Every year, The Jewish Federation of Omaha recognizes lay leaders whose steadfast support and active involvement help strengthen and grow our community. Please plan to attend the 2019 JFO Awards Night and Annual Meeting on Monday, June 3, 7 p.m. in the JCC Community Theater to honor the recipients of the Lois Jeanne Schrager and Bruce Fellman Memorial Young Leadership Awards: Holly Weill and Alex Epstein.
As the small business owner of one of Omaha’s premier children’s stores, Posh Children’s Boutique (16902 Wright Plaza in the Shoppes of Legacy), and a mother of two, (Julia, 14 and Levi, 10), it is obvious that Holly Weill is a very busy woman. That said, she has always made time to go above and beyond for our community.
“My husband David and I want our children to really appreciate the opportunities afforded to our community through our local synagogues and The Jewish Federation of Omaha. Every scholarship for school or camp, every community event or program we attend… I want them to understand the value of the hard work, dedication and time that goes into making these things possible,” explains Weill. “The best way I feel I can impart this to them is through action. I want them to see how important it is to me and help me in volunteering and giving back to the community. It is something we can not only feel good about, but that will impact the future of Jewish Omaha in a positive way”.
Holly Weill has been a strong and committed member of the Omaha Jewish Community throughout her life. In 1991, she was the recipient of the Robert and Ellen Gordman Jewish Teen Leadership Award thanks to her active participation and leadership involvement in BBYO, USY and BBG. She credits her passion for community involvement to the clergy at Beth El when she was young.
“I moved to Omaha in 5th grade and the transition was hard and awkward for me. I felt very much the outsider, knowing no one. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Rabbi Paul Drazen and Cantor Emil Berkowitz, reaching out to me and making me feel like I had something of value to contribute, even as a shy 11-year old, I became connected. Through their encouragement, I not only became involved, I grew to love and appreciate all my community had to offer me and as a result was inspired to find ways to offer something back in return. Through my involvement as a youth and now, as an adult, I have made invaluable connections and friends that I still have today. I see my continued involvement in helping lead things in my community as a way to give back.”
Holly is still an active member of Beth El Synagogue, where she has committed countless hours to her various roles in Jewish Education, including serving for many years on their Hebrew School Board and as a Hebrew School teacher. Her commitment to education speaks to so many of Holly’s fine qualities including her dependability, her love of Judaism and her desire to share with others.
Holly has also shown leadership in many years of active volunteerism with the National Council of Jewish Women. She has held various leadership positions for NCJW, serving as Community Service Vice President then President for a 2-year term. Holly also served as Chair of the Chocolate Festival, and helped to develop and chair a Bunco fundraiser for several NCJW programs including mini-grants for OPS teachers, which provides funding for creative and innovative classroom projects not funded by school budgets. This event also provided resources for much needed school supplies for children at Jackson Elementary.
Over the past few years, Holly has provided leadership in several different ways through the Federation’s involvement with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Program (JWRP). Holly took part in Omaha’s first JWRP MOMentum Trip to Israel in 2016 and served as the Madricha for the 2018 JWRP trip. She is currently hashing out ideas to create a new program for those participants who have returned from JWRP experiences. “So many of us return from this trip energized and inspired, ready to connect… looking for what comes ‘next’. While still in the nascent stages, I think it would be great to have a program here that provides the social, educational and spiritual connection we feel so strongly while in Israel.”
According to Louri Sullivan, Holly has become an invaluable volunteer. “She is assisting in organizing monthly educational classes for the JWRP group’s continued learning. Holly, and her daughter Julia, co-chaired the 2018 JWRP Unity Event with Sonia and Adria Tipp. She has been a tremendous asset in all she does and we are so lucky to haveher in our community. Holly’s excellent attention to detail, ability to “get the job done”, and devotion to helping others- with no expectation of recognition- made her an excellent choice for this year’s Schrager Memorial Young Leadership Award. We feel that Holly has truly demonstrated personal commitment, dedicated involvement and exemplary leadership qualities for the benefit of our Jewish community.”
Alex Epstein was born and raised in Omaha. Currently, he is the Executive Vice President at OMNE Partners. He and his wife Lindsay are expecting their first child this summer. After graduating from Burke High School, Alex attended Indiana University before returning to Omaha and building a life here. He was a member of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Leadership Omaha Class 40 and is actively involved with the Chamber’s Commercial Real Estate Summit, serving as Co-Chair alongside Jerry Slusky. Alex has also has served as a member of the Jewish Community Center Board of Directors.
“I grew up going to the JCC seven days a week to play basketball,” he said. “The Jewish Community Center was my home away from home. I was able to see at a young age what goes on here and how special our community is.”
Alex cares deeply about our Jewish community; it’s obvious from everything he does. He comes by it honestly: parents Lisa and Gary are familiar faces. One year ago, they themselves were the recipients of the Phil and Terry Schrager Spirit of Federation Award.
“Lisa and Gary have been great examples for me in life,” Alex said. “They taught me family is first, community is a close second. They have always been very involved in the Jewish Community and helped me learn at an early age every different aspect our community offers. Our community here is special; I am proud of it and proud to be a part of it.”
“I’ve known Alex since he was a toddler,” Steve Levinger, Chief Development Officer, said. “I have watched him grow into a very entrepreneurial young man. From his days as a gym rat at the JCC to Indiana University, throughout his professional career, his leadership skills have blossomed.”
Alex Epstein has been an outstanding leader in many areas of Jewish Omaha for a number of years. One of his exceptional achievements has been his significant role in the creation, development and implementation of Jewish Business Leaders, an innovative and successful new program of the Jewish Federation of Omaha. Alex spearheaded JBL at every step. After bringing his original idea to the Federation, he was instrumental in its organization, development and presentation, developing bylaws, a board of directors and the selection of notable and well-received event speakers, annual hall of fame induction and corporate sponsors.
“It really was his brainchild,” Levinger added, “and he continues to play an absolutely integral role in planning and execution. I’m genuinely thrilled that someone so deserving is receiving this award and I have high expectations about all the ways in which Alex will continue to serve this community during the years to come.”
“I’m passionate about the people in our community and the stories they have,” Alex said. “Jewish Business Leaders creates an opportunity for the stakeholders to congregate and talk business; we are each other’s friends, clients, customers and vendors. With a rich history of leaders in every generation, there needed to be an outlet for us all to meet, catch up, hear a good story and create business opportunities. With every presentation, I continue to be amazed because I always walk away learning something new and connecting with someone I haven’t seen in a while.”
His ingenuity, creativity and leadership skills are what make him a perfect recipient of the Bruce Fellman Memorial Young Leadership Award.
“I’m very grateful to those that have made this community what it is today,” Alex said, “and actively are trying to make Omaha a better place for the next generation. We have a wealth of knowledge here, outstanding mentors, extraordinary people, and it’s a special place to do business and start a family,” he said. “Our community is a place of change makers who all actively want the best for you and are willing to help you get there. I can’t say enough about the friendships I have made and the clients I have within both Omaha as a business community and Omaha as a Jewish community. I’m fortunate that those in the real estate community, specifically Jon Meyers, Jerry Slusky, Allan Murow, Jay Noddle, Bob Belgrade, Tom Fellman and so many more took time to meet, teach, mentor or do business together. They all were generous with their time and always willing to have coffee with me or take a phone call. I wouldn’t be in real estate today without these people, and this inspired Jewish Business Leaders, as there is so much knowledge and opportunity to pass down. L’dor V’dor (generation to generation) to the future leaders of our community, which is part of the critical mission of Jewish Business Leaders. Our entire community becomes stronger when we work together. Thanks to the current and past leaders of the Omaha Jewish community, Omaha became a place where I wanted to live and have my career. Jewish Business Leaders for decades to come will serve as the outlet to grow relationships, share inspiring stories from Jewish companies and honor the successful history of our business leaders.”