by Sherrie Saag, Communications Specialist, Jewish Federation of Omaha
We rely on the dedication and generosity of our wonderful volunteers to further our mission to build and sustain a strong and vibrant Omaha Jewish community and to support Jews in Israel and around the world. It is a privilege to honor those in our community who give tirelessly and selflessly to make our Jewish community the best it can be.
Join us on Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m. when the Jewish Federation of Omaha honors the 2012 Volunteers of the Year during a special presentation at the Jewish Federation of Omaha Annual Meeting.
This year’s Volunteers of the Year are:
Aaron Weiner – Anti Defamation League/ Community Relations Council
For five years, Aaron Weiner has played a significant role on the ADL/CRC Board. As chair of the civil rights committee, he leads initiatives on civil rights issues and public policy matters while also assisting with leadership development and community outreach. Aaron supports the ADL when testifying before the Nebraska Unicameral and helps in the procurement of grants from secular family foundations.
He is a partner with the firm Abrahams, Kaslow & Cassman LLC, having joined the firm in 1990. Prior to private practice, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable John T. Grant of the Nebraska Supreme Court. Weiner obtained his Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Colorado College in 1986, and his Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1989.
Oliver Pollak – The Jewish Press
Oliver Pollak was chosen as this year’s Volunteer of the Year for his prolific contributions as a writer. The Jewish Press editor, Annette Van de Kamp-Wright describes Pollak in this way, “Reading a piece by Oliver is like taking a mini-college course; you always learn something new. He doesn’t write what he thinks people want to hear, but about what truly interests him.” His unique voice is a true community asset.
Pollak is an attorney, professor of history at the University of Nebraska Omaha and author. His published works include, A Year at the Sorbonne: A Proustian Life, Nebraska Courthouses, and Jewish Life in Omaha and Lincoln: A Photographic History. In 1982 he co-founded the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society with Mary Arbitman Fellman. His most recent Jewish Press article, entitled Food and Faith: Sixty Years of Iowa Jewish Cookbooks, appeared in the Jan. 4, 2013 edition.
Mark Martin – Jewish Community Center
Martin serves as Treasurer on the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Board, and also chairs the Buildings and Grounds committee. According to JCC Board President Mike Siegel, “Mark is 100% dedicated to the Buildings and Grounds committee. He knows every inch of the building. He has a great working relationship with our Campus Manager, Matt Chadek which enables projects to run smoothly.”
Martin has the unusual distinction of being awarded JCC Volunteer of the Year for a second time. He was an integral part of the planning and oversight of the many physical improvements made on the Federation campus during our One Campus, One Community initiative. “Through many recent transitions, Mark has immediately volunteered his time to help both myself and the professional staff. We are extremely fortunate to have Mark in our community. He is a role model for volunteerism,” said Siegel.
Dick Rochman – Jewish Social Services
Seniors thrive in communities where programming and events support and enhance active lifestyles. Our Mainstreeters group does that; and for the last two years, Dick Rochman has been the
driving force as its Chairman. He makes sure our active and engaged senior community exercises their bodies and brains with stimulating and exciting programming.
Maggie Conti, Director of Activities and Outreach at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home, said Rochman is a hard-working, dependable, and dedicated volunteer with a warm personality. “He cares about the success of Mainstreeters and his input and opinions are vital. He leads monthly meetings and attends all of the group’s functions.” The professional staff who work alongside Rochman describe a “positive energy” that inspires those around him.
Rochman has volunteered for numerous agencies on our campus and is currently a member of the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society Board of Directors and serves as its membership chairman.
Rose Kaplan – Jewish Social Services
2012 was Kaplan’s 17th year volunteering at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home. She is the kind of volunteer who helps the staff with whatever needs to get done. Rose spends two afternoons each week helping with the Bingo games. Every Monday afternoon, she can be found escorting Residents, helping with room set-up and staying after to assist with tea time and socializing. Rose is a dedicated, reliable, and conscientious volunteer. Lois Wine, Director of Volunteer Services at RBJH, explained that Kaplan is so reliable that she even comes to the Blumkin Home on holidays. “You know it is Monday when Rose walks through the front door,” said Wine. Even though Kaplan no longer drives, she arranges for transportation so she will not miss her volunteer service. That’s dedication!
The Dorothy Kaplan Book Discussion Group – The Center for Jewish Life
Almost 35 years ago, on November 15, 1979, the first meeting of the Dorothy Kaplan Book Discussion Group took place at the Federation library and it has continued monthly meetings ever since. Organized by “Library Diva” Dorothy Kaplan, of blessed memory, today a second founding member, Marilyn Berman, serves as unofficial coordinator along with Deidre Evans.
Considered one of the most enduring book discussion groups in the country, it enriches the community by fostering a love of Jewish literature and promoting the Kripke Jewish Federation Library. Group facilitators are both members and special guests. The group chooses from a wide variety of subject matter; everything from poetry and mysteries to science fiction and biographies. New members are appreciated and those no longer with us are fondly remembered for their quick wit, keen observations, dedication and even their punctuality!
Brett Atlas – Jewish Federation of Omaha
Brett began volunteering at the Jewish Federation of Omaha as the Young Leadership representative on its Board of Directors. His impressive work resulted in a nomination last year for a two year term on Federation’s newly structured Board. Professional staff who have worked with Brett describe him as an active participant in all Board discussions and activities; and going the “extra mile” to understand and consider an issue thoroughly. Brett also sits on the Federation’s Planning and Community Engagement Committee where he spent considerable time developing new bylaws for the Federation and its agencies.
Brett co-chaired the 2013 Annual Campaign with his wife Stacey and his in-laws, Carl and Zöe Riekes. He brought great leadership and vision to the Campaign and was a great advocate to the community. He dedicated countless hours to the planning of the Beatle Mania community event in October of 2012. The results of this year’s Campaign are due in large part to Brett’s efforts. The Federation is proud and grateful to have a young leader of Brett’s caliber continue the legacy of an important and vital Omaha family.