The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia began honoring young leaders in 1958 and today awards three annual awards: the Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Young Leadership Award, the Mrs. Blanche Wolf Kohn Young Leadership Award, and the Jack Goldenberg Young Leadership Award.
Eligible candidates must be between 25 and 45 years of age with a proven record of participation in the greater Philadelphia Jewish community and potential for future leadership roles.
In 2021, the winners are Jan Kushner, Tamar Silberberg Shiffman and Matt Shipon, who will be honored at the Jewish Federation’s Board of Trustees meeting on September 30th.
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Meanwhile, three previous winners – Arnold Kessler, Jodi Miller, and Mitch Goldenberg – discussed what the awards meant to them.
Kessler, now 94, then still a young lawyer, was the first Feinstein Prize winner in 1958.
At the time, the honor was a result of the Young Men’s Council, a committee within the Jewish Federation that sought to encourage young Jewish men to become local pillars.
Kessler founded the committee on the theory that “wealthy families have young people who become leaders”. It turned out he was right.
The council began holding well-attended monthly meetings, he said. Most of the meetings were informative, with Kessler booking prominent local speakers. He wanted to help the young men learn about the situation in the Jewish country.
“It was a successful endeavor,” said Kessler. “The Young Men’s Council certainly had people who became leaders.”
Kessler became active in the Jewish community around the same time he became a lawyer in 1954. By 1958 he had done enough to be honored by the young men of his council.
The Young Men Council existed until the early 1960s. After his demise, Kessler became a board member of the Jewish Federation and president of his synagogue: Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood.
Now, however, the Bala Cynwyd resident spends most of his time with his wife, Naomi Kessler, and their three children and seven grandchildren.
“I look back and feel like I may have made a contribution to Philadelphia Judaism,” he said.
Miller, 52, from Wynnewood, won the 2011 Jack Goldenberg Award, which was honored for her many years of service in Jewish leadership positions outside the jurisdiction of the Jewish Federation.
Miller had chaired the Home and School Association at her Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El synagogue when her children were in preschool. She later became chair of the parent-teacher organization at Perelman Jewish Day School when her children were students there.
“I was honored to be recognized for the work I did and it inspired me to continue down this path,” said Miller.
After his honor, Miller rose to important positions within the Jewish Federation.
Today she is active on the board of trustees and as chairperson for voluntary work. She has also chaired Women’s Philanthropy, the Committee on Social Responsibility, and the Committee on Israel and Overseas.
Miller sees herself as an ambassador for the Jewish Federation and its work. And she thinks the ambassadorial role is to educate the wider Jewish community, get involved, and raise funds.
Miller continues to do this work because she believes in it.
“L’dor v’dor, from generation to generation,” said Miller.
Goldenberg 65 from Elkins Park and his brother Michael Goldenberg were motivated to get involved by their father, who told them, “Always be a giver.”
Since both brothers were accountants, they joined the Young Accountants Division of the Jewish Federation and learned how to raise funds, he said. They later ran campaigns for young leaders, with Mitch Goldenberg serving as vice chairman of fundraising.
Their early efforts earned the Goldenberg boys the Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Prize, which Michael Goldenberg won in 1995 and Mitch Goldenberg in 2000.
According to a Jewish Federation official, after the victory, the Goldenbergs learned “the budget was tight” to give the winners their reward, which was a trip to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America.
They responded by awarding a third prize: the Jack Goldenberg Award, named after their father.
“He wasn’t a wealthy man, but he did everything he could to help the people,” said Goldenberg.
Mitch Goldenberg eventually became a real estate developer and his brother became a health advisor. They also rose within the Jewish community service.
Mitch Goldenberg now serves on the boards of Federation Housing and Abramson Senior Care.
“My father always said to me, ‘There are a lot of people who are old and frail and have run out of money and they need our help,’” he said.[email protected]; 215-832-0740