Home January 2022 The Irving “Papa” Gelman Leadership Award- Jackie Menter

The Irving “Papa” Gelman Leadership Award- Jackie Menter

The Irving “Papa” Gelman Leadership Award was established in 2019 to recognize an Orange County Jewish Community leader who makes an impact beyond the community in which they live, is a tireless volunteer for the community, and has recognizable accomplishments.  Papa had the ability to identify a need, formulate a plan and motivate others to help bring that plan to fruition.  We are pleased to announce that the winner of the Third Annual Irving “Papa” Gelman Leadership Award is Jacqueline (Jackie) Menter.  In many ways, Jackie – who is a co-founder of the Orange County Jewish Coalition for Refugees (OCJCR) – has followed Papa’s example and accomplished what might be seen as impossible, while leading and inspiring many in our community.
    OCJCR provides multiple avenues for people to become involved with refugee relief, from political advocacy to fundraising to hands-on work resettling families and asylees. Community partners include Home for Refugees, HIAS, and Haitian Bridge Alliance. OCJCR is a beacon of coalition building within the OC Jewish community, uniting Jews from all backgrounds and non-Jewish community members together in common purpose: Providing hope and support to a vulnerable population that, like our ancestors who came to America seeking safety and opportunity, are eager to make America their home and contribute to society. Papa Gelman would be incredibly proud that his legacy is associated with this holy effort and its leadership.
    Jackie is a compassionate woman with many talents. An accomplished cellist with a graduate degree from Manhattan School of Music, Jackie has played with orchestras in New York and California and currently plays with the Redlands Symphony. Jackie’s Jewish journey began at age thirteen during her first visit to Israel when she fell in love with the Hebrew language and the land. Fluent in conversational Hebrew, Jackie began taking classes at her local JCC while in high school, continued during her undergraduate years at Brandeis University and is currently in an online ulpan offered by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. She returned to Israel several times during high school with Sar-El Volunteers for Israel.
    Jackie met husband, Scott Menter, at Brandeis.  When the young couple moved to California, Jackie and Scott joined Congregation B’nai Israel. Their now-adult children, Aviel and Shira, attended Morasha Jewish Day School. Jackie served on the Boards of Morasha and the American Jewish Committee prior to being hired as the Assistant Director of OC’s AJC office, a position she held for four years. Recruited by Jewish Federation of Orange County, during her ten years of service, Jackie’s accomplishments included growing their Young Leadership Division (now NextGen), launching OC’s local chapter of PJ Library and leading Federation-sponsored Birthright trips.
    Jackie attributes her passion to help mitigate the worldwide refugee crisis to the plight of millions of European Jews trying to escape persecution and the horrors of the Holocaust. The story of Ann Frank’s father petitioning the U.S. government for a visa to no avail – one of millions of Jews whose pleas went unheard by countries that could have saved them – struck a dissonant chord deep within her. In 2016, Jackie made the first of three humanitarian trip to Chios, Greece to work with pregnant women, new mothers and their infants displaced from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa living in overcrowded refugee camps. Among her duties was helping these women navigate unsanitary conditions as safely as possible and serving as a medical advocate.
    As news of Jackie’s volunteer work with refugees spread, community members looking to help with this humanitarian crisis reached out. In 2017, with the help of the Jewish Collaborative of OC and Temple Bat Yahm, Jackie and Deb Siminou raised $30,000 on behalf of the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, an organization that, at the time, was working with Israel to provide aid to thousands of displaced persons in the region. Later that year, CBI social justice chairs Beth Katlen and Nancy Neudorf contacted Jackie to explore how they could work together. In January of 2018, the OC Jewish Coalition for Refugees held its first meeting and, within six months, fourteen synagogues and organizations were represented in the growing coalition that now mobilizes volunteers from throughout the county.
    The Irving “Papa” Gelman Leadership Award committee is chaired by Lou Weiss for the Gelman family, and members include Wendy Arenson of OC’s Jewish Community Foundation; Hal Altman with JCCOC; Rabbi Yisroel Ciner of Beth Jacob Irvine; Franki Cohen for the Samson Family; Steve Kaufman, immediate past president of Tarbut V’Torah; Rabbi Peter Levi with the ADL; Rabbi Stuart Light of TVT’s Jewish Life and Learning; Arlene Miller, past President & CEO of JFOC; Rabbi Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel; Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum of Chabad of Irvine; and Rabbi Gersh Zylberman of Temple Bat Yahm.
    Award recipients receive an $18,000 account at the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County, from which they may direct gifts to Jewish 501(c)(3) organizations in OC. Nominations of future awards can be submitted at www.GelmanAward.com.
    Mazal Tov and lead on, Jackie!

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