NYC Honorees Highlight OU Dinner, March 27 at Grand Hyatt
The Orthodox Union will hold its 112th Dinner and Awards Presentation at the Grand Hyatt New York, Sunday March 27, beginning at 5:00 p.m. It follows by three months the OU’s highly successful Biennial National Convention, held in New Jersey, which drew 700 people for a Sunday One Day Conference on Jewish Life.
Preceding the Dinner, from 12:00 noon – 6:00 p.m., also at the Grand Hyatt, the OU will present its third Emerging Jewish Communities Home and Job Relocation Fair, at which 38 communities from Maine (Bangor) to California (Sacramento) will meet with New Yorkers interested in relocating, to apprise them of the virtues of their home areas. Representatives of the communities will be among the guests attending the dinner.
The dinner will honor Gustave Jacobs of Forest Hills (Queens) with the Lifetime Achievement Award; Dr. Marcy and Dr. Sylvan Schaffer of Hillcrest (Queens) with the National Community Service Award; and Mordecai (Moti) and Halina Schwartz of Staten Island, with the Distinguished (Synagogue) President and First Lady Award.
Every year the Dinner honors a company that has been certified for many years by OU Kosher, with the National Kashrut Leadership Award. This year the company is Nestlé Nutrition, with the award being accepted by Rick Jentis, Head of Marketing, Infant Formula and Infant Cereal. In addition, there will be a special tribute to Gerry Kean, upon his retirement from Ventura Foods, LLC, with the Professional Commitment Award.
“Our distinguished honorees this year represent everything the Orthodox Union stands for: high levels of achievement, community service, leadership in the synagogue world, and the highest standards of kashrut,” declared Dr. Simcha Katz, OU President. “They were well chosen, and we are grateful to them for everything they have accomplished and for the example they set for us all.”
Gustave Jacobs, an escapee from the Nazis, in his noble words felt compelled “to do something for Yiddishkeit.” He has certainly succeeded, including almost five decades of OU involvement. In 2006 he and his wife endowed the “Henriette and Gustave Jacobs Chair in Kashrut Education,” which sponsors a variety of programs to teach the finer points of kosher law. (Mrs. Jacobs died in 2008.)
According to OU Board Chairman (and immediate Past President) Stephen J. Savitsky, “Some individuals are born leaders who step up to the plate and serve, but Gus Jacobs is one of the rare few who did this without fanfare or titles. He’s evolved into the role of elder statesman, the kind of person who spans the generations. His worldly knowledge, success and activism make him the perfect advisor; we all look to Gus for advice and guidance.”
Drs. Marcy and Sylvan Schaffer, both renowned Orthodox mental health professionals (Sylvan Schaffer is also an attorney), invest most of their time helping the Jewish community live fuller, happier lives. For nine years and running, they have offered their expertise at the OU’s Positive Marriage retreats and Positive Jewish Parenting workshops across the country.
They work together with Frank Buchweitz, OU National Director of Community Services | Jewish Communal Programming and Special Projects, discussing which salient topics to cover for the widely attended programs. “Marriage is the foundation of the family and the family is crucial to Yiddishkeit,” says Sylvan. “Helping families stay together, issues of childrearing, helping children remain religious, it’s critical to have community involvement.” The Schaffers’ constant contributions demonstrate the quintessence of dedicated community involvement.
Mordecai and Halina Schwartz moved to Staten Island in 1985, in search of a welcoming Torah community, where they could raise a committed Jewish family and make a difference. They’ve succeeded in both and the community continues to thank them.
The Schwartzes hit the ground running; as their children grew, they served on both the Jewish Foundation School’s parent advisory board and PTA. Mordecai demonstrated his adept community leadership skills at the Young Israel of Staten Island, first as public affairs director, then vice president and most recently as shul president. Over the course of three years, he expedited the renovation of the mikveh into a state of the art facility, launched a series of scholar-in-residence programs, and presented live telecast shiurim featuring Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, among others. Active in the synagogue’s Women’s League, Halina initiated the Torah for Women by Women monthly shiur, bringing in renowned speakers. “Our goal was to have Torah learning in the shul every day and night of the week,” says Mordecai.
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