Debbie Denenberg and Debbie Friedman took on key “behind the scenes” roles in the last two Federation Annual Campaigns. Assuming the responsibility of training campaign workers is no small feat, as successful solicitation is a technical and, sometimes, highly personal task.

For the 2011 campaign, they conducted five successful training sessions and the solicitors’ gift for gift total increased by 9%. But these two dynamic volunteers didn’t stop there, they wanted another Campaign challenge. According to Sharon Kirshenbaum, campaign director, Denenberg and Friedman focused on the art of face-to-face solicitations during the 2012 Campaign; employing role playing methodology as a means to encourage personal conversations with donors. “Their training sessions were engaging and enjoyable and received some of the best feedback we’ve ever had,” said Kirshenbaum. “Both Debbies’ hard work and dedication were instrumental in kicking off our 2011 and 2012 Annual Campaigns and getting us started on a positive note!

Mark Javitch – The Center for Jewish Education

Since its inception, the Omaha Jewish Chai School has benefited from the strong support and countless volunteer hours from Mark Javitch. Beth Cohen, executive director of the Center for Jewish Education describes Mark’s involvement as “far reaching, including teaching, administrative support and promotion.”

During the school’s inaugural year, Mark was co-teacher of the class, How We Give: Text Seminar and Interactive Workshop on Jewish Philanthropy. While busy with his teaching duties, Mark still found time to assist in developing systems for attendance, class scheduling and registration for the new school.

He even helped design the school’s logo.

“Mark continues to perform above and beyond his job as a teacher; the teens consider him a role model and someone with whom they can talk comfortably. His enthusiasm and willingness to do whatever is needed has been greatly appreciated,” said Cohen.

Margaret Kirkeby – The Jewish Press

Ask anyone who labors at the task of creating prose and they will tell you what an exacting and meticulous job it is. The same can be said for those who choose to proofread the prose for grammar and content. For two years, Margaret Kirkeby has been an extremely dedicated volunteer, proofing the Jewish Press every single week. According to Annette van de Kamp-Wright, Margaret rarely misses an issue and is very, very good at what she does. “What Margaret does is not easy. To find such a loyal and thorough volunteer for the Jewish Press is truly lucky. We hope to have her with us for many, many more years,” she said.

Mark Martin – Jewish Community Center

Mark Martin has been an integral part of the planning and oversight of many of the recent physical improvements on the Federation campus. He has been the JCC buildings and grounds chairperson and is currently the campus buildings and grounds chairperson. “Last year, Mark was instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition when the building and grounds responsibilities increased as a new Campus Manager was selected,” said Aaron Rosenfeld, executive director, Jewish Community Center.

Mark has been a member of the JCC Board for many years and currently holds the position of JCC board treasurer.

According to Rosenfeld, he has given generously of his time, money and expertise and is more than deserving of this recognition.