Hila Marmos and Meytal Brown-Mendelwicz, co-directors of The Opportunity Fund for Civic Service, were named this year’s winners of the annual JJ Greenberg Memorial Award. The award, which is administered by the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), and was presented at the 2015 JFN International Conference held last month in Tel Aviv, came with $5,000 to be used for professional development or tzedakah. This marks the first time the award has been given to a pair of recipients.
The Opportunity Fund is an independent philanthropic consortium, launched in the spring of 2012, by a coalition of Israeli and North American partners: the Revson, Gandyr, and Arison Foundations, UJA-Federation of New York, the Social Security Institute of the Government of Israel, and an anonymous foundation. The goal of the Fund is to give young Israeli adults who are ineligible for, or exempt from, military service – youth at risk, young adults with physical and emotional disabilities, Israeli Arabs, and new immigrants – the opportunity to volunteer for a year of national civic service so that, like their peers, they can contribute to society and achieve meaningful employment, higher education, and economic independence.
“Hila and Meytal are hands on, passionate leaders who embody everything that JJ stood for,” said Andrés Spokoiny, JFN President and CEO. “Having grown up in Israel’s periphery, they are uniquely positioned to understand that each and every person, regardless of status, ability, or background, has something valuable to offer society.”
The award is named after Jonathan Joseph (JJ) Greenberg following his untimely death in a traffic accident in 2002, when he was just 36 years old. A former JFN Board member, who was executive director of the Steinhardt Foundation/Jewish Life Network, JJ was instrumental in the creation of landmark programs and institutions such as Birthright Israel, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, the Makor/Steinhardt Center in New York, and Synagogue Transformation and Renewal.
Greenberg’s family, friends, and colleagues created the prize as a memorial to him. The award is presented annually to a foundation professional, aged 40 or younger, who, like Greenberg, exemplifies the highest of Jewish values and the relentless pursuit of excellence in all aspects of life. This year, the list of candidates was particularly impressive, and all were deserving.
As co-directors, Hila and Meytal take on the complex, day-to-day responsibilities that have made the Fund so successful. Under their leadership, the number of civic service volunteers in Israel has increased from 800 to over 5,000, positioning The Opportunity Fund as the leader in this area.
In a written statement, Brown-Mendelwic wrote, “I was fortunate to grow up in a working-class Israeli neighborhood – full of tradition, a sense of community and mutual responsibility, where giving with love stimulated inspiration and impact.” Marmos added, “I learned that partnerships are the most productive way to bring change and to motivate people to transform themselves personally and socially.”
Last year, prior recipients of the Award published a series of reflective essays sharing their thoughts on what it means to have been named a recipient.
Additional information on the The J.J. Goldberg Memorial Award can be found here.