12.21.12 Issue

by Mary Bort, Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation

The Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation is pleased to announce that Robert and Ellen Gordman have established the Brandon Thomas Vocational Scholarship Fund. The endowment fund was created in memory of the Gordman’s late grandson, Brandon Thomas, who passed away in 2010.

“Bob and Elly approached us about setting up this new endowment in support of scholarships,” explained Marty Ricks, Foundation Executive Director. “Their generosity will make an important difference for high school graduates who want to pursue a vocational trade rather than attend a traditional college or university.”

Income from the scholarship fund will be used for annual scholarships for one or more Jewish high school graduates who wish to pursue a career in a vocational trade and have indicated an interest in the trade by working and/or volunteering in the field prior to beginning their formal training.

“Vocational trade” means skilled work typically requiring formal technical training specific to a particular job or career as distinguished from unskilled work or from what might generally be described as a profession or business.

A scholarship can be used for tuition, books and other related expenses for a student living at home and participating in a vocational program in Omaha. Housing expenses can also be covered for a student attending a vocational program outside of Omaha.

Brandon Thomas participated in the culinary arts program at Metropolitan Community College. This is just one example of the type of vocational program for which the scholarships may be granted.

“We wanted to do something for the Jewish community and memorialize Brandon, so we decided to create this scholarship,” explained Elly Gordman. “This fills an important need since not all high school graduates go on to college. There are many scholarships in Omaha’s Jewish community, but they are geared toward college students. And we wanted to do something that reflected Brandon’s interests and abilities. Brandon had this drive to become a chef and we became increasingly aware that some kids don’t want to go to college. They want to do something else.”

“Brandon knew since he was eight that he wasn’t going to college,” continued Gordman. “He wanted to be a chef. Brandon loved cooking. He found it to be fulfilling and more than just a career. It was his life.”

“For example, during a ski trip about 18 months before he passed away, Brandon offered to prepare dinner for everyone,” said Gordman. “It was a wonderful meal. It had such complexity, involving many elements. And I remember how he taught me about the effects of cutting board surfaces on

knives. He really knew his craft.”

“Bob and I don’t give to building funds,” noted Gordman. “We like to support programs such as underwriting First Fridays at Temple Israel. We want to help people – we are people-oriented with our donation decisions. We feel good about creating this scholarship in memory of Brandon, doing something that isn’t currently done in the Jewish community.”

Bob and Elly Gordman no longer reside in Omaha, but it was an easy decision for them to establish the scholarship fund here. “Even though we now live in Breckenridge, Colorado, our hearts are with the Omaha Jewish community,” Gordman stated. “I grew up here. This is a giving community and a great place to raise children.”

The Brandon Thomas Scholarships will be administered by the Center for Jewish Life (CJL), an agency of the Jewish Federation of Omaha. Application information may be found in the CJL’s 2013 Guide to Scholarship and Grant Opportunities, which will be available Jan. 4, 2013.

To find out how you can establish an endowment fund to support a scholarship, contact the Foundation at 402.334.6440.