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Scholarships help grow tomorrow’s nurses

Leah Goldberg and Michael Elfenbaum

By Cindy Mindell ~

WEST HARTFORD – The Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford is probably best known for the grants it awards annually to local community organizations and agencies. But among its charitable funds are 13 endowments that affect individual lives as well.
The Foundation’s scholarship funds award grants to students from greater Hartford – totaling, on average, approximately $90,000 a year, and assisting 30 some students annually. This year, the scholarship committee awarded nearly $70,000 to 25 students.
Most of the recipients are Jewish students who demonstrate financial need, but many other factors are taken into consideration during the application process, says grants manager, Michael Elfenbaum. Scholarship recipients may receive grants through college and graduate school, but must apply each year to determine eligibility.
The Foundation has been awarding scholarships since 2000, when a large bequest from the estate of Dr. Leizor and Barbara Kessel of Wethersfield allowed an expansion of the scholarship program. Other donors subsequently created scholarship funds, many in honor of a family member or because of a particular interest in education.
“We award $3 million in grants every year from our various funds, and a lot of that money goes to community agencies,” says Elfenbaum. “We are deeply committed to helping the overall health of the Jewish community by supporting strong, healthy organizations. But with the scholarships, we have that unique opportunity to touch somebody’s life directly. It’s the most rewarding thing we do, because we can see how we’re affecting the future and making a positive impact on the lives of young adults. The scholarship committee is one that no one wants to leave. All six members tell me, ‘This is the best thing I do all year.’”
Some scholarship funds focus on a specific type of student or educational field.
Two such funds are dedicated to helping nursing students. While both can be used for both undergraduate and graduate nursing study, awards are typically given to undergraduates.
The Alice and Maxwell Kramer Scholarship Fund was established in 1999 as a permanent memorial to Katherine Portnoy Mattleson and Sally Markman, both of whom were nurses in greater Hartford. While always housed at the Foundation, the fund was originally awarded by the Association of Jewish Registered Nurses, a responsibility that shifted to the Foundation in 2010. Awardees are selected based on financial need.
The Kramer fund honors two nurses on both sides of donor Maxwell Kramer’s family. Sally Markman, a cousin on his father’s side, immigrated to the U.S. from Russia at age three. After graduating from Hartford Hospital, she received a scholarship to study at Grace Hospital in New Haven. She worked at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Hartford, rising to the level of superintendent. During World War II, she served as a surgical nurse on the front lines, then returned to Connecticut to work for the state as a nursing-home inspector.
Katie Portnoy Mattleson, a cousin on his mother’s side, worked as a nurse for more than 40 years. After graduating from Mt. Sinai Hospital Nursing School in Hartford, she worked at the hospital, and then as a private-duty nurse.
West Hartford resident Leah Goldberg received the Alice and Maxwell Kramer Scholarship Fund grant in 2010, and graduated a year later as valedictorian of the UConn School of Nursing.
Goldberg became interested in nursing as a patient, inspired by the care she had received from nurses through four surgeries in high school for Exertional Compartment Syndrome. Later, in classes, clinical experience, internships, and shadowing, she developed a passion for orthopedics and operating-room nursing. Last summer, she began working in the operating room of Middlesex Hospital in Durham.
The merit-based Rhea Sourifman Caplin Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 2001 by Joel Caplin in memory of his wife, a registered nurse who worked at Mt. Sinai and Saint Francis hospitals in Hartford.
Rhea, a Bloomfield resident, stayed at her job even after being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. “She loved nursing and everyone loved her,” says Joel Caplin. “All she wanted to do was work.” After her death in 1999, the hospital dedicated an alcove on the pediatrics floor in her memory.
In 2001, Joel decided to honor his late wife in a more substantial way, and set up the nursing scholarship fund to award school performance and community service. While the focus is on nursing studies, applicants entering other medical fields are also eligible. Bloomfield residents receive extra consideration. The first scholarship was awarded in 2003.
“There are so many deserving youngsters out there who should be recognized for their achievements,” Caplin says.

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