Jewish Federation to Honor Award Winners and Leaders

By Stephanie Smartschan
JFLV Director of Marketing

The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley will honor individuals who exemplify leadership at its Community Celebration & Annual Meeting on June 14.

The picnic-style event will celebrate the accomplishments of the past year and look ahead to the local Jewish community’s future. It will include barbecue fare, drinks and dessert. All are welcome.

Chosen by a committee of her peers, Valeska Zighelboim will receive the George Feldman Achievement Award for Young Leadership.

“While Valeska has only been in the community for five years, she has emerged as a leader throughout the community,” one of the nominations for Zighelboim read. 

She has served on both the Jewish Day School and Temple Beth El boards. At JDS, she is on the executive committee and is the vice president of development. In this role, she chairs fundraising events including the annual JDS Gala. She also serves as secretary of the board of the JDS Supporting Foundation. 

This year, Zighelboim and her husband, Israel, championed through Federation a campaign to help the Jewish community of Venezuela. It was a deeply personal cause – Valeska and Israel both grew up there. With their help, the community raised $17,000 to help in a time of dire need.

“Valeska’s decision to share her story and fight for the people of Venezuela was truly inspiring,” said Jeri Zimmerman, assistant executive director of the Federation. “We were fortunate to partner with such a strong community leader and look forward to all that she will bring to our community in the future.”

For their work championing the day that brings in the greatest number of donations to Federation’s Annual Campaign every year, Brian and Emily Ford will receive the Pomerantz Award for Campaign Excellence.

As co-chairs of Super Sunday for the past three years, the Fords helped the community raise a total of $113,000 and engage hundreds of volunteers.

“More than simply a phone-a-thon, Super Sunday acknowledges our own munity as vibrant Jewish community as the room is buzzing all day with volunteers of all ages. The event requires countless hours of preparation, and so it is no surprise that having spearheaded Super Sunday for three years in a row, Brian and Emily Ford are most deserving of the Pomerantz Award,” said Carol Bub Fromer, co-chair of the Federation’s Annual Campaign. “Their enthusiasm and smiles energize our callers until the last hour.”

“Brian’s and Emily’s commitment to our Jewish community serves as a role model to us all,” she added, “and it is a pleasure to present them with this award.”

Cantor Kevin Wartell will be honored with the Schiff Award for Prejudice Reduction at the community celebration. He will again be honored at the Mortimer S. Schiff Memorial Golf Tournament on June 18, which brings in money to support the Federation’s prejudice reduction efforts.

Wartell is closing out his 30-year tenure as cantor and educator at Allentown’s Temple Beth El this year.

“Kevin has shown up more regularly and for longer than anyone on the interfaith scene in the Lehigh Valley,” said the Rev. Dr. Peter Pettit, director of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College and a past recipient of the Schiff Award. “His personable style is disarming and wins him friends across religious lines long before the issues of religious difference ever begin to emerge.” 

For his many years of faithfully serving the Lehigh Valley community and advocating on behalf of Israel and issues of Jewish interest, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent will receive the President’s Award. Dent recently served seven terms in Congress.

“He’s always been supportive of the Jewish community and Israel and we feel that he deserves recognition as he retires from his position,” said Eva Levitt, president of the Jewish Federation.

The Federation will also celebrate the graduation of the 12 young leaders who make up the first cohort of Israel Next Dor (read more).

A new board and officers will be elected and outgoing committee leaders and board members will be recognized.

The event is sponsored by Altitude Marketing, Bennett Maseratti of Allentown, Embassy Bank, Gross McGinley, RCN and Scherline & Associates.

The Jewish Federation’s Community Celebration & Annual Meeting will take place on Thursday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the JCC of the Lehigh Valley. Picnic food and open bar, free and open to everyone. RSVP by June 7 to 610-821-5500 or mailbox@jflv.org or register online here.