Every year the Ledger names its list of people who stand out for making a difference in the community. Here’s our list for 2010:
Susan Jaye-Kaplan has said that as a child, she felt like she traveled the world just by opening up her favorite books at the Boston Public Library. Co-founder of Links to Libraries (with Janet Crimmins) Jaye-Kaplan is now passing on her love of books to children around Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut. Links to Libraries is a non-profit organization founded in May 2008 to collect and distribute new and gently used books to elementary school libraries and non-profit organizations and to enhance the language and literacy skills of children of all cultural backgrounds. In Fiscal Year 2010, the organization donated more than 12,000 books to more than 100 sites and in 2010 Links to Libraries started three Read Aloud programs for young children.
A member of Sinai Temple, Jaye-Kaplan is also the founder and past president of Go FIT Inc., a non-profit fitness program, the co-founder of the Women’s Leadership Network and founder of the Pioneer Valley Women’s Running Club of Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut.
In the past several years she has received a number of awards for her work in the community, including the National Conference on Community Justice Award (NCCJ) and a national Daily Point of Light Award in recognition of her community service efforts.
Jeremy Pava has been elected president of The Hebrew High School of New England (HHNE) by the school’s board of directors. Born and raised in Springfield, and now living in West Hartford, Conn., Pava and his wife Ann, have been major supporters of the Hebrew High School of New England (HHNE) since its inception. Now HHNE is the only co-educational, Modern Orthodox, secondary Jewish Day School between New York and Boston. Supported by the Jewish Federations of Western Massachusetts, Hartford, and New Haven, the school is open to students from across the Jewish denominational spectrum. Pava will be heading the school as it moves to its new location on Bloomfield Avenue in West Hartford. HHNE is a part of the Pava family – Jeremy’s son, Harvey, is a graduate of HHNE, his son Nathaniel is in twelfth grade and his daughter Devorah is in tenth grade.
Pava has served on the Board of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation for 20 years. He is a past president and board member of Kodimoh Synagogue in Springfield, as well as a past board member of the Springfield Jewish Federation, where he served as campaign chair for the Young Men’s Division. He and Ann are actively involved in AIPAC and have been strong supporters of Heritage Academy in Longmeadow.
Robert Engell, 53, of Longmeadow, who has worked in healthcare management for many years, has been using his experience to help rebuild the healthcare system in Afghanistan. A member of the Air National Guard for the past 21 years, he served his first tour of duty in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2009, spending 61/2 months in Kabul working with the U.S. and Afghan militaries and healthcare professionals in the country. He returned to Afghanistan June 30 as a civilian contractor to continue his work for a year. While there, he not only works to help improve the healthcare system, but also acts as a leader of the Jewish community, leading services, and has befriended the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan. “He’s lived through the Taliban, he’s lived through the Russians and all these changes, and he is still there and there is a shul there is being maintained as a direct result of this guy,” Engell told the Jewish Ledger in July. “A small part of why I am going back will be to work with and try to help him out and try to do something with this shul.”
Shamu Fenyvesi Sadeh, director of Adamah, the farming fellowship for young Jews at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, was recently named one of Forward’s 50 Top Jews. A leader in the new and growing Jewish food movement Sadeh, 41, is an environmental studies instructor, Jewish educator, writer, organic farmer, and wilderness guide. He has taught environmental studies, ecology, and Judaic Studies at Portland State University, Berkshire Community College, Southern Vermont College, and the Wild Rockies Field Institute. He developed curriculum for and taught at the Teva Learning Center in its early years of development. He holds an M.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, a doctorate in Educational Leadership, and studied permaculture design in Costa Rica and in New England. He has directed the ADAMAH Fellowship since 2004.
According to The Forward Shamu “has been instrumental in training and encouraging a new generation of activists who are, in his words, ‘cultivating soul and soils, harvesting people and pickles.'”
Barbara Yetwin Sanofsky of Longmeadow is passionate about Judaic needlework. In the early 1980s, she joined the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework, an international organization of Jewish needle artists who create ceremonial objects for their synagogues, homes and communities. She founded the Pioneer Valley chapter of the group in 1999, and now she has been named president of the national organization which has chapters all over North America.
Sanofsky was instrumental in bringing the 2009 International Pomegranate Guild convention to the Pioneer Valley. Sanofsky and the local chapter hosted participants from Pomegranate chapters across the U.S., and Canada during a three-day series of workshops and presentations.
In November, Ruth Webber received the 2010 Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award, the biennial “lifetime achievement” award given out by the National Women’s Philanthropy Board of the Jewish Federations of North America. The award recognizes a woman who is a member of the Lion of Judah society who has made a significant impact in the local Jewish community, in Israel, and/or abroad; and has created a Lion of Judah endowment to ensure a strong future for generations to come and give a minimum of $5,000 annually in their own name to their Federation’s Annual Campaign. Ruth was honored at the International Lion of Judah Conference in New Orleans.
Webber has had a distinguished volunteer career over the past 60 years in both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations in Western Massachusetts. In 1972, Ruth was one of the first women invited to join the Board of Sinai Temple, and was the first woman to serve on the Board of the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Western Massachusetts. She has served on the Federation’s Executive Committee and is a past chair of the Women’s Campaign. She served as President of the Springfield Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women from 1961-63 and chaired its Scholarship Committee for many years. She has served on the Executive Board of the Springfield Symphony and the Board of the YWCA of Western Massachusetts. Ruth and her sister-in-law, Ruth Katz, were instrumental in establishing Ruth’s House, which was named after them. In June, the Springfield Jewish Community Center building was named the Neal Webber Building, thanks to a generous gift from Ruth. The building is named in memory of her son, Neal, who tragically lost his battle with cancer in 2008. Webber continues to remain active throughout the Springfield Jewish community.
Rabbi Saul Perlmutter
An avid biker who often rides his bike to work, it was only natural that when Rabbi Saul Perlmutter was looking to raise funds for alternative spring break trips for students at University of Massachusetts Amherst Hillel, he would organize a community-wide bike ride. Now four years later, Ride to Provide is an annual event that brings cyclists together to raise funds and to enjoy a scenic bike ride through Amherst.
This year, despite the troubled economy, the Ride raised more than $37,000 for Hillel. The money will go toward alternative community service winter and spring trips. In the past several years, Hillel students have traveled to areas in need of assistance – including New Orleans and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, and Israel where students worked in underprivileged neighborhoods and with the Ethiopian community to restore apartment buildings and plan community gardens.
In addition to Ride to Provide, as executive director of the Hillel House for more than 35 years, Perlmutter has helped UMass Hillel grow from an office in the Student Union to a three-story building and a true home to many Jewish students at the school.
Along with his responsibilities at Hillel, Perlmutter is also rabbi at Congregation Sons of Zion in Holyoke. He received the New England Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League’s 2002 Tischler Confronting Anti-Semitism Award for helping to rally the community against a series of anti-semitic incidents in Amherst that spring.