Here is the Jewish Ledger’s list of Movers & Shakers making a difference in our community in 2011.
As president and CEO of the 360-bed Jewish Home for the Elderly,since 2003, Andrew Banoff heads the second-largest skilled nursing facility in Connecticut.
A Trumbull resident, Banoff has a long professional history in healthcare. He served as executive vice president of St. Vincent’s Health Services, a 391-bed acute care teaching hospital in Bridgeport. He also was president and CEO of Connecticut Health Enterprises, a managed-care contracting and physician practice management company, vice president of Stamford Health System, and vice president of New York Downtown Hospital. He has taught management at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield as an adjunct instructor.
Banoff is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, and a member of the board of directors of several organizations, including the Association of Jewish Aging Service, Connecticut Association of Not-for-Profit Providers for the Aging, and Connecticut Alliance for Long Term Care.
Among his many tributes, Banoff is a recipient of the Outstanding Young Executives of the Year Award from the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
Now Banoff is shepherding the Home through a momentous period, as the facility plans to relocate to 4200 Park Ave. in Bridgeport, current location of the Jewish Center for Community Services. In a formal agreement signed in October, The Jewish Home will purchase the property and redevelop a new campus with JCCS.
“I have found Andrew to be a visionary leader who is able to put various groups together to achieve a common goal,” says JCCS president Steven Wendell. “This development will not only benefit the entire Jewish community, but the greater community of Fairfield County as well.”
RABBI AMANDA BRODIE
Described by fellow faculty members as “the consummate educator,” Rabbi Amanda Brodie is lauded for incorporating differentiated instruction into the school’s curriculum. “She firmly believes that every child is able to learn and that it’s the teacher’s responsibility to tailor education so that every child reaches his or her potential,” says a colleague.
But perhaps more significant is how “Rabbi Amanda” has influenced her students as they go out into the world beyond Ezra.
“As a teacher, Rabbi Amanda challenged me in ways I had not previously experienced,” says Easton native Ariel Fein, 22, who graduated from Ezra in 2003. A recent graduate of the Barnard-Jewish Theological Seminary Double Degree Program, Fein works fulltime as a museum educator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich and as a part-time educator at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan. “She prepared my classmates and me to tackle high-school and even college coursework, but more than that, she prepared us to handle the challenges and opportunities of living Jewishly in a secular world. Rabbi Amanda’s classes were among the first that really got me excited about Jewish history and culture, and her inspiration and the curriculum she developed remain one of the main reasons that I have continued to explore Jewish studies and that I am working as a Jewish educator.”
Fein says that Brodie has set an example for her own approach to teaching. “I have seen the way that she tries to teach to each student’s strengths, adapting her instruction to capture the attention of each individual student,” Fein says. “Her leadership in the area of differentiated instruction has certainly influenced the way that I approach teaching a group of students in a classroom or in the museum. Rabbi Amanda has been and continues to be a tremendous role model for me. In the years since I’ve graduated from Ezra Academy, she has become a treasured friend.”
Josh Cohen’s parents met at a Jewish singles’ dance at the JCC in Hartford in the ‘70s. So it’s no wonder that Cohen met his own wife at a Jewish social event some 40 years later, in 2004. At the time, he was working for the Mandell JCC of Greater Hartford, and had just started the Jewish Social Professionals Network with a friend.
Cohen is a product of BBYO (formerly B’nai B’rith Youth Organization), which he attended while a student at Hall High School in West Hartford. So it’s also no wonder that he chose a Jewish professional path. Since 2007, he has been regional director of BBYO’s Connecticut Valley Region (CVR), overseeing 14 chapters and 400 members from Amherst, Mass. through Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Danbury.
With a focus on identity enrichment and leadership development, CVR’s activities emphasize Jewish heritage, community service, and social action. BBYO prides itself on being a peer-led movement, Cohen says. “The way the teens are able to explore their Judaism, they will come up with creative activities and not feel force-fed.”
In 2008, CVR celebrated its 50th anniversary, an event spearheaded by Cohen and a group of CVR alumni who reached out to hundreds of former members, directors, and parents from across the country. Cohen described the event not only as a reunion, but as a celebration of “the family we’ve created over the past 50 years.”
Cohen’s impact on Connecticut Jewish teens is reflected in effusive reactions from BBYO parents. “BBYO has given the girls opportunities to do so much more to strengthen that bond and share it with other like-minded young adults,” says Stephen Gochros, whose daughter Renee is a member of the BBYO Willimantic Chapter.. Gochros says he is impressed by the education the kids receive and by their dedication to community-service projects. “These girls have become a group of caring, concerned, and giving young adults,” he says. “The organization helps my daughter grow and mature in a safe place, and reminds her of her Jewish identity. Even her Facebook status for religion is ‘Jewish!’”
David Federman has held numerous leadership positions in the greater Hartford Jewish community, as well as the community at large. A past president of the Mandell Jewish Community Center (1986-1988) in West Hartford, he is also a 1992 recipient of that organization’s Outstanding Leadership Award and currently chairs its Corporate Partnership Committee. Long active in the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, he chaired missions to Poland, the Former Soviet Union and Israel, served as chair of the agency’s Annual Campaign, and as its first vice president for 2006 and 2007. He was honored with the Federation’s Young Leadership Award in 1984. Federman also is a founder, president and chairman of the board of Jewish Links, Inc., and is currently a corporator at Hebrew Health Care.
In addition to his work within the Jewish community, Federman worked as a volunteer for the Arthritis Foundation of Northern and Southern New England, received the coveted National Volunteer Service Citation in 1999, and was the chairman of the board during 2004 and 2005. He also served on the National Board of Directors of the Arthritis Foundation from 2008 to 2010 and currently serves as treasurer of the newly formed New England region. He is a corporator of Hartford Hospital, where he serves on the Planned Giving Committee.
“David has held numerous leadership roles at the JCC and in our community,” says David Jacobs, executive director of the Mandell JCC. “His commitment to Jewish life is evident in all of his leadership and volunteer activities.”
A principal of the Farmington accounting firm of Federman, Lally & Remis, LLC, Federman has been active in the professional community as chairman of the Hartford Tax Club, president of the Hartford Area Group of the CSCPA and chairman of the Federal Tax Forum.
When the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford celebrated tis 25th anniversary with a gala dinner this fall, its honoree was Arnold Greenberg and his wife Beverly. With good reason. The West Hartford philanthropist and businessman founded the center and remains one of its chief supporters. Today, University of Hartford President Walter Harrison describes the Greenberg Center as “the crown jewel” of the school.
In 1985, Arnold Greenberg endowed the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studiesas a living memorial to his late father, Maurice, a Russian born Jew with what Greenberg describes as “a good Talmudic education.” Settling in Hartford in 1932, Maurice Greenberg founded Connecticut Leather Co., which went through several incarnations before it eventually became Coleco Industries. Over the years, Greenberg and his brother Leonard have each served as chairman and CEO of Coleco.
But Greenberg’s philanthropic work extends far beyond the Greenberg Center. He sits on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford, and was vice president of the Council of Jewish Federations. He has been involved as well at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Hartford Stage and has served as chairman of the board of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and the Board of Regents of the University of Hartford.
“Growing up, Leonard and I were very strongly influenced by our father, which led me to be very active in the organized Jewish community,” told the Ledger in a recent interview. “I wasn’t as well-schooled as my father in Jewish studies, but I have been imbued with important Jewish values since early childhood.”
GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL ISRAEL CLUB
Five years ago, Pam Ehrenkranz received a call from a student at Greenwich High School, concerned about an anti-Israel article printed in the school newspaper, “The Beak.” The student asked Ehrenkranz, executive director of UJA Federation of Greenwich, to write a response addressing the article’s factual inconsistencies. Instead, Ehrenkranz turned the challenge back to the student and offered her guidance. The Israel Club was born.
With financial and professional support from UJA Federation of Greenwich, the club meets weekly to learn about life in Israel through speakers, discussions, and cultural programs. Not all members are Jewish, says Rebekah Raz, UJA Federation liaison, and meetings can often draw 50 or 100 students.
UJA’s Israeli Young Emissaries meet with the Israel Club officers in September to plan out themes and programming, and facilitate some of the programs. Raz, who arranges speakers and attends the club’s weekly meetings, says, “It’s an honor to work with these students.” Faculty advisor Steven Swidler often offers extra credit to students in his history classes who attend the club’s speaker events.
Co-presidents Julia Jandrisits and Michelle Socher reflect the club’s diverse membership: one leader is Jewish, the other is not.
In 2009, UJA Federation sponsored a community-service trip to Israel for six Israel Club teens. This year, a second trip brought 10 members to Israel, where they picked fruit and boxed food for the Leket food bank, and met with youth from Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union. Before the trip, the students collected books, which they delivered to the Har’el School in Bat Yam.
Earlier this month, 12 Israel Club members received the Weitzman Youth Award for Jewish Philanthropy, presented at UJA Federation’s annual gala.
The Israel Club engages on a national level as well. Last year, two club members attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. In the fall, three students were part of AIPAC’s annual high-school summit. Club co-president Michelle Socher was selected for the organization’s summer internship program.
“One of the things that’s so important for the next generation is to learn to take initiative,” says Ehrenkranz. “These kids don’t wait. When the Carmel region in Israel was devastated by forest fire, the kids figured out how to raise money for the Yemin Orde Youth Village and the JNF. When they came back from the February trip, they were happy to give up a Sunday afternoon to help us raise thousands of dollars during our phone-athon. They are constantly reaching out to other kids at school, inviting them to club activities.
RICHARD NELSON “OZ” GREIBEL
When the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Hartford was seeking a way to promote more positive Israel awareness, its leadership turned to MetroHartford Alliance and director Oz Greibel of Simsbury.
“Israel advocacy and education are part of our mission and we wanted to get people thinking beyond war and politics,” says JCRC executive director Laura Zimmerman. “We decided to focus on technology.”
MetroHartford director Oz Greibel proved to be an enthusiastic and invaluable partner. In May, the JCRC and MetroHartford Alliance International Business Council organized the first-ever Connecticut-Israel Technology Summit. One hundred New England-based and Israeli companies specializing in life science, security, and defense, met at Goodwin College to discuss business opportunities.
“This is a unique collaboration, and it wouldn’t have been as successful without MetroHartford’s business connections,” Zimmerman says. “The Alliance’s mission is business development and ours addresses cultural, civic, and social-justice issues, as well as Israel advocacy. This partnership both expands economic development in greater Hartford and changes people’s interpretations of Israel. It’s already producing a lot of vitality and growth in both areas.”
As a result of the summit, Greibel took part in a national trade mission to Israel with Chamber of Commerce executives, and will speak about his experiences at the January JCRC board meeting.
The next Connecticut-Israel Technology Summit is scheduled for March 2012.
When Gary Jones took over as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Connecticut regional board in May 2011, he was hardly new to the cause. A private-practice attorney, Jones had been involved with the Hamden-based organization as a lay leader since 1988, serving as board chair from 2000 to 2002. In addition, he served as chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Hartford (JCRC) and the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT), and has been in lay leadership positions with the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and Hebrew Health Care.
Under his leadership, ADL has played an instrumental role in the passage of Connecticut’s new anti-bullying legislation as well as a number of other laws combating discrimination and bigotry. In recognition of his efforts, Jones joined Governor Dannel Malloy for the signing of the anti-bullying bill into law. Jones also speaks regularly with those who have been targeted by discrimination, bias or bigotry, counseling and guiding individuals and communities to effectively respond and address issues that relate to antisemitism, racism, homophobia, and extreme anti-Israel sentiment. Since his tenure began, ADL has reached more than 25,000 students, teachers, parents, and professionals statewide with anti-bias, anti-bullying and diversity education programs. To date, Jones and his ADL staff have helped coordinate statewide training for Israel advocates and provided pro-Israel programming on campuses and in communities around the state.
“Gary’s leadership has been instrumental in maintaining ADL’s strong presence and success in Connecticut,” says Mitch Weseley, ADL’s Connecticut board chair. “Under his committed stewardship, ADL has continued it crucial work building bridges of understanding among the people and communities of Connecticut, and we look forward to many years of future success with Gary as ADL’s professional leader in the state.
Stacey Kamisar wears many hats in the Jewish community, and bears them all with great skill and poise. A member of The Conservative Synagogue in Westport, Kamisar has held several positions on the board, serving as religious-school chair and on the executive committee. She is currently the chair of adult education, responsible for programming that reflects the synagogue’s special focus on Israel.
Since 2009, Kamisar has been program coordinator at UJA/Federation Westport Weston Wilton Norwalk, where she coordinates women’s philanthropy events and the annual Israel Celebration. One of her first projects was Books2Connect, an idea that evolved from UJA/Federation’s community-wide Mitzvah Day in 2008. Through a partnership Kamisar helped build with the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and the Norwalk Community College student honor society, as well as a legion of dedicated volunteers, Books2Connect collects and donates books to organizations that serve families in need throughout Connecticut. Several thousand books have already been distributed to recipients such as the George Washington Carver Center in Norwalk and the Ronald McDonald House of Connecticut in New Haven.
“The transition between Stacy’s personal and professional life is seamless,” says Linda Russ, UJA/Federation WWWN co-president. For example, the Kamisars were a host family in the Israeli Young Emissary program; now Kamisar is UJA/Federation’s Young Emissary coordinator. “For Stacy, that’s a natural progression,” Russ says. “She seeks to form friendships and relationships that synergize her personal and professional lives.”
“Stacy is so incredibly committed to so many things,” says childhood friend Beth Rand, vice president and campaign chair of UJA/Federation and past president of The Conservative Synagogue. “She is creative and really passionate about so many Jewish causes.”
RABBI ELLY KRIMSKY
Since coming to Stamford in 2009, Rabbi Elly Krimsky has continued Young Israel’s (YI) tradition of community involvement. President of the Stamford Board of Rabbis and member of the Vaad HaKashrus of Fairfield County, Krimsky teaches several weekly adult-education classes at Young Israel and at various community venues. He is a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and the annual communal Yom Hashoah commemoration committee.
“I think the achievement Rabbi Krimsky is most proud of is the Summer Kollel program he initiated at Young Israel this past August,” says Lisa Linzer, YI board leader. For the 10-day community program, organized in collaboration with Yeshiva University, Krimsky brought in several guest scholars and organized daily learning groups open to children and adults alike. The Kollel will now be an annual event.
In his professional life, Krimsky recently worked at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future.
And in one of his louder roles, he is founding member of Bass Din, a musical group of Fairfield County rabbis and other Jewish professionals, in which he sings and plays keyboards and guitar.
Steve Lander has been an integral part of the Fairfield County Jewish community ever since he moved to Norwalk in 1969 to take the position of youth director at the Norwalk Jewish Community Center. Since then, he has served as campaign chair for the Norwalk UJA Federation, as president of Beth Israel Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk and, together with his wife Lieba, as a board member of board of Norwalk’s Congregation Beth El. Steve also worked at the Stamford JCC – first as youth director and later as program director and then executive director, helping in programming and fundraising.
In 1975, Steve left the JCC to found Amazing Stores along with David Lenore. In 2000, he returned to Jewish communal work as executive director of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford. For the past four years he has served as the executive director of Temple Beth El in Stamford. He has also served on the board of the Human Services Council._
“Steve is a dream to work with, the perfect partner for any rabbi. He is the glue that brings together the many diverse arms of congregational life. He is tireless to a fault. And on top of it all, he is the very embodiment of the term mensch,” says Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, spiritual leader of Temple Beth El.
Among his many tributes, Lander was honored by Catholic Family Services, American Red Cross and American Cancer Society. He and Lieba – who is also an active Jewish community volunteer – were honored by Israel Bonds and, earlier this year, by the Norwalk chapter of Hadassah.
Since 2006, Elana Goldberg MacGilpin has split her responsibilities working as director of Chai-The Center for Jewish Life in Avon, and as the director of adult programming at the Mandell JCC in West Hartford, where she also coordinates the Jewish Book Festival. She is the second director to serve at the Chai Center, which opened in 2004.
“Elana is an innovative, passionate professional who uses her experience, knowledge, and broad-based perspective to provide excellent programs to the community and make all those she works with feel valued and included,” says Cathrine Fischer Schwartz, president and C.E.O. of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.
Perhaps the work she is best known for is coordinating outreach programs in demographically underserved areas, specifically for interfaith families and couples. “One of the great challenges and opportunities of the current and future Jewish community is to provide a warm and welcoming environment for interfaith families and extended family members who aren’t Jewish,” MacGilpin told the Ledger a year after she had joined the Chai staff. “Interfaith families are searching for ways to connect with the Jewish community and Judaism in ways that are comfortable as well as meaningful.”
“Elana has made her mark in our community, both at the JCC and in the Chai Center, in expanding and enhancing the conversation about outreach and engagement,” says JCC executive director David Jacobs. “We have learned from her the importance of identifying new approaches and for our community institutions and professionals to work together to do this.”
As executive director of Goodspeed Musicals since 1968, Michael Price can’t find the dividing line between his Jewish identity and his theatrical life. “I have used the theater as a platform for doing good works in the Jewish community,” he told the Ledger earlier this year.
Price, who lives in Chester, has crafted a professional life that interweaves his Jewish identity and values, his political values, and his theatrical life. A native of Chicago, after graduating college and taking theatrical shows on the road as a stage manager, he relied on Jewish communities to serve as his link to home.
Price settled in the area 42 years ago, and married his wife, Jo-Ann Nevas Price, two years later. The couple has long been involved in the Jewish community. In the 1980s, they lobbied Connecticut congressmen to stop the sale of jet fighters to Saudi Arabia. Price’s continued involvement in Israel and in Jewish organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee, reflects his personal values. He is active in the Union of Reform Judaism, is a past president of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT), and is also a longtime board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven. He also serves as commissioner of culture and tourism for Connecticut and accompanied State Rep. Joe Courtney on an economic trade mission trip to Israel last year.
“Jo-Ann and I have always made sure that being Jewish is important to us and our children,” he says. “It’s that peoplehood that provides a worldview of life and of values.”
Though it can be difficult to find productions that reflect contemporary Jewish life, in 2008, the Goodspeed staged “13,” a musical about b’nei-mitzvah, and last spring it produced “Cutman,” a musical about a Jewish boxer.
At its annual meeting earlier this year, Hebrew Health Care (HHC) installed Richard Rubenstein of West Hartford as its board chairman. For Rubenstein, the appointment was a family affair: a 35-year veteran of the board, he follows in the footsteps of his father, Charles, who served as chair of HHC – then called the Hebrew Home — when it was located on Tower Avenue.
Rubenstein, who has served as lay leader with several local non-profit organizations — including Congregation Beth Israel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford where he is a former president – credits a 1966 trip to Europe as a college student, organized by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), with awakening his Jewish senses. Not only did he meet his future wife, Lea, on the trip, but a visit to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria was a turning point. “I came away from the trip changing from not interested in things Jewish to feeling that I had to do something to help the Jewish people,” he told the Ledger in a recent interview.
The Rubensteins have been large contributors to the Jewish Federation and other local and national Jewish causes, and have made more than 20 trips to Israel, most of them missions.
“Richard brings many talents to his work as Chair of Hebrew Health Care: more than three decades of leadership roles in Jewish communal service; a rich business and entrepreneurial background; enormous energy and a “seize the day” approach to life,” says HHC CEO Bonnie Gauthier. “But by far the greatest gift he brings is his passion for Hebrew Health Care’s mission, and his profound respect for the elderly we serve.”