2023 Annual Meeting convenes and connects hundreds of new and old friends

Sep 1, 2023 | Article, Event, Newsletter

2023 Annual Meeting convenes and connects hundreds of new and old friends

Sep 1, 2023

If you were at JEWISHcolorado’s 2023 Annual Meeting, you might still be talking about it.

If you could not make it, you might still be hearing about it.

On Wednesday, August 30, 200 guests gathered at JEWISHcolorado and the Denver Jewish Community Center (JCC) for a night that was as big and bright as the Super Blue Moon rising in the sky.

There was something for everyone at this gathering—a chance to connect with old and new friends, the opportunity to see where investments in JEWISHcolorado are doing good in the community, a time to honor some of JEWISHcolorado’s shining volunteers including Volunteer of the Year Lisa Mintz, a moment to watch the 2023 Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour (IST) make an emotional trip to Poland, and the passing of the gavel in Board leadership.

The next Super Blue Moon will not occur until 2037, but the next Annual Meeting is only a year away. If you can’t wait, keep reading to learn more about the many ways this year’s meeting was special.

A new paradigm for JEWISHcolorado

JEWISHcolorado President & CEO Renée Rockford greeted everyone with a warm welcome before identifying the ways that JEWISHcolorado fulfills its mission in the community:

• Offering safety and security;
• Developing Jewish Life programming;
• Providing a Jewish philanthropic home through the Jewish Community Foundation;
• Giving the community a voice at the State Capitol through the Jewish Community Relations Council;
• Serving as the traditional Federation, amassing support in times of need.

“We are operating in a new paradigm of opportunities and challenges, and, on top of that, we are still reckoning with a new post-pandemic normal,” Rockford told the group assembled in the JCC Elaine Wolf Theatre. “It is a moment when we must ask big questions. Where did we come from? Where are we going? How do we honor our history and legacy? How do we engage Jews from all walks of life? How do we pull our community together to take a stand against antisemitism? How do we best support our friends and family in Israel?”Renée Rockford at 2023 Annual MeetingRockford introduced a video with four IST teens recounting their experiences on a trip that took them to Auschwitz and Birkenau, Majdanek, the mass grave at Zbylitowska Góra, and Israel.

“No matter your age or your experience, when you hear these young people speak, it often means experiencing pain from the past again,” Rockford said. “But these teenagers are a new generation teaching us that we must never forget.”

Honoring young volunteer leaders

“The Torah teaches that we cannot live alone nor can we lead alone.”

With those words, Rockford introduced Adam Laarsen, chair of the Young Adult Division, who would announce the evening’s honorees, all chosen for their outstanding leadership as volunteers.

Accepting the Charlotte B. Tucker Young Leadership Award, Carly Schlafer spoke about the Jewish principle of L’dor V’dor and what it means to her as a young mother whose children are all named after their ancestors and as a member of the JEWISHcolorado Board of Directors.

“L’dor V’dor is the recognition of Jewish young adults being honored in our community for more than 30 years for volunteerism and dedication,” Schlafer said. “I am honored and grateful to be recognized as part of this prestigious community of individuals committed to Jewish life and continuity.”

The second recipient of the Charlotte B. Tucker Award, Erin Adlerstein, could not attend the Annual Meeting, but was recognized as an outstanding lay leader and community organizer at Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs.

Hirsch Neustein was honored with the Warren & Ruth Toltz Young Leadership Award for his passionate commitment to the Jewish community, including his service on JEWISHcolorado’s Board of Directors and as a tenured member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet.

2023 YAD Leadership winners“Over the past seven years, I have learned that the more I give of my time and resources, the more opportunities I am given to contribute,” Neustein said. “The more I contribute, the more I feel personally rewarded, which of course leads to more contributing and even more personal satisfaction.”

Samantha Raizen Walsh received the inaugural Michael Staenberg Young Jewish Agency Professional Award honoring a young adult who is working at a Colorado Jewish agency and has demonstrated dedication to the local Jewish community. Walsh has worked at Judaism Your Way, Kavod Senior Living, Denver JCC, and the Denver Jewish Day School.

“Our Jewish communal organizations are staffed with incredible, passionate, and hardworking individuals,” Walsh said. “I am thrilled that both JEWISHcolorado and Rose Community Foundation are committed to strengthening our Jewish communities through strengthening the professionals who work there.”

Honoring the Volunteer of the Year and passing the bat

Dottie Resnick took the stage to honor Lisa Mintz as the JEWISHcolorado Volunteer of the Year. Mintz has served on the JEWISHcolorado Board for the past seven years, the last two as the Campaign Oversight Group Chair, helping to raise more than $14 million needed to ensure a safe and vibrant Jewish life in Colorado. At the same time, she was the National Women’s Philanthropy Retreat Chair for Jewish Federations of North America.

She served as the JEWISHcolorado Women’s Philanthropy Chair for four years, playing a critical role in initiating the Dignity Grows program in Colorado. Mintz has chaired a multitude of Women’s Philanthropy events, and she is a proud Lion of Judah and has endowed her LION gift at JEWISHcolorado.Lisa Mintz, 2023 Volunteer of the YearIn accepting the award, Mintz talked about how her volunteer work had impacted her life.

“Research shows that giving makes us happy,” she said. “Women see an increase in satisfaction with their lives when they increase their giving. I know I have. What JEWISHcolorado has given to me—a commitment to my community, actionable ways to empower those in need, a purpose greater than myself, and so much more—cannot be quantified. Above all, effecting positive change through volunteering has made me a better person.”

“There is great power when you share and connect. I hope you will reach out, make new friends, bring them to an event, and connect them to our Colorado community so we can continue to grow and build a thriving Jewish community for all of us and for the next generation.”

At the end of her remarks, Mintz introduced the outgoing Chair of the Board, Rob Kaufmann who thanked outgoing members of the Board: Tiffany Glucksman Appel, Jodi Cooper, Lisa Mintz, and Mike Sophir. He also welcomed incoming members: Kendra Goldstein, Brandon Rattiner, Aza Squarer, Alan Brandt, and Mark Sidell.

And then it was time for the gavel hand-off, as Kaufmann welcomed the new Board Chair, Ben Lusher. In this case, the gavel took second place to the handing off of a baseball bat, as Lusher presented Kaufmann with a bat signed by Liev Schreiber (memorializing his role as Ray Donovan).

Rob Kaufmann and Ben LusherLusher ended the evening with four words for JEWISHcolorado to live by. “Convene. Connect. Invest. Protect. That’s our focus for the coming year,” Lusher said. “That’s how we are working to build an inclusive, vibrant and secure Jewish community that we can all be proud of.”