by Annette van de Kamp-Wright, Jewish Press Editor
When Marty Ricks retired from the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation in 2013, he immediately moved over to the JFO Campaign team as Chief Development Officer. No surprise to anyone who knows him; for someone like Marty, who cares deeply about community, it is not that easy to step away, and it is not easy to let him go. Thus, retirement has become a gradual process, and the community has been able to enjoy the fruits of Marty’s labor a little while longer.
This July, however, it really is time to hand over the reins. Enter Steve Levinger, who joined the campaign team in the role of Senior Development Director in December of 2014. And while Steve has some very big shoes to fill, he is more than up to the challenge.
Steve was born and raised in Yankton, South Dakota and graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Marketing. He began his career at Procter and Gamble in Detroit, and relocated to Omaha in 1989. Working as a district sales manager, he ran into Bruce Friedlander.
“I met Steve while I worked at Baker’s Supermarkets,” Bruce said, “and he really stood out. He was one of many salespeople, but his personality was a really good fit for our core values. He had integrity, and his infectious smile made it always fun to see him. He is honest, hard working and trustworthy, and there is no doubt in my mind he will do well as Marty’s successor.”
Marty Ricks himself has nothing but good things to say about Steve.
“He has all the right characteristics to lead the Jewish Federation in its future fundraising efforts,” he said. “He is smart, passionate, dedicated and creative. He is caring, outgoing and just a really, really nice guy! In the seven months he has been working on our team, he has demonstrated all those characteristics. He was hired in the middle of the 2015 Campaign, and jumped right in assisting Sharon Kirshenbaum and myself, and helped us conclude a very successful year.”
Bob Belgrade calls our community fortunate with Steve in his new role of Chief Development Officer.
“Steve is somebody who has the ability and personality for the job, and he understands the importance of building solid relationships in the community. He just gets it. The qualities Steve naturally possesses, you can’t teach that.”
Building those relationships comes naturally to Steve; anyone who spends five minutes with him can see that. It’s something he prioritizes when he talks about the difference he hopes to make.
“It’s not about ‘them,’” he said, “It’s ‘us.’ We, together, are all under the same umbrella. Cooperation has to be our focus, because together, we can accomplish so much. We have to continually keep our mission in mind, and ask ourselves how to best serve this community.”
“I am excited to have Steve transition into the chief development office role,” says Jewish Federation of Omaha CEO Alan Potash. “He brings enthusiasm and experience from the corporate world. Partnering with Marty on the last campaign he has developed new philanthropic skills that will guide him in his new role. I am looking forward to working with him!”
Steve’s wife Bonnie works full time as a Speech Pathologist in the Millard Public Schools district. Bonnie and Steve have three daughters. Allison is 26 and graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Amy is 23 and graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Nursing. Jessica is 21 years old; she will be a senior in the University of Wisconsin’s School of Business.