Leadership Winners Reflect on Awards’ Impact

Jodi Miller (Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia)

Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia started honoring young leaders in 1958, and today gives out 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 and demonstrate a record of participation in the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community and potential for future leadership.

In 2021, the winners are Jan Kushner, Tamar Silberberg Shiffman and Matt Shipon, who will be recognized at Jewish Federation’s board of trustees meeting on Sept. 30.

Meantime, three past winners — Arnold Kessler, Jodi Miller and Mitch Goldenberg — discussed what the awards meant to them.

Arnold Kessler

Kessler, now 94, but then a young lawyer, was the first Feinstein Award winner back in 1958.

At the time, the honor was an outgrowth of the Young Men’s Council, a committee within Jewish Federation that tried to galvanize young Jewish men into becoming local pillars.

Kessler started the committee on the theory that “well-to-do families had young people who would become leaders.” He turned out to be right.

The council started holding well-attended monthly meetings, he said. The gatherings were mostly informative, with Kessler booking prominent speakers from around the area. He wanted to help the young men learn the lay of the Jewish land.

“It was a successful endeavor,” Kessler said. “Out of the Young Men’s Council were certainly 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 his council’s young men.

The Young Men’s Council continued into the early 1960s. After it ended, Kessler became a Jewish Federation board member and the president of his synagogue: Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood.

Now, though, 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 that maybe I made some contribution to Philadelphia Jewry,” he said.

Jodi Miller

Miller, 52, of Wynnewood, won The Jack Goldenberg award in 2011, honored for her many years in Jewish leadership roles outside the Jewish Federation’s jurisdiction.

Miller had been the Home and School Association chair at her synagogue, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, when her children were in preschool. Later, she became the Parent-Teacher Organization chair at Perelman Jewish Day School when her kids were students there.

“I was humbled to be honored for the work I had done, and it inspired me to continue down the path,” Miller said.

After being honored, Miller rose to important positions within Jewish Federation, too.

She now serves on the board of trustees and as the chair of volunteer engagement. She also has served as the chair of women’s philanthropy, the Committee on Social Responsibility and the Committee on Israel and Overseas.

Miller views herself as an ambassador for the Jewish Federation and its work. And she thinks the ambassador role is about educating, engaging and fundraising in the wider Jewish community.

Miller continues to do this work because she believes in it.

“L’dor v’dor, from generation to generation,” Miller said.

Mitch Goldenberg

Goldenberg 65, of 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 Jewish Federation’s Young Accountants Division and learned how to fundraise, he said. Later, they ran campaigns for young leadership, where Mitch Goldenberg was vice chair for fundraising.

Mitch Goldenberg (The Goldenberg family)

Their early efforts earned the Goldenberg boys The Myer and Rosaline Feinstein award, with Michael Goldenberg winning it in 1995 and Mitch Goldenberg winning in 2000.

According to a Jewish Federation official, after winning, the Goldenbergs learned that “budgets were tight” to provide winners with their reward, which was a trip to the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly.

So they responded by endowing a third award: the Jack Goldenberg Award, named for their father.

“He wasn’t a wealthy man but he went out of his way to help people,” Goldenberg said.

Mitch Goldenberg eventually became a real estate developer, and his brother became a health care consultant. They ascended within the Jewish community service ranks as well.

Mitch Goldenberg now sits on the boards of Federation Housing and Abramson Senior Care.

“My father used to tell me, ‘There are many people who are old, frail and running out of money, and they need our help,’” he said.

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