At JPRO19, we will have the opportunity to celebrate and honor four distinguished Jewish professionals. The Mandelkorn Award for Distinguished Service recognizes individuals who have made significant and enduring contributions in the field of Jewish community organization practice. The JPRO Network Young Professional Award recognizes outstanding professionals, age 35 and younger, who are dedicated to careers in the Jewish community. Please read more about this year's honorees below.
Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson is President of The Wexner Foundation. She oversees the Foundation's full range of activities and, in partnership with Foundation chairmen and her mentors, Abigail and Leslie Wexner, imagines how the Foundation might further strengthen and educate Jewish professional and volunteer leaders in North America and public service leaders in the State of Israel. Rabbi Abrahamson has been associated with the Foundation for many years. For close to a decade she served as a member of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship's faculty and selection committee. She was the Director of the Graduate Fellowship Program and Vice President prior to assuming her current role in 2011.
A proud member of the Frozen Chosen, Elka, a native Minnesotan, earned her teaching degree from the University of Minnesota and spent the early years of her career creating curricula for religious schools and informal educational settings, particularly Jewish camps. Her Jewish soul sprang to life at Camp Herzl in Wisconsin and her Jewish leadership blossomed at Camp Swig in Northern California. She is still a camper at heart. Ordained at HUC-JIR, New York, Elka began her career as associate rabbi at Peninsula Temple Beth El, San Mateo, CA. She then served, with her husband, Rabbi Martin (Misha) Zinkow, as co-senior rabbi at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul, MN.
Rabbi Abrahamson, a dynamic speaker and an engaging teacher, is optimistic about the Jewish future owing to the remarkable leaders she encounters in her rabbinate, many of them Wexner Alumni. She serves as the High Holiday Rabbi at the 92nd Street Y in New York City and has been published in magazines, books and journals. She is a popular scholar-in-residence, presenter, and keynote speaker for a wide variety of Jewish organizations. She received the Bernard Reisman Award as an outstanding member of the professional Jewish community and Newsweek once named her one of the 50 most influential rabbis in North America.
Elka is an avid student and dedicated teacher of Mussar. She also loves a good football game, especially if the Vikings (or Buckeyes) are winning.
Gerrald (Jerry) Silverman serves as president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America. An outspoken advocate for Jewish Peoplehood, Mr. Silverman is widely known for his views on enhancing religious pluralism in Israel and strengthening Jewish communities worldwide. Under Mr. Silverman’s leadership, JFNA has realigned its priorities and organizational culture with focus on its 147 Federation and Network communities. Jewish Federations collectively raise $2 billion annually and manage $20 billion in assets and endowments to protect and enhance the well-being of Jews throughout the globe. Before joining JFNA, Mr. Silverman served as president of the Foundation for Jewish Camp. For a decade before that, he held a range of executive positions at Stride Rite Corp. of Boston and at Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco. Mr. Silverman is married to Erica Silverman and is the father of five children and has one grandchild.
young professional award
Kate Belza O'Bannon
Kate focuses on expanding Repair’s programming to new markets and partnerships across the country. She enjoys fusing her passions for tikkun olam, Judaism, and relationship building with other passionate leaders on the Repair team. Prior to joining Repair the World, Kate worked at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, where she supported the Foundation’s efforts to connect and support global networks of young Jewish adults, including their REALITY program and partnerships in Europe. She started her career by completing a year of service as a JDC Global Service Corps Fellow in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Kate holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia in Religious Studies and a minor in Leadership. Kate serves on the boards of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Hillel at the University of Virginia. Kate is based in Richmond, Virginia, is an avid traveler, can usually be found sipping on green tea, and enjoys trying out the latest fitness trends.
Arya is a first-generation American born and raised in Tehrangeles, CA, and most passionate about travel, languages (four and counting), and community organizing. He earned his B.A. in Psychology from UC San Diego, and M.A. in Organizational Behavior from NYU. With over a decade of experience in the non-profit Jewish communal sector, Arya was listed in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal's 30 Under 30 list in 2016, featured as one of Iranwire's 50 Iranian-Americans you should know, and recently nominated as a KCET local hero for his LGBTQ+ activism within the Iranian, Jewish, and broader community. Arya joined JQ's team full-time three years ago where he currently serves as the Managing Director and Director of Persian Pride Programming.