by Ari Riekes, Henry Monsky Lodge President
On May 15, 2014, the Henry Monsky Lodge of B’nai B’rith held its 60th Omaha Charity Sports Banquet before a sold out crowd of 1200 people. NFL quarterback, Peyton Manning, of the Denver Broncos, keynoted the event by giving both an inspirational and humorous talk that touched on leadership, teamwork and overcoming adversity. Attendees were also entertained by the hilarious comedy of emcees Randy Sklar and Jason Sklar, Jewish comedians known as the Sklar Brothers, and celebrated the athletic accomplishments of the Bert Render High School Athlete of the year recipient, Harrison Phillips and the Earl Siegel High School Athlete of the year recipient, Madison Unzicker.
Not only was this the best attended banquet in recent history, it will have a huge impact on local Jewish philanthropy. “The banquet was able to raise a significant amount of money for B’nai B’rith as well as the greater Jewish Community,” Banquet Chair, Howard Shandell stated.
To that end, the Henry Monsky Lodge is donating over $45,000 of its banquet proceeds to its community partners who actively promoted this year’s banquet. Consequently, The Jewish Community Center and the CornerStone Youth Scholarship Fund of the Center for Jewish Life will receive a combined donation of over $20,000. Also, Temple Israel, Beth El Synagogue, and Beth Israel Synagogue will receive, in equal amounts, a combined donation of over $18,000.
In exchange for receiving these funds, the community partners have agreed to use its share within the next nine months and exclusively for the purposes of enabling participation in Jewish activities for individuals and families in need of financial assistance. The Henry Monsky Lodge is proud to use proceeds from its banquet for such an important purpose. As I noted in my remarks, “We have a great Jewish community which includes tremendous institutions that provide wonderful programs. Unfortunately, many members of our community cannot afford to partake. The Henry Monsky Lodge is committed to helping defray the costs to Jewish families and individuals who wish to participate in Jewish related activities. Even middle class families struggle to afford the costs of participating in Jewish related activities.”
In recognizing the Henry Monsky Lodge’s efforts, Beth Cohen, Executive Director, the Center for Jewish Life, stated: “Call it ‘affordability’ or a ‘tuition crisis,’ whatever you want to call it, middle class Jewish families are struggling to pay the cost of their children participating in quality Jewish programming. In Omaha, a family that sends their child to Friedel, to JCC Day camp, and to a Jewish Residential camp like Ramah or Sabra is in for over $11,000 a year, and that is before considering the cost of synagogue and JCC memberships. Jewish communities across the country are grappling with how to ensure that middle class families can afford to choose Jewish experiences for their children. B’nai B’rith recognizes the role the community can play in making these immersive Jewish experiences affordable for families, and our Jewish community is very grateful.”
And Bonnie Bloch, President, the Center for Jewish Life, stated: “As it has been said, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ We rely on members of our village, our community, to run top-notch programs for our Jewish children – our JCC, Friedel Jewish Academy, our synagogues, and our youth groups. We are so fortunate to have others in our community help families who are struggling to afford all of these opportunities for their children. B’nai B’rith has made that commitment, and through the success of their annual banquet have made a huge impact in the lives of the children of our community.”
The financial success of the banquet was due, in part, to the tremendous generosity of the banquet’s sponsors. Those sponsors include: Diamond Sponsor, Cquence Health Group; Gold Sponsor, the Dorothy and Henry Riekes Donor Advised Fund; Silver Sponsors, Broadmoor, Greater Omaha Packing, Elkhorn Partners Limited Partnership and Parsow’s Fine Clothing; Bronze Sponsors, the Bruce and Stacy Simon Charitable Fund, Gary and Karen Javitch, Nelson Gordman, and the Adam Jacobs Memorial Tribute Scholarship. Other sponsors included Abrahams Kaslow and Cassman, LLP, Coventry Health Care, Mutual of Omaha Bank and Plaza Buick of Omaha, as well as the event’s media sponsors, 1620 The Zone and KETV.
Al Abramson, who has attended the vast majority of the Lodge’s previous banquets stated, “This most recent event was one of the best sports banquets I have ever attended.” Shandell stated, “What made this year so special, was not only having the likes of Peyton Manning, but all the new faces in attendance. We had almost 600 people attend our VIP reception! The Omaha Jewish community and the greater Omaha community came together for a fantastic evening.”
The Henry Monsky Lodge has always played a vital role in bringing Jews together. In that regard, the Lodge is dedicated to continue to work with its community partners and to help draw attention to a problem that often goes unnoticed. In return, B’nai B’rith hopes that members of the Jewish community continue and increase their support of the Lodge and the Omaha Charity Sports Banquet.
In addition, the Henry Monsky Lodge will be donating over $5,000 to the local BBYO to assist our local Jewish teenagers, $1,000 to BBYO International, and additional funds to support B’nai B’rith International.