“I’m a first-generation American. Both of my parents were born in Eastern Europe and we have several Holocaust survivors in our family, including Irving Simon, who created the menorah that’s on display at the JCC to symbolize the six million who perished. My parents met in Rochester; my father came here after serving in the IDF, and my mother moved here when she was in tenth grade. To me being Jewish means tradition, family and a circle of friends. It means a lot to me spiritually and practically – in the ties I make with colleagues and in the community. Being Jewish is more than just being something you’re born into. It’s having values, ideals and beliefs that guide your path in life, from career to community service.”
2. What’s the link between your work as a lawyer and your time as a volunteer?
“Volunteering on committees often gives me insights into my practice, especially the art of negotiation: understanding the roots of conflicts or disagreements, approaching conflicts with a goal of finding a solution that works, and knowing how to build bridges and find a middle ground. I’m the head of the legal team at our firm that represents the Rochester Red Wings; and this year I led the negotiating process between Monroe County and the Wings to renew the team’s lease to stay at Frontier Field.”
3. How did you become involved in the Federation?
“My passion is educating the Jewish community in Rochester about Israel, and making sure there’s a local connection to the homeland. That passion is what drew me into Federation. My connection to Israel is rooted in personal experience; I spent summers there growing up, and I’ve brought my family many times. After I got involved in the Community Relations committee, I was asked to chair the Israel Speaker Series. I was excited about showing a side of Israel that was more than political turmoil. Yes, geopolitics is important; but it’s equally important to show the positive side of Israel: the vibrant, free democracy it was and is; the technology and start-ups; the culture; and things that get lost when you read the headlines. That’s what I felt passionately about and wanted to make people understand. The series drew plenty of political speakers; but we moved beyond that focus to include partnerships with local entities to bring speakers in. The series has sustained itself, with speakers four to five times a year addressing everything from cybersecurity to Israel’s presence on college campuses. It’s a regular component of Federation. After being involved in the series, I remained active in the Federation because there’s so much that it has to offer, not just in Rochester but around the world. It’s fulfilling to be a part of it. I do it for the good of community, of course; but I also do it for me. It makes me feel good to be active and involved in something that makes our Jewish community stronger.”
4. What is something interesting that people may not know about you?
My first cousin Ofer, who’s my age, spent every other summer with me growing up. He’s more like a brother than a cousin. Either I went to visit him in Israel, where he and his family still live, or he came to visit me in Rochester; and we were together 24/7 for eight or ten weeks. To this day we have family visits and now we try to get together just the two of us every year, meeting ‘halfway’—which so far has meant Europe. We’ve met in Switzerland and Barcelona; we’ll see where we meet up next!”