by Sherrie Saag, Communications Specialist, Jewish Federation of Omaha
One was born and raised in Omaha; one is a happy transplant of five years. Their paths have been very different, but the 2012 Young Leadership Award winners are making an important statement through their community activism and volunteerism on behalf of the Omaha Jewish community.
We will show our gratitude for all they do on Monday, June 3 when Stacey Atlas receives the Lois Jeanne Schrager Memorial Young Leadership Award and Dan Gilbert the Bruce Fellman Memorial Young Leadership Award.
These young leaders’ generous gift of time and resources are essential to our community’s vibrancy. Their work sets an example and encourages robust participation from more and more of the young adults who call Omaha home.
Stacey Atlas, the daughter of Carl and Zoe Riekes and granddaughter of Henry and Dorothy Riekes carries on a great legacy in Jewish Omaha. So it’s understandable that her motivation would lie close to home. “My passion for Jewish Omaha began when I had children and moved back to Omaha with my husband Brett in 2003. Suddenly, I began to focus on the world around me and the world I want my children to grow up in.”
She has served on the Boards of the National Council of Jewish Women, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Child Savings Institute. She volunteers every year to help with the Great Strides Walk and the Omaha Children’s Museum Guild’s annual fundraiser.
Stacey currently sits on the JCC Board where she chairs the CDC Parent committee and participates on a JFO Foundation Grant Committee. She has served as a Campaign division leader, chaired Super Sunday and, along with her husband and parents, chaired the 2013 Annual Campaign. Those who worked with Stacey on the community Beatlemania event last September appreciated her positive and productive style and acknowledged that she was a driving force behind its success. She has a great desire to connect her peers to Jewish Omaha and imbue them with the same dedication and loyalty she feels to her community.
“I really enjoy connecting with people and I took my involvement in the Annual Campaign as an opportunity to reach out to the younger generation. I really wanted to get people to re-think their involvement in Federation,” said Stacey.
She said the 2013 Annual Campaign was especially meaningful because of her hardworking co-chairs, her husband and parents. “My parents have always been my role models. In a true family collaboration, the four of us were able to generate and discuss a much broader range of ideas. We all learned from each other, worked incredibly hard, and had a blast doing it.”
“The landscape of the community has changed so much over the last 20 years. It was time to change things up. I believe the Beatlemania event was a great re-energizer, particularly for my generation. I want to work to continue the forward momentum, while maintaining the level of integrity, care and generosity that the community has given over the last 50 years.”
If you ask Dan Gilbert how long he’s lived in Omaha, he replies, “five winters”, rather than the more standard, “five years”; a humorous and rather appropriate response from someone born and raised in southern California.
Dan, his wife Sara Partsch Gilbert (a native Omahan) and their two children, Micah, 9 and Noemi, 7, moved here from Palo Alto, CA. He worked on the Omaha Science Media Project, a collaboration between Omaha Public Schools, research biologists and journalists to train teachers and students as science journalists. He has led learning seminars around the world, including Brazil and Denmark.
As Special Assistant to Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at the University of Nebraska Omaha, Dan works with faculty to rethink and recast traditional learning experiences, preparing the campus for the future of higher education.
After graduating high school from the American School in London, England, Dan received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University in 1996 and a Master of Arts degree from Stanford University in 2002.
He was nominated by the professional staff at Temple Israel, and described as an energetic and charismatic leader. He has chaired Temple Israel’s Social Justice Committee for two years, leading projects like the Habitat for Humanity Carpenter’s Crew Coalition (they’ve helped build two houses) and volunteering at Stephen Center, where he cooks and serves breakfast alongside fellow volunteers. He has also spearheaded donation and clothing drives for the emergency shelter.
The Stephens Center means a lot to Dan. “Serving a Christmas meal in a homeless shelter had a profound effect on me. What I thought was that homelessness is not just a function of a person’s economic situation. To be homeless also means the people who were closest to you at some other point in time are no longer there for you. The loneliness was palpable.”
He serves on the board of Trustees at Temple Israel, a co-chair of the New Building General Campaign and a member of the Rabbinic Search committee that ultimately brought Rabbi Josh Brown to Omaha.
“I see a true juxtaposition in community volunteering today. As our daily lives become digitized and increasingly dependent upon electronic communication, our communal lives are strengthened through face-to-face interactions. Whether through programming, education, care, or advocacy, the Jewish Federation of Omaha’s agencies add significant value to our lives by fostering strong connections through shared experiences,” Dan said.
In 2012, Dan was named one of Ten Outstanding Young Omahans by the Omaha Jaycees. The recognition acknowledges excellence in civic and professional activities. On May 21 of this year, Dan will be honored for his service to Temple Israel by the Board of Trustees at its Annual Meeting.
Somehow, Dan finds time to volunteer outside the Jewish community. He organized a media center redesign project at Washington Elementary (OPS) and helped raise the necessary funds for the center’s 30 new computers. He tutors OPS high school students in the Omaha Young Writers Project and launched a Benson High School Giving Circle where 10 students learned how to be philanthropists and made a $1000 gift to Ted E. Bear Hollow. At the request of BBYO Director Leora Azriel, Dan recently spoke to teens in the Federation’s B’nai Tzedek program about education and philanthropy.
Rabbi Aryeh Azriel recently said of Dan, “Immediately, he found ways to integrate himself and his family into the life of the congregation. In a very short time, he has provided immeasurable guidance and leadership and earned respect and admiration from our community.”
Join Stacey, Dan and all the Federation honorees at the JFO Annual Meeting, Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m. in the JCC Theater.
An honorable night
by Sherrie Saag, Communications Specialist, Jewish Federation of Omaha
There will be an important changing of the guard at the annual Jewish Federation of Omaha Annual Meeting on Monday, June 3 in the JCC Theater. The evening begins at 7 p.m. with a reception immediately following.
Jay Noddle, long-time Jewish community volunteer and past Board President of the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation, will be installed that night as President of the Federation, succeeding Jody Malashock who is completing her three year term. The election of the 2013-2014 Jewish Federation Board of Directors will also take place.
The organization and scope of the Federation has changed for the better during Malashock’s tenure, as she successfully led the organization through the One Campus, One Community initiative and implemented a CEO-style business model to campus operations.
The Federation will also honor its community volunteers and recognize the Humanitarian of the Year and the Phil and Terri Schrager Spirit of Federation honorees. Additional awards recognized that evening will be the Bruce Fellman Memorial Young Leadership Award, the Lois Jeanne Schrager Memorial Young Leadership Award, the Robert and Ellen Gordman Jewish Teen Leadership Award and the Community Service Award.
The Annual Meeting is open to the public and provides our community with an opportunity to thank Jody for her outstanding service and pay tribute to outstanding Jewish volunteers.