PHOTO: 2023 Song of Miriam awardees gather for brunch Sunday, June 4, at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. Front row, from left: Susan Berniker, Janet Grubel, Shelley Kaplan, Judith Arbetter, Nehama Bennett-Teasdale, Martha Soltesz.Back row, from left: Estelle Golden, Ayanne Groupp, Karen Blauer, Sacha Reich, Etti Segal, Shira Newman, Naomi Harwin, Tamar Wyte-Lake. Not present: Jaime Gross, Kathy Chusid, Sari Sapon-White. (Courtesy Marki Maizles)
After a three-year hiatus during the pandemic, The Jewish Women’s Round Table honored 17 women during this year’s 28th Song of Miriam Awards Brunch on June 4.
The 2023 brunch named the volunteers honored during the pandemic and recognized a new group of outstanding women. Though each woman is nominated by her respective organization, the community unites to honor the women who volunteer their time and energy to ensure the continuity and vibrancy of the Jewish community of Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Following are the women honored during this year’s brunch:
Judith Arbetter, honored by Shalom Bayit (Bend)
Over the past six years, Judith has helped Shalom Bayit navigate many transitions. She joined the Affiliation and Rabbi Search Committees before joining the CSB board – first as a member-at-large, and then as vice president. She currently serves as the head of the Policy and Procedures Committee.
Susan Berniker, honored by Women of Reform Judaism/Beth Israel Sisterhood
Susan leads Beth Israel Sisterhood as well as serving on WRJ’s Pacific District Social and Advocacy Team. She has deepened Sisterhood’s engagement in the issue of reproductive health and rights; through her efforts, Sisterhood provides period products to the Somali American Council of Oregon. She has also taught Sunday School for a decade.
Shelley Kaplan, honored by Temple Beth Sholom (Salem)
Shelley is an active member of TBS’ ChaGaT committee, which focuses on social justice and community outreach. She took the leadership role in hunger and homelessness, creating a “mitzvah meals” program that distributes meals to the homeless. She has been heavily involved with Family Promise, which provides housing support for vulnerable populations and has volunteered at warming shelters.
Nehama Bennett-Teasdale, honored by Shir Tikvah
Nehama has taught in Shir Tikvah’s Nashira Education Project for 10 years. While teaching, she pioneered “Hebrew Through Movement” in the Portland area. She has served as a member of the Tefillah Committee and the Education Committee, and is now on the Board of Directors. She also served on the design committee for Shir Tikvah and Eastside Jewish Commons.
Karen Blauer, honored by Eastside Jewish Commons
Karen grew up in Portland and has been deeply involved in the Jewish community in many ways. She has served on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, B’nai B’rith Camp, Jewish Family & Child Service and Cedar Sinai Park. She was one of the co-founders of Eastside Jewish Commons and is currently its board chair.
Kathy Chusid, honored by Jewish Family & Child Service
Kathy has served on the JFCS board since 2015 and has been on its executive committee as secretary and then vice president. She has served on the agency’s Strategic Planning and Life & Legacy committees. At the start of the pandemic, Kathy helped establish JFCS’ Advisory Council. She also dedicated time to the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation and Chabad of Northeast Portland.
Estelle Golden, honored by The Next Generations Group
Estelle serves on the NGG executive committee that guides and implements its educational and social programs. In addition, she is a member of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education’s Holocaust Speakers Bureau, where she has coached new speakers. She is also the incoming president of the Congregation Kol Ami chapter of Women of Reform Judaism.
Jaime Gross, honored by Beit Haverim
In addition to her work as congregation administrator, Jaime volunteers for virtually all temple events, contributing her time and baking skills to make each event a success. She also contributes time and expertise to the Technology Committee, helping it transition to and from holding services on Zoom. She has been very involved with JAFCO, Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options.
Ayanne Groupp, honored by Kesser Israel
Since 2001, Ayanne has been involved in Kesser Israel, starting off as the youth director. She has served on the board since 2019 and has been treasurer for the past three years. In 2018 she worked on a grant for security that provided money for both Kesser Israel and Maayan Torah Day School. Recently, Ayanne secured an education grant for youth, family and community programing that has greatly enhanced the shul’s activities.
Janet Grubel, honored by P’nai Or
Since joining P’nai Or in 2016, Janet has chaired the Membership Committee and has been a member of the Fundraising Committee. Serving as treasurer for the last six years, she has been responsible for a wide range of financial duties. She is a member of the Council and Executive Committee, making her part of P’nai Or’s Presidential Trio, which makes the major decisions for the congregation.
Naomi Harwin, honored by Portland Jewish Academy
Naomi cochairs PJA’s Kehillah Organization and plans events that build community for faculty, students and families. She is a member of the PJA ambassador group, has served as class rep for her children’s classes and is a member of the executive committee of the PJA Board of Directors. Naomi is a volunteer coach for PJA’s “Girls on the Run” team that inspires girls to build confidence through interactive lessons and physical activity.
Shira Newman, honored by Shaarie Torah Sisterhood
After moving to Portland in 2012, Shira worked on a number of Sisterhood projects and became chair of the Education Committee. She is currrently Sisterhood treasurer and has recently worked on a number of ad-hoc Sisterhood projects. She continues to help in many ways including baking and selling hamantaschen for the Sisterhood’s fundraiser. She also helps Chabad make and deliver meals for Shabbat and holidays.
Sacha Reich, honored by Havurah Shalom
Sacha served on Havurah’s Steering Committee as the head of the Spiritual Life Cluster and currently chairs High Holiday Planning for the seventh consecutive year. Sacha founded and ran the Jewish Theatre Collaborative developing original works of theater. She also has worked as an educator at Portland Jewish Academy and been on the cultural staff at Cedar Sinai Park.
Sari Sapon White, honored by Beit Am (Corvallis)
Sari has used her skills as an educator to teach and serve as principal at Sunday School and tutor b’nai mitzvah students. She contributes her strong singing voice to Shabbat and holiday services. In her travels to Prague and Warsaw, she taught members of re-emerging Jewish congregations there to layn torah and came home to share her experiences at Beit Am presentations.
Etti Segal, honored by Congregation Neveh Shalom
Etti holds various roles as an educator at Neveh Shalom, from the preschool to Hebrew-language-for-adults classes. She was a founding member of Keruv Levavot, a nonprofit that builds ties between Israel and the local Jewish community and civic groups. She helped organize a Mimouna celebration (a Moroccan post-Passover tradition) as well as the Yom Hazikaron (National Remembrance Day) event held at Neveh Shalom.
Martha Soltesz, honored by Cedar Sinai Park
Martha’s commitment to tikkun olam began during her childhood in Mexico City. In Portland, she started volunteering at Cedar Sinai Park’s Rose Schnitzer Manor Independent and Assisted Living 10 years ago, when her mother was a resident. Martha leads singing for the residents on Mondays and serves on the Quality Management and Corporate Compliance Committee.
Tamar Wyte-Lake, honored by Mittleman Jewish Community Center
Tamar Wyte-Lake is a public-health expert who has been involved at Mittleman Jewish Community Center and Portland Jewish Academy for many years. She joined the MJCC and PJA boards in 2020 and was a member of the Medical Advisory Team during the Covid pandemic, when the J sought to address public health while remaining open. She also works to ensure that “green” initiatives remain a focus of the Facilities Committee.
During the pandemic, JWRT and the Jewish Review collaborated to profile the outstanding women volunteers who had been selected by their organizations. Those profiles are online at jewishportland.org/jewishreview/jr-stories/song-of-miriam-awards-part-1 and jewishportland.org/jewishreview/jr-stories/SOM-2022.
JWRT is a group of women representing organizations and congregations in Oregon and southwest Washington. Its mission is to strengthen our Jewish community by honoring the excellent work of women volunteers and bringing the community together to celebrate Jewish life. JWRT’s two annual programs include the Song of Miriam Awards held in the late spring to recognizing Jewish women volunteers and a Community Havdalah service at the Rose Schnitzer Manor held in the winter