June 2, 2020 – The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is rolling out the red carpet to honor six community leaders and spotlight the good work happening in and around Jewish Houston. The virtual awards ceremony, which honors both lay leaders and Jewish communal professionals, will be held at 7 pm on Thursday, June 18, 2020.
All community members and Jewish communal professionals are encouraged to logon as the people and organizations who power Jewish life in Houston take center stage.
The honorees for the 2020 Federation Community Leadership Awards are as follows: Hans Mayer Jewish Communal Professional Award, Dena Marks, Anti-Defamation League (ADL); Barbara & Harold Falik Young Leadership Award, Aliza Plotkin; Ben Susholtz Young Leadership Award, Luis F. Gomar; Harold Reingold Yavneh Award for Jewish Educators, Ariel Rozen, Beth Yeshurun Day School; Irving L. Samuels Outstanding Teacher Awards for Judaic Studies, Fran C. Brochstein, Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism, and Eileen Elfezouaty, The Emery/Weiner School.
“Houston’s Jewish community is powered by a network of professionals and volunteers who consistently go above and beyond to meet the many needs of our community. We look forward to honoring this year’s award recipients while also celebrating the incredible efforts happening across our community each and every day,” said Federation President and CEO Kari Dunn Saratovsky.
Hans Mayer Jewish Communal Professional Award
The Hans Mayer Award honors an outstanding Jewish Communal Professional in the greater Houston Jewish community whose career is distinguished by creative thinking and strong interpersonal relationships with lay leadership and professional colleagues. The award recipient serves as a Jewish role model in the community.
Dena Marks is the Senior Associate Director of the ADL Southwest Region, where she has worked for over 20 years. Her main responsibility at ADL is publicity, but she also serves as a liaison with law enforcement, facilitates various training sessions, coordinates regional fact finding, handles some discrimination complaints, staffs ADL’s International Affairs Committee, Security Committee and coordinates interfaith security issues for the region.
Marks is the point person on hate crimes for ADL in the Southwest region. She has helped advocate for stronger hate crime laws, has trained law enforcement officers and others on hate crimes and extremism, and has worked with the targets of hate to respond to incidents and crimes.
Barbara & Harold Falik and Ben Susholtz Young Leadership Awards
The two young leadership awards recognize outstanding young female and male leaders, who are actively involved across the Houston Jewish community in a leadership capacity and demonstrate a potential for greater future leadership. The award recipients have active involvement with Jewish causes, issues, or organizations.
Aliza Plotkin is currently completing her two-year term as the NCJW Greater Houston Section’s president and in August will be installed as a member of the NCJW National Board, making her the first representative from Houston in over a decade. She is a member of the PJ Library committee, headed up the Mishpacha & Me committee, served on the planning committee for several Paradigm Project conferences, and is an active volunteer at the Becker School. She also works as a consultant with the Federation and local Jewish preschools, facilitating communities of practices, leading workshops, supporting family engagement, and working as a teacher mentor.
Luis F. Gomar is the acting Secretary and Treasurer of The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Holocaust Museum Houston since 2018. Nationally, he has served on the Emergency Committee for the Jewish Federations of North America since 2016, and served on the Houston Jewish Federation Flood Committee in the aftermath of Harvey. He is a member of JFNA’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, proudly representing Houston. He is a partner in Baker McKenzie’s North America Energy Transactions Group.
Harold Reingold Yavneh Award for Jewish Educators
The prestigious Harold Reingold Yavneh Award for Jewish Educators is given each year to a supervisor or administration of Jewish education at any level, including early childhood, day school, congregational school, informal or adult education program.
Ariel Rozen is the Principal of Jewish Life and Admissions Advisor at Beth Yeshurun Day School and brings a fresh approach including innovative programming such as Pesach experiences, Yom Ha’Atzmaut interactive centers, and a myriad of student-led chesed projects. She shares her love of Judaism and Israel and is a role model to her colleagues, students, and the families in the school community. Rozen has led the Jewish Life component of Beth Yeshurun Day School for over a decade as a classroom teacher, mentor, and administrator.
Irving L. Samuels Outstanding Teacher Awards for Judaic Studies
The Irving L. Samuels Outstanding Teacher Awards are given to two outstanding Jewish educators in the Greater Houston area whose current primary role is classroom teaching in Judaic subject matter.
Fran C. Brochstein has taught and mentored students for HCRJ’s B’nai Mitzvah Program for more than 10 years and participates in their social action group. For the 2018-2019 school year, she acted as HCJR’s interim director of education. Additionally, she offers one-on-one art experiences to kids, teens and young adults of all abilities at her current practice, BOOST heARTs, LLC. Brochstein’s career is based on a commitment to raise a child’s self-image and to help empower parents. This marks 24 years as an art educator and art therapist, previously working with Houston students at The Westview School, Avondale House and The Tenney School, implementing all original curriculum.
Eileen Elfezouaty has been teaching for 16 years in both Chicago and Houston. Previously a research scientist at Honeywell, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Lockheed Martin at NASA, she trained in the Montessori Method and completed the degree while she had three young children at home, ages 7, 4 and 1, all while she was working full time as a teacher at Goldberg Montessori School. She has taught using the Montessori approach, the traditional approach, a combination of both, and many different styles in between. She currently teaches sixth-graders at The Emery/Weiner School. She loves learning Torah with her students and being able to discuss Judaism with children from many different backgrounds.
Preregister for the Zoom meeting and see the award winners’ full bios here.