15 women receive Song of Miriam Award: Marni Glick, Eliana Temkin, Sam Perrin, Hannah Berkowitz, Joni Plotkin, Kathleen Doctor, Robin Ellison, Carol Ray Richmond, Shari Raider, Liza Milliner, Diana Lindemann, Sheryl Chomak, Leora Troper, Toinette Menashe and Kara Orvieto.
For 27 years, the Jewish Women’s Round Table has recognized women volunteers in the community at its Song of Miriam Awards Brunch, which has attracted as many as 325 people annually.
In the face of the pandemic, last year’s brunch was cancelled. This year, JWRT leaders still believed it would not be safe to hold such a large indoor event. However, JWRT wants to be sure the community knows about the good work these women are doing.
At the Jewish Review, we share those sentiments and will do our part to see that Song of Miriam Award recipients get the recognition they deserve. Throughout the summer, the Review has featured pictures of honorees along with a description of their work and why they are valuable to their organizations. Below are the profiles of all 15 recipients for this year's award.
The Jewish Women’s Round Table was formed in 1992 as a gathering of the leaders of Portland-area Jewish women’s organizations. It was first known as the Jewish Women’s Presidents’ Round Table, and its aim was to exchange ideas about leadership topics. When membership was extended beyond presidents, the name was changed to the Jewish Women’s Round Table. The Round Table also sponsors an annual Community Havdalah at Cedar Sinai Park.
“We are so grateful to the Jewish Review for making it possible to carry on the tradition of the Song of Miriam Awards in these challenging times,” says JWRT President Marki Maizels. “Next year, we plan to hold our Awards brunch in June, and we look forward to seeing everyone in person and celebrating the amazing work done by volunteers in our community.”
Honored by Mittleman Jewish Community Center
Marni Glick currently serves as treasurer of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and Portland Jewish Academy boards. Under her leadership, the boards have successfully navigated the financial uncertainties brought on by the COVID pandemic.
Marni is a great listener who always sees multiple sides of an issue and helps make decisions that address a range of concerns and perspectives. That trait was particularly helpful as MJCC faced the multiple closures mandated during the past year and a half.
Her 33-year career with the city of Portland Budget Office and Bureau of Transportation gave her invaluable experience that helped MJCC continue its operations while minimizing deficits and debts.
She has a wide range of interests and expertise and has been actively involved with MJCC for years, not only as treasurer, but as chair of the Finance Committee and member of the Campus Plan Working Group and the Governance and Executive Committees.
MJCC says Marni’s expertise always ensures outstanding oversight, but never more so than during the difficult times of the pandemic.
Honored by Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
Eliana Temkin is a member of Jewish Federation’s Board of Directors, chair of the Federation’s Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional Leadership Award Selection Committee and former member of the (local) Allocations Committee.
As a former Jewish professional at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Eliana brings a deep understanding of our community – its agencies and its professionals – to her volunteerism.
She takes time to be thoughtful and supportive of her fellow committee members and is a pleasure to work with as a staff person. Those who work with her are better off for the experience, no question. She is a true partner in all that she does, and her love for our community is apparent.
Eliana’s activism extends beyond the Jewish Federation into her synagogue, Havurah Shalom, the newer Eastside Jewish Commons initiative and so much more.
JFGP Director of Community Planning and Allocations Caron Blau Rothstein says of Eliana that, “We are so fortunate that Eliana dedicates her volunteer time and talents to the Jewish Federation in particular and the Jewish community of greater Portland at large.”
Honored by Congregation Kesser Israel
Sam Perrin is a shining light in the Kesser Israel community. Whether writing a grant application, preparing and cleaning up after the weekly Kiddush (in pre-COVID times) or packing boxes for the annual Passover food drive, she brings her talent, creativity and strong work ethic to everything she does.
Sam is a skilled artist and writer who has been glad to help whenever there is a fund-raising flyer to design or art needed for a brochure. Together with her family, she took the lead in the Mishloach Manot fund-raiser this year, packing more than 100 gift baskets when COVID prevented the usual large group of volunteers from gathering.
Sam is also a role model in her commitment and dedication to her faith. She has led thoughtful discussions in monthly study groups. She is also a talented actor who always makes Kesser Israel’s annual Purim spiel one of the best in town.
The community of Kesser Israel joins together in thanking Sam for her many years of service and says they are fortunate to have her unique talent and energy that lifts and inspires them all.
Honored by Beit Haverim
Hannah Berkowitz is a giving and loving member of Beit Haverim, where she has been active for more than 23 years.
She is an original member of the congregation’s choir and has been singing with them for more than 20 years.
Hannah actively looks for ways to contribute to the good of the community and the synagogue. She is excellent at welcoming new people, often ushering or greeting at Shabbat Services and then staying to clean up after services and events. She provides lively information during Torah Study through her love and knowledge of literature and history.
She is an ardent baker and brings Hamantaschen, latkes, delicious desserts and anything else that is needed for a holiday or occasion.
In addition, Hannah cares for the frail and elderly in the community by sharing her talents and friendship. She is an avid gardener, taking pride in her heirloom vegetables and beautiful flowers. And she is a passionate tango dancer and teacher.
Beit Haverim describes Hannah by saying, in short, she lives life fully!
Honored by Beit Am, Corvallis
“Get ’er done!” describes Beit Am’s Song of Miriam honoree Joni Plotkin.
When her three daughters started attending Sunday School, Joni began her volunteer activities at Beit Am as a teacher. Next, she was hired to be the office administrator, where she quietly and cheerfully kept things running smoothly for 15 years. A newcomer’s first Beit Am encounter was often Joni’s warm, friendly welcome.
Joni’s contributions to Beit Am are diverse and substantial, typically in leadership roles. Currently, she is on the Beit Am Board overseeing building operations, and she heads the interior design subcommittee and art recommendations committee.
Joni is committed to Beit Am’s Burial Society, where she serves as treasurer and organizes Meals of Consolation and cemetery cleanup events. She successfully obtained grant funding to renovate and clean headstones at the Waverly Hebrew Cemetery in Albany and helped get it registered as a National Historic Site.
Joni is a master at community building: she brings her heart, humor and intellect to every project. She is conscientious, reliable and a loyal friend. Beit Am says it counts itself lucky that she is part of its community.
Honored by Women of Reform Judaism/Beth Israel Sisterhood
Beth Israel Sisterhood is honoring its past president, Kathleen Doctor, with the Song of Miriam Award. Kathleen has served for eight years on the Sisterhood board in various offices.
With calm, steady guidance, Kathleen encouraged the involvement of new members and has been a great mentor to up-and-coming leaders. She is a strategic thinker with a very positive attitude and a “can do” style. She is not afraid to tackle new projects and has always enjoyed the challenge. She has overseen several fundraising efforts through the years and continues to be involved in them.
Kathleen is a sweet and welcoming person who has opened her home to Beth Israel Sisterhood for many projects and functions.
She was active in her Bay Area synagogue, Congregation Beth Am, and its Sisterhood before moving to Portland eight years ago.
Kathleen has operated her own business and also worked in several nonprofits, including as the director of development at the Palo Alto YMCA and board member for the Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School.
Kathleen is the mother of three adult children, is an avid traveler and cyclist, and loves to get involved and meet people.
Honored by Temple Beth Sholom, Salem
Robin Ellison is the “volunteer-event maven” at Temple Beth Sholom in Salem.
Events that used to be coordinated by the congregation’s Holiday Observance Committee have now been organized (and often paid for) by Robin and her family.
She has organized Hanukkah parties such as the “Latkes and Vodka” events and has helped plan and prepare community seders (most recently, an outdoor seder this year because of COVID).
In addition, Robin usually prepares much of the food at these events (including all of the Pesach desserts at the recent seder). Further, she helped prepare take-home seder meals for those who could not attend the in-person seder.
Robin is always available and willing to help any congregant in need, no matter how big or small the task is.
In short, the congregation says Robin is a dedicated volunteer who makes Temple Beth Sholom a better place to be.
CAROL RAY RICHMOND
Honored by Portland Jewish Academy
Portland Jewish Academy is pleased to honor Carol Ray Richmond as its Song of Miriam honoree. Carol’s quiet leadership does not go unnoticed and has helped to support the school in numerous ways.
In her years as a parent in the school, Carol has been a tremendous supporter of her daughters’ teachers in the early childhood and day school programs. In addition, Carol helped spearhead and lead the Family Giving Circle, which generously funds projects that support faculty and students in the two programs.
She has worked tirelessly on the PJA auction, procuring items, working closely with auction staff and co-chairing the event for a number of years.
Carol has served on the PJA Board of Directors during this very challenging time and has, along with fellow board members, helped provide the resources needed to give students a quality education during the time of quarantine.
PJA says Carol’s caring and generous spirit is deeply felt by them, and they thank her for her heartfelt generosity, saying they are honored to know her and have her as a member of the PJA kehilla – community.
Honored by Havurah Shalom
Shari Raider has been a key part of the Havurah Shalom community since 2007, when she started welcoming Havurah families to her farm on Sauvie Island for “Shabbat on the Farm.” This community-building activity was a program that young families looked forward to every year.
A few years ago, Shari and her family moved to Northwest Portland, and she quickly took on leadership roles at Havurah. She has co-chaired the Tikkun Olam Sanctuary Committee since it was established and is a leader in Havurah’s partnership with the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, serving as part of the core team that guides Havurah in supporting a family seeking asylum.
Shari shares her accounting skills as the congregation’s treasurer. She has an amazing ability to mold the budget within the context of Havurah’s values and to explain those decision points in a way that is easily understandable.
Shari is not only open to new ways of seeing things, she gently challenges members to be open to possibilities that will enable Havurah to continue to evolve into a more transparent, value-based community. Havurah Shalom says it is blessed to have her participation and commitment.
Honored by Congregation Neveh Shalom
Liza Milliner started her volunteer work at Neveh Shalom as youth director for USY/Kadima and then served on the membership, adult education and long-term planning committees.
She joined the board of directors 10 years ago and now serves on the executive board.
Liza was involved in the founding of Keshet, the LGBTQ group at the synagogue. She was instrumental in organizing and creating Jewish Pride Greater PDX, where Jewish organizations came together as a community to march in Portland’s Pride Parade. Liza recently cochaired, with her wife, Beth, a very successful virtual fundraiser/auction.
Liza was one of 20 volunteers in the Portland community accepted to participate in the Wexner Heritage Leadership Program. This two-year commitment includes intensive Jewish learning and leadership training.
Liza is cheerful, a good listener and a dedicated volunteer who happily takes on responsibilities. She is an example of the new leadership in the Jewish community.
Neveh Shalom looks forward to seeing Liza continue as a leader at the synagogue and in the community and says “Kol Hakavod” (All Honors), Liza!
Honored by Hadassah of Portland
Diana Lindemann is a first-generation American and second-generation descendant of Holocaust survivors who came to the United States to start a new life.
Because of that history, in 2010 Diana organized a group for children of survivors and refugees called the “Next Generations Group,” which now has more than 200 regular followers. The support and technical skills of family members as well as the atmosphere of togetherness created by Diana at group gatherings has helped build the group.
Hadassah has been part of Diana’s life since childhood, and she recently stepped down as Portland president. Her accomplishments include organizing health seminars, teas and author visits. She brought enthusiasm to the task of delegating tasks to the right people, and her positive attitude infected others and was felt in the tasks she took on herself.
Diana has served on several boards in the Jewish community and helped with fundraising events for local and national organizations.
Being part of the community and helping where needed has always been a part of her family’s values. Diana is inspired by her parents, who taught her to give back to the community that helped her family start new lives in Portland.
Honored by P’nai Or
P’nai Or refers to their honoree, Sheryl Chomak, as its “Holy Poet, Occupy-Portland Prophet, Deep-Heart Giving Member, Eternal Friend of the No Longer Living, Lover of Justice, and phenomenal Passover and Event Cook.”
During the past pandemic year, Sheryl has been a vital, regular participant in P’nai Or’s Zoom communities, including chant group, shiva minyans and Torah writing group. She also advocated for those who needed it, either for individuals or as part of peaceful human rights groups.
Following years of professional work as a psychologist with a focus on helping clients deal with trauma, she retired several years ago to devote time to her beloved garden, family, congregation and volunteer work.
Her service has included volunteering at a homeless shelter, helping to care for community members with serious health issues, and cooking for both individual congregants in need and the congregation’s Passover seders.
Sheryl’s sense of humor and infectious laughter help lift everyone up, particularly when she comes to events dressed as a banana. She is an incredible cook, talented writer, wise leader, beautiful singer and has a passion for Torah study.
P’nai Or calls Sheryl a “shining light” in the congregation.
Honored by Congregation Shir Tikvah
Over the years, Leora Troper has lent her talents to Congregation Shir Tikvah in ways almost too numerous to count.
She has volunteered and taught in the religious school. She led a song group encouraging novice singers to learn the tunes to important prayers. She’s introduced new styles of cantillation during Shabbat prayers.
Leora has also immersed herself in the business of the congregation, including a recent tenure as the co-chair of Shir Tikvah’s Board of Directors.
She currently is active in maintaining a racial justice e-mail list to bring information about opportunities for anti-racist action and education to the attention of Shir Tikvah’s membership.
Shir Tikvah says Leora has a generous nature and gives so much to those around her, both in terms of time and energy. She is a consensus seeker and wants to make sure those who don’t have a voice are always heard. She is deeply thoughtful and looks for ways to improve life for everyone.
As one fellow congregant noted, “She is a risk taker in the service of stretching herself and the community.”
Honored by Cedar Sinai Park
Toinette Menashe’s passion for CSP began in 1983 when her mom came to live at the Robison Home. At first, she started reading the newspaper to a group of residents before she went to work running the MALS (Master of Arts in Liberal Studies) program at Reed College.
This generosity of nature evolved into serving two terms on the Cedar Sinai Park Board of Trustees along with her husband, Vic Menashe, who is a past president. Toinette shared a co-chair position with Vic when they headed up CSP’s 75th Anniversary celebration, which brought more than 650 attendees to the Hilton Hotel.
In 1996, Toinette co-chaired “The Nosh,” which kicked off the capital campaign for Rose Schnitzer Manor.
For more than 20 years, Toinette has led the most popular Rose Schnitzer Manor program, “Put in Your Two Cents,” which was originated by Elaine Shapiro. This program inspires passionate dialogue and debate around current events.
Toinette’s love for CSP, whether leading fund-raising or engaging residents, has continued for over 40 years, embodying the heart of our community.
Honored by Congregation Shaarie Torah
Kara Orvieto is a dedicated volunteer at Congregation Shaarie Torah with a long list of accomplishments. She served on the synagogue Board of Directors, the staff recruiting committee, and participated in the SULAM (Ladder) curriculum to bring new educational ideas and opportunities for children and adults.
Kara volunteered as representative for the PJ Library committee with the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland for three years, which sends free Jewish-themed books to children.
In addition, she has been on committees for several successful fund-raising and outreach events.
Kara has served as vice president of Sisterhood and is currently the membership chair.
She was awarded Shaarie Torah’s “Livnot Kehillah Building Award” for rising stars within the synagogue.
Kara is a proud Girl Scout mom. Professionally, she is an operations analyst for PGE and is a member of its corporate Women’s Business Resources Group.
Shaarie Torah says Kara is always willing to lend a hand and brings fresh ideas and perspective to everything she works on. She has great empathy for the thoughts and feelings of others, and she does everything with a kind heart and gentle spirit.