Yesterday, the Federation presented the Ira and Nanette Gordon Award to Emily Richman, the Federation’s Assistant Campaign Director. The Gordon Award is presented to a professional from the Federation or one of our ten beneficiary agencies who is in the early years of his/her career. Instead of writing to you this week, I want to share what Emily so beautifully said to all of us in attendance at the award ceremony. I think she encapsulates not only why she works at the Federation but why this is such a great Jewish community. Shabbat Shalom.
Thank you for the very kind introduction and thank you all for being here this morning.
When I was named the recipient of the Ira and Nanette Gordon Professional Achievement Award, I felt honored for so many reasons. Obviously it is wonderful to be recognized for my professional achievements. It is also special to be included amongst past recipients whom I hold in great esteem. But I was particularly honored to receive an award established by Ira and Nanette Gordon, a couple whose lifetime commitment has enhanced our Pittsburgh Jewish community in so many ways – and with whom I have had the opportunity to work closely with over the years.
The Gordon’s established the award that I accept today to say thank you to the professionals in our community who help sustain a vibrant and enduring Pittsburgh Jewish experience from cradle to grave. We provide a diverse array of services to our community: from childcare and Jewish education, to Jewish philanthropy and volunteerism, to care for the aging…and so much more! Each one of us plays an important role.
My path to Jewish communal service was unexpected. Nearly 12 years ago, I happened upon a job posting for the Shalom Pittsburgh Associate. The position involved planning events to engage young adults who weren’t connected to the Jewish community. It was a perfect fit as I was one of those young adults. I applied and, thankfully, I was hired.
This single event changed the course of my life both professionally and personally.
Professionally, I have had the opportunity to help build a thriving, vibrant and engaged Jewish community. Personally, I have seen how impactful our work can be.
As many of you know, I met my husband, Rob, at a Shalom Pittsburgh happy hour – several years after I finished staffing Shalom Pittsburgh. Two years to the day after we met, we married and shortly after that, we traveled together to Israel on the Federation’s Centennial Mega Mission, a trip designed to inspire the next generation of community leaders. During the mission, Rob put a note in the Western Wall praying for a child when the time was right. Approximately 9 months later we welcomed our daughter Addison.
As you can see, my Jewish professional life has had a profound impact on my personal life.
As my family has grown, the influence of our work has become even more apparent to me. Our daughters, Addison and Reagan, attend the Early Childhood Development Center at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. Almost daily, we read books to our girls provided by PJ Library, a Jewish family engagement program. As a family, we have celebrated many holidays with our Jewish community, including Tot Shabbats at Temple Sinai; Purim at the Squirrel Hill Purim Carnival; iFest celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut; Lag B’Omer and Shavuot with Chabad Fox Chapel; Rosh Hashanah at Shalom Pittsburgh’s Apples and Honey Fall Festival; Hanukkah at Shalom Pittsburgh’s Vodka/Latke; and, of course, the Volunteer Center’s Mitzvah Day and Good Deeds Day.
These events create an invaluable community fabric that is enduring and deepens our connection to our Jewish traditions. And as an event planner, I know that these programs are only possible through the hard work of our Jewish communal staff.
But the Jewish community isn’t just there for the good times. During challenging times, my family was not alone thanks to the compassionate care provided by the Jewish Association on Aging and Sivitz Jewish Hospice and Palliative Care. My husband and I are deeply appreciative for the services provided to our grandparents as their health declined.
Throughout history, the Jewish people have found strength in Torah and in the community. Our community was there for us when we needed a helping hand and I find that our greatest strength lies in our connection to each other. This underscores the teachings in our Torah and the importance of our work.
Our life as Jews compels us to perform Tikkun Olam, to repair the world. It is truly remarkable how our collective mission statement not only helps us to build a stronger community. I believe it also leads to a more complete and content self. This has been my experience and I am so grateful that my professional life allows me to help others while instilling the values and honoring the traditions that I have grown to love and cherish.
What started out as a job 12 years ago has become not only a career, but a passion. I have had the incredible opportunity to work with and learn from so many other Jewish communal professionals. Collaboration has not just been a buzzword for me – it has been my motto. And as I look out into this room, I see so many people who I’ve collaborated with in one way or another over the years. I thank each of you for dedicating yourself to our Pittsburgh Jewish community and for making a difference in my life and the life of my family. I share this award with each of you.
Thank you again to the Gordon Family and to each of you for joining me here today to celebrate. And, of course, a very special thanks to my husband and family for their love and support and for encouraging me to do the work that I love.