2023 CHOICES showcases Women’s Philanthropy and Golda Award

2023 CHOICES showcases Women’s Philanthropy and Golda Award

Oct 12, 2023

The tables in the Sheraton Denver Downtown were packed with more than 500 guests aligned with JEWISHcolorado’s Women’s Philanthropy program at this year’s CHOICES event on October 10.

Just 84 hours after the Hamas attack on Israel, this was a night for members of the Jewish community to come together in solidarity, grieve for those who had died or were kidnapped, and show their support for Israel and the Colorado Jewish community.

“This is not the party we planned,” JEWISHcolorado President and CEO Renée Rockford said in her opening remarks which set the tone for the evening. “Yet, it is more important than ever that we are here, and we are together. We join in our mourning and our pain, and we join together in our responding and in our healing.”

“Seeing you all here tonight gives me courage,” added JEWISHcolorado Board Chair Ben Lusher. “You all showed up here tonight and we could not be more grateful for your presence, resilience, and generosity. Our courage is going to be tested as this war unfolds. But please trust me when I tell you that JEWISHcolorado will be here every step of the way.”

JEWISHcolorado’s four Shinshinim began the evening by somberly lighting candles of remembrance and candles of hope, as Michelle Cohn Levy of B’nail Vail sang “Lu Yehi,” a song written and composed during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Shinshinim, Renee Rockford and Ben Lusher at CHOICES 2023

This was also an evening to honor Diana Zeff Anderson with the 2023 Golda Award and to hear keynote speaker and NPR host Ari Shapiro speak and sing.

Rockford acknowledged the power of women’s philanthropy with personal memories of her mother.

“She was active in Israel in her own way, through Hadassah and Hadassah Hospital in Israel, the Sisterhood, Jewish National Fund, and everything for her local synagogue, from sewing the blue, velvet Torah covers to baking every week for Oneg Shabbat,” Rockford said. “From growing up in her shadow, I would say to you: “Never underestimate the power, determination, resourcefulness, or intellect of a woman.”

To cheers and extended applause, Lusher acknowledged Rockford’s trailblazing role at JEWISHcolorado.

“For the first time in JEWISHcolorado’s history, we are being led by a fulltime female president and CEO,” Lusher said. “Renée, your leadership has been both inspiring and transformational, and I want to thank you for all that you are doing for the Jewish community in Colorado.”

The Golda Award

One of the highlights of CHOICES was honoring Diana Zeff Anderson with the Golda Award.

Event chairs Shari Graham and Pam Jinkerson, both descendants of Holocaust survivors, introduced this part of the program by asking their 10-year-old daughters, along with the daughters of Ben and Nicole Lusher, to present flowers to all the of past Golda Award honorees. Jackie Sprinces Wong and Robin Chotin introduced this year’s Golda Award winner, Diana Zeff Anderson.

Past Golda winner, Jackie Sprinces Wong at CHOICES 2023.

Golda Meir was Israel’s first and only female prime minister, a woman who often credited the years she spent in Denver for her social justice values. The award is presented by JEWISHcolorado’s Women’s Philanathropy divison to a woman who exemplifies compassion, courage and hands-on leadership, in addition to generous philanthropy.

An emotional Zeff Anderson, who lived in Israel for 24 years, began her remarks by acknowledging the service of the brave soldiers of the IDF and her thoughts for everyone in Israel.

“I am concerned for my family in Israel, for my son who is working for our safety around the clock, for my daughter-in-law and my two grandsons, and my other son who was called up to reserves and is serving our country.”

She went on to plead with members of the audience to think of others during this crisis.

Diana Zeff Anderson receives the Golda Meir Award at CHOICES 2023

“It is truly an honor to be honored but it is also very uncomfortable for me,” Zeff Anderson said. “The work I do in the Jewish community is about the impact I can make and not about me.

“Together we are so much greater than we are on our own. If I ask each one of you, ‘Why are you here today and what matters to you, not everyone would have the same answer. But whatever brought you here today it enables us as a collective to support the people of Israel through this crisis.

“The part of JEWISHcolorado that I find meaningful is knowing that we can facilitate a deep connection to the people of Israel. Please give to the JEWISHcolorado Annual Campaign and please give to the Israel Emergency Fund. Your people need you.”

Ari Shapiro

Ari Shapiro, an award-winning journalist and a host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” discussed his debut memoir, The Best Strangers in the World, and his start at NPR as a summer intern and editorial assistant. Referencing the events of October 7 in Israel, what some are calling Israel’s 9/11, Shapiro told a story about Bob Edwards, NPR’s first and longest-serving host of “Morning Edition.” On 9/11, Shapiro gathered journalists around him and said, “In these moments of national trauma and tragedy, chaos and turmoil everyone wonders how they can be helpful and what role they can play. We are fortunate that, as journalists, we know what our role is. We tell the story.”

“I believe it is very important to have what Bob Edwards described on that day—trusted, independent voices whose only job is to tell the story,” Shapiro said. “I have incredible colleagues who are in Israel now doing that work.”

Ari Shapiro at CHOICES 2023

Shapiro went on to talk about reporting experiences that had left him hopeful about people, including time he spent at Temple Emanuel in Pueblo and at a synagogue in Lublin, Poland during the war in Ukraine. His book he said is “about the power of listening, opening ourselves to other people’s stories.”

“If I can help you understand someone, If I can help you see someone, what you do with that understanding, insight, and knowledge is up to you.”

Before leaving, Shapiro treated the audience to a couple of samples of his “side gig” as a frequent guest singer with Pink Martini. He ended the evening with his rendition of “When the earth stops turning.”

For more information about Women’s Philanthropy, please contact Roberta Witkow at rwitkow@jewishcolorado.org.