Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh


"The world rests upon three things:
Torah, avodah (worship), and gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness)."
— Pirkei Avot 1:2

The Jewish Federation's Volunteer of the Year Program

Since 1997, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has invited nonprofit Jewish organizations to nominate outstanding volunteers for recognition through the Federation’s Volunteer of the Year (VOY) program.

A VOY honoree has — or a pair of honorees who have worked extensively together have — devoted significant time and energy to the nominating organization, served in a variety of capacities within the organization, and demonstrated dedication to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community as a whole. 

The program recognizes that volunteers form one of the pillars on which the Jewish community is built.

For information about the Jewish Federation’s Volunteer of the Year Program, email

2017 VOY Award Recipients

The individuals described below are the recipients of the 2017 Jewish Federation Volunteer of the Year Awards — and the gratitude of their organizations, the people their work benefits, and Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

See pictures of VOY recipients honored at the Annual Meeting on Facebook.

All photos below were created by Sanford Riemer except as noted.


DeDe FinkDeDe Fink
DeDe Fink and her family have grown up at Adat Shalom. As a member since the congregation’s infancy, DeDe has put her imprint on the synagogue community.

For 16 consecutive years, DeDe has served on the Adat Shalom board, in a variety of positions, including vice president and Sisterhood president. She served as co-president of the Sisterhood 2008–2010 and from 2013 to the present.

Adat Shalom is fortunate to have DeDe as long-time kindergarten teacher. In a warm and kind environment, she lovingly introduces the youngest children to formal Jewish education. After they have finished the kindergarten program, most students come back to visit DeDe on their way to their new classes.

DeDe is an avid learner and a promoter of adult education. She is an organizer of social events, serving, for example, as chair of the Gala Event, which honors her friend and Adat Shalom’s past president, Joan Ettinger. DeDe is always available to make a phone call to encourage others to participate in happenings at the synagogue. 

Adat Shalom is fortunate to have DeDe Fink as a member and proud to nominate her as a 2017 Jewish Federation Volunteer of the Year.


Jan-MankinJan Mankin
From the moment Jan Mankin joined the Adath Jeshurun Cemetery Board, she took a hands-on approach with an endearing smile and welcoming attitude. Jan has added a fresh outlook on issues and is eager to work with others. She undertook brochure development and distribution and used the brochure as an inroad to viable markets. As a member of the Fundraising Committee, she provided ideas and implementation. She reached out to others with a personal touch, inviting them to attend functions. Jan provided active support to the annual “Salute to Our Veterans” event. She was there all afternoon, helping participating youth. Jan’s enthusiasm for whatever project she undertakes is contagious. People just love being with Jan and on her team, where in all discussions she balances pros and cons from experience.

Adath Jeshurun Cemetery nominated Jan as a Volunteer of the Year as a way of showing the organization’s respect for her and appreciation of the value of her involvement.


Yvonne-GersonYvonne Gerson
Vonnie Gerson is the bookkeeper at Aleph Institute, where she provides support for the institute in many ways. She does her work quietly and without fanfare, spending many hours every month assisting with Aleph’s programs and services and making sure all runs smoothly.


Marshall-Hershberg_Eleanor-HershbergDr. Marshall and Eleanor Hershberg
Through American Friends of Israel War Disabled, Dr. Marshall and Eleanor Hershberg have offered invaluable support to disabled Israeli veterans who come for a two-week visit to Pittsburgh.

First and foremost, the Hershbergs are warm and welcoming. In addition, their ability to speak fluent Hebrew allows them to communicate effectively with the veterans and helps non–Hebrew speakers understand the visitors. The Hershbergs accompany the delegation of veterans on many of the visitors’ outings — on a two-day visit to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, for example. They accompanied veterans to the Yom HaZikaron visit to Ohiopyle, to the Flight 93 Memorial, and on many other trips.

The Hershbergs offer informed opinions, ideas, and advice that enrich American Friends of Israel War Disabled. Their volunteer support has been invaluable input to the 43-year-old organization.


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Lisa Oleinick
Lisa Oleinick currently serves Beth El Congregation as a member of the Board of Trustees, and she has been an integral part of planning activities to observe the congregation’s 100th anniversary — in particular, in coordinating the Party of the Century event. In addition, throughout her long membership at Beth El, Lisa has been a dedicated volunteer on committees relating to programming and fundraising. 


Joshua-SwedarskyJoshua Swedarsky
Beth Hamedrash Hagodol–Beth Jacob Congregation, a shul maintaining Orthodox Jewish traditions and providing a welcoming environment for anyone practicing Judaism, proudly recognizes Josh Swedarsky as a Jewish Federation Volunteer of the Year. Josh helps with the strength of daily minyans and contributes greatly to the publicity of the shul, the only congregation in the downtown vicinity.



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Naomi Weisberg Siegel
Classrooms Without Borders (CWB) recognizes Naomi Weisberg Siegel as a Volunteer of the Year because Naomi has given generously of her time and talent in helping CWB achieve its mission. 

Naomi serves on the CWB Advisory Board, and her guidance has been essential to CWB’s success. Out of dedication to mission, Naomi has participated in CWB study seminars and community programming, and she has mentored educators and students. Despite Naomi’s busy schedule, she is always available to help. She is a trusted advisor and a generous and loyal friend of CWB, which values and relies on her input and direction. 


Dana-HimmelDana Himmel
Volunteering at Community Day School (CDS) has given Dana Himmel a way to feel connected to her children and their school — and to model the Jewish values of tikkun olam, tzedakah, and chesed that she has taught them to embrace.

Dana’s older son, Sammy, graduated from CDS in 2014 and is a junior at The University School. Her younger son, Benji, is in 8th grade at CDS. Her husband, Alan, graduated from CDS in 1984.

Dana served as the volunteer team parent for CDS cross-country sports for many years, organizing carpools, snacks, and fun events. She was head of the CDS Sports Committee and introduced the “team parent” model to other middle school sports. Over the years, Dana has taken on practically every other available volunteer job at the school, from room parent to packing mishloach manot at Purim to Parent Association president. Every other Wednesday she brings doughnuts for the biweekly Student Council fundraiser, and she assumed a leadership role in raising money for the CDS Class of 2017 Israel Trip.

Dana understands how the smallest volunteer tasks make a huge difference at CDS. “One day I spent a few hours photocopying for a teacher,” she says. “It seems like such a silly thing, but it freed the teacher to be working with our children.”

Most important to Dana, her volunteer work at CDS sets an example for her sons. “Kids don’t necessarily understand what it means to go to a meeting,” she says, “but when they see me working at school, I am modeling for them in a tangible way the Jewish values that are so important to our family. They’ve also been blessed to learn these values organically, day in and day out, for nine years at CDS, in an educational experience we couldn’t have duplicated anywhere else.”


Burton-DodickBurton Dodick
The Board of Directors of Congregation Ahavath Achim was unanimous in its selection of Burton Dodick as the congregation’s Jewish Federation Volunteer of the Year for 2017. Burt, a regular attendee at Shabbos services for many years, has long taken responsibility for supervising and setting up the weekly Kiddush luncheons that follow the services. Burt does the shopping each week to ensure a bountiful array of lox, bagels, fruit, pastries, and the like for shul members and guests. His selfless devotion to the shul has been unwavering. He has the thanks of all who have been the beneficiaries of his efforts to provide a pleasant conclusion to services. Burton truly deserves Volunteer of the Year recognition.


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Dr. Steven M. Albert
One of Dr. Albert’s first volunteer roles at Beth Shalom was as coordinator of the Library Minyan. Later, when Shabbat services grew, Dr. Albert again took the lead by helping to organize the Pesukei deZimra/Shaharit and Mussaf. He has been a key volunteer leader at Congregation Beth Shalom’s religious services. His initiative has helped many come together each week for Shabbat. Dr. Albert has been an active member of the congregation for more than 10 years, and Beth Shalom is thrilled to honor him with Volunteer of the Year recognition.


Robert-HaldenRobert Halden
For years Robert Halden has been a willing and faithful volunteer at Congregation Emanu-El Israel, Greensburg. In past years he worked on the major fundraiser, The Taste of Westmoreland. Currently, he serves on the congregation’s Board of Trustees. He is active in working with the Rauh Jewish Archives, at the Sen. John Heinz History Center, to preserve congregational history. In yet another role, Bob reviews the congregation’s newsletter, removing any personal information that should not be online. Then he posts the remaining content on Congregation Emanu-El Israel’s website. Bob participates in the 2017 Chai Mitzvah program being offered by Congregation Emanu-El Israel in conjunction with several other Reform synagogues. A consistent contributor to Purim shpiels, he is also known for contributing to the repair work that he and other members of the Men's Club do around the building. Bob rounds out his volunteering on behalf of the congregation by helping his wife, Shoshana, set up ongei Shabbat.


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Rob Kraftowitz and Janice Gordon
At Dor Hadash, a “do-it-yourself congregation” without a rabbi, everyone pitches in. Rob Kraftowitz and Janice Gordon have been pitching in for more than 30 years. They have served as committee chairs and board members — activities they say have brought great satisfaction. Along with many others, they have helped with services, celebrations, hospitality activities, and ad hoc work.


John-SpearJohn Spear
John Spear, current president of Forward Shady Housing Corporation, has served in that office since 2014. He plays an integral role on the Capital Improvements Committee, which recently implemented improvements to the apartments and common areas inside and outside the Forward Shady Apartments, an affordable senior-housing complex. For residents, John established cultural entertainment programs about arts and music. He improved wellness programs by adding exercise machines, bikes, and weights and featuring speakers who highlighted wellness-related topics. 


Alex SpeckAlex Speck
Alex Speck is a well-known volunteer and activist in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. To The Friendship Circle, Alex is the sports coach. He runs the sports league, and kids attend just to be part of his activities. Alex is the pied piper of Jewish youth sports!


Barbara-ScheinbergBarbara Scheinberg
Barbara Scheinberg is Hadassah Pittsburgh’s past president. She spent three years in office, creating, inventing, and thinking of new ways to make Hadassah more successful. She went beyond creativity by thinking “outside the box” to create newsworthy events.


Dayna-GreenfieldDayna Greenfield
Since 2013, Dayna Greenfield has served as a volunteer coach for the girls’ basketball, track, and cross-country teams at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. Her presence at the Orthodox Jewish day school is a boon. Dayna is a dedicated, caring and energetic coach. Her involvement in the Athletics and Club Department has allowed us to offer numerous athletic opportunities to our female students, such as track, cross-country, and basketball.


Elliott-OshryElliott Oshry
Photo digitally remastered by Sanford Riemer 
Elliott Oshry has generously given of his time to help Hillel JUC with the Campus Superstar event. He has assembled a terrific Host Committee and organized and galvanized members to promote the event.


Steven-SmigaDr. Steven Smiga
Dr. Steven Smiga gives both financial and moral support to the Holocaust Center. In September 2016 he helped to bring to Pittsburgh both Father Patrick Desbois and the exhibition Holocaust by Bullets. Without Dr. Smiga, the Holocaust Center could not have offered these landmark presentations.


Judy-GrumetJudy Grumet
Judy Grumet plays a pivotal role at the Jewish Assistance Fund. She coordinates volunteer grantors’ schedules, ensuring regular client meetings. In addition, she processes client information, ensuring that disbursements are sent to accurate contact information.


Enid-MillerEnid Miller
Enid Miller joined the board of the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA) in 2003 and has been going strong ever since!

Upon joining the board, she immediately put her many years in the banking industry to work on JAA’s Finance Committee, which benefited from her phenomenal experience with financial statements and reporting. To the amazement of JAA’s financial team, Enid then spent hours with the CFO and internal staff, learning the complex ins and outs of long-term care billing regulations. Her willingness and dedication to gaining a deep knowledge in this area was astounding.

Enid remains a member of the Finance Committee, where her knowledge and dedication continue to be a strong asset to board and management.


Malke-FrankMalke Frank
Malke Frank has been a tireless and passionate member of The Jewish Chronicle’s board for many years. She is always there and always volunteers for whatever is needed, even at the last minute. For years she delivered the papers to our bulk drop-off points.


Harold-SegalHarold Segal
CheckMates — a program of AgeWell Pittsburgh, managed by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh — is a by-telephone reassurance program in which adult volunteers make weekly calls to older adults who may be isolated, homebound, or lonely. Harold Segal has been a CheckMates volunteer in the South Hills for the past nine years. Harold meets with the CheckMates group every Friday and makes at least 20 calls weekly. (On one of the very few Fridays that he missed the CheckMates meeting, he had a great reason: He was celebrating his 90th birthday.)

His care of others extends beyond the phone list: One day Harold noticed that he had not seen one of the SilverSneakers participants in a long time. Harold contacted the man, who was thrilled to know that someone was thinking about him. Now Harold calls the man every Friday, and they have developed a by-phone friendship.

Harold has gotten to know his contacts very well and has provided enthusiasm and emotional support in regard to their simchas and challenges. Harold always has a positive attitude, and he shares that positivity with everyone around him. He has mentioned that his volunteering provides just as much enjoyment and support for himself as it does for the people he calls.


Jeff-HerzogJeff Herzog
Jeff Herzog volunteers for Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS), on average, 20 hours per week, helping adult refugees new to Pittsburgh find permanent jobs. Of JF&CS’s many loyal volunteers, Jeff is among the most dedicated.

Jeff has an amazing ability to develop contacts with potential employers and to match refugees with jobs. Commenting on Jeff’s work, JF&CS Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services Leslie Aizenman said, “Thanks to Jeff, employment options have opened up in many sectors, including hotels, manufacturing, banking, property management, and packaging.” Jeff’s success at finding jobs in which his clients stay for more than six months is over 95%. Because of employment that Jeff has helped arrange, many clients and their families have become self-sufficient, and some who came to JF&CS as job seekers have risen through their organizations through promotion. 


Stuart-HarrisStuart “Stu” Harris
The compassion Stu shows in his volunteer work for the Jewish Federation Volunteer Center is an inspiration. He is a dedicated volunteer in terms of giving of himself and back to the Pittsburgh Jewish community and to the city as a whole. Stu has a wonderful ability to work with a variety of people and always brings a sense of cheerfulness to the volunteer experience. As a selfless volunteer, he sets a great example for those around him. His extra effort, dedication, insights, and opinions are all extremely valuable to the success of his Volunteer Center projects.


Carole-BaileyCarole Bailey
Carole Bailey is an active member of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s board and the chair of the Audit Committee. In addition, she is actively involved and supportive of key foundation initiatives relative to public health and health policy.


Robert-RosenthalRobert Rosenthal
Bob Rosenthal, a member of the Jewish Residential Services Board of Directors, has worked tirelessly on behalf of JRS, donating countless hours to the design and development process of the new JRS building, Krause Commons.


Dovie-SaulRabbi Dovie Saul
Rabbi Dovie Saul makes a tremendous impact in regard to creating a welcoming environment at Lubavitch Center. He co-directs the Junior Minyan for young boys ages 8–13. In his gentle and unassuming manner, he guides the boys through the prayers and Torah reading. With rewards and praises for participation, Junior Minyan participants are always eager to be present on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Rabbi Saul makes sure that the services are meaningful and enjoyable, encouraging the children to take leading roles where appropriate.

Lubavitch Center of Pittsburgh congratulates Dovie on this recognition and wishes him success in all his endeavors. 


Debbie-GreenDebbie Levy Green
Debbie Levy Green works tirelessly on behalf of the National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section. She has shared her wealth of knowledge and talent about retail to support NCJW’s thrift store, Triftique. Debby is co-chairing A Day of Golf at Camp NCJW, an event that will benefit NCJW’s Center for Women, which helps women achieve economic self-sufficiency.

Whatever and whenever NCJW asks, Deb answers.


Janet-SpearJanet Spear (z”l)
Photo digitally remastered by Sanford Riemer 
Janet Spear, of blessed memory, served on the Advisory Committee of the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives (RJHPA) since 2014. Her passion for the Pittsburgh Jewish community, her fundraising prowess, and her wise counsel contributed greatly to RJHPA’s success. No matter what she was undertaking, Janet’s presence brightened the room and focused the group on the task at hand. Even while battling illness, she was dedicated to RJHPA and its mission. Just months before her passing, Janet lent her expertise to RJHPA by accepting the responsibility of leading Rauh’s Development Subcommittee. Her commitment continued even as the community mourned her loss, with her family naming RJHPA and the Jewish Federation as beneficiaries of contributions made in her honor.


Barry-RothBarry H. Roth
Barry H. Roth has been the secretary and long-time member of the board of Riverview Towers. He is a vocal advocate for the organization and an active member of various committees. He is always focused on mission and on top of the issues. You can count on Barry to show up when needed. He is always mindful of the board’s fiduciary responsibilities and of the responsibilities that pertain to membership in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.



Matthew-Schwartz-L_Jonathan-Fischer-RMatthew Schwartz and Jonathan Fischer
As South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh’s co–Volunteers of the Year, Matt Schwartz (left) and Jonathan Fischer have shown an unwavering commitment to the South Hills Jewish community. Matt (vice-chair) and Jonathan (strategic planning chair) not only serve on the 21-member Community Council, but also are strong advocates of the mission to build a vibrant, engaged, and interconnected South Hills Jewish community. As part of their Executive Council duties, Matt and Jonathan chaired two major initiatives: the first South Hills Community Engagement Study (which will measure the impact of 60+ annual programs, events, and activities), and creation of rules and guidelines that will frame the way the South Hills Community Council operates and engages the community.

Jonathan and Matt are strong supporters not only of South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh events, but of a multitude of events and activities at partner institutions throughout the South Hills. They are also respected members of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community, and you will often find them at programs sponsored by the Jewish Federation and other agencies.

Both will take their volunteer efforts to a higher level over the next two years. Matt is the incoming chair and Jonathan the incoming vice-chair of South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh’s Community Council. Their vision, enthusiasm, and commitment to Jewish values will create a long-lasting, positive impact.


Marsha-Leffel-L-and-Claudia-Finkel-R Marsha Leffel  and Claudia Finkel
Marsha Leffel (left) and Claudia Finkel — VOY co-honorees — have served jointly as co-presidents of Sisterhood for more than six years. In that capacity they are jointly responsible for all onegs on Friday nights and kiddushim on Saturday mornings. Additionally, both supervise any activity involving the use of the temple’s social hall. Both are equally attentive to both Sisterhood and temple members in chairing the Chanukah dinner and all Sisterhood activities, and both serve as members of the congregation’s Board of Trustees.


Ben HandenBen Handen
Ben Handen is a dedicated volunteer, responsible for securing advertisers for our membership directory, a key annual fundraiser for Temple Emanuel. Ben takes on this role year after year, without even being asked to do it!


Mara-KaplanMara Kaplan
Mara Kaplan embodies the Jewish value of g’milut chasadim, performing acts of loving-kindness. Her passion involves working for those who live with disabilities and ensuring that Temple Sinai really feels like a family of support for everyone at joyous and sorrowful times. 

For the past few years, Mara organized efforts at Temple Sinai for Jewish Disabilities and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). She instituted the temple’s Helping Hands program. Mara has allowed people to see how they unintentionally exclude or limit the participation of those who live with disabilities, helping the congregation to become more accessible. She revolutionized Shabbat services by making quiet spaces for those who have a low tolerance for sensory stimulation and providing “fidget toys” for those who need more stimulation. Mara worked with teens to place a mezuzah at a height that everyone can reach, and she has been a champion at ensuring that gatherings take place in accessible areas.

Mara is fearless when it comes to her advocacy for those with disabilities and others who need support, and she has helped to change Temple Sinai’s culture, making it more open, accepting, and inviting.


Irwin HarrisIrwin Harris
At Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation, Irwin Harris is among the first to offer his assistance, helping congregants up to and around the bimah, facilitating their High Holiday honors, greeting you with a smile at shabbat services, or cooking in the kitchen for a Sisterhood or Men's Club event. A member of the synagogue’s Executive Committee and an officer of the congregation, Irwin is all about giving back to his community. With concern and a smile, Irwin makes a positive difference in people’s lives each day. 



Heather HarrHeather Harr
Heather Harr took over the preparation of the congregational bulletin of Young Peoples Synagogue in the summer of 2016/5776. The time and energy she has devoted to this project has made a discernible constructive impact on the organization.


Zalman-ShapiroZalman Shapiro, PhD (z”l)
Photo digitally remastered by Sanford Riemer 
Admiral Hyman Rickover credited Zalman Shapiro, PhD, with being one of the four men most responsible for the success of the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus. Dr. Shapiro’s work focused on developing fuel manufacture for atomic reactors. Personally, Zalman was dedicated to all things Jewish, and especially to the Zionist Organization of America/Pittsburgh Chapter.

Zalman held almost every ZOA leadership position, some several times over. From Chanukah celebrations and Purim parties to musical productions, from educational programs to visits from foreign dignitaries, there was no ZOA event into which Zalman did not have input.

Jewish education may have been his strongest interest. His involvement in ZOA’s Israel Scholarship Program included committee service and awardee selection. Zalman encouraged ZOA members to set up endowments to provide scholarships. Some of these endowments continue to this day.
 Zalman’s most-remembered legacy is the ZOA Tolerance Education Program, which he created. He recognized the need to teach American youth about the Holocaust so its horrors would not be forgotten. The program Zalman created in 1999 begins with in-class activities and culminates in a trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C. The program, which continues today, has educated more than 6,000 teenagers, mostly non-Jews.

Zalman’s impact on ZOA, Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, and the wider community will be felt for many years to come.

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.
— Elizabeth Andrews

For information about the Jewish Federation’s Volunteer of the Year Program, email info@jfedpgh.org.