Jennifer and Steven Schwarz are being honored at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center’s New York State of Mind fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 2. The couple is being presented with The J’s Irv Shuman Award for their commitment, passion, service and leadership within the community.
The Schwarz’s have been active with The J since they moved to the Valley in 1995. Jennifer has spearheaded many efforts, including the building of the outdoor playground, teen sports league and teen lounge and has been involved with preschool and youth programs. Steven has been involved in many financial and operational aspects of The J, in addition to multiple board and committee leadership positions.
Their three children: Max, 17, Kori, 15 and Emma, 12 all attended preschool at The J, and it was there that Jennifer realized just how much The J is there when you need it. “Our son was diagnosed with a peanut allergy back when he was two years old we had a situation elsewhere where a preschool would not accept him because of his allergy,” explains Jennifer. “The J welcomed him with open arms, and they created their first peanut-free classroom, and we were so grateful that he had a Jewish place that cared about him and his health and wanting him to participate in the program fully – that was very meaningful to us at the time.”
The Schwarz’s often talk to their children about the importance of involvement, but mostly they lead by example. “They obviously see that we care and feel strongly about it,” says Jennifer. “But what has really drawn them in has been their own experiences.”
For example, Max started a whiffle ball tournament that benefits charity for his mitzvah project several years ago, and it is still going on today. “It ended up turning in to a pretty big deal, and he has passed it down to other kids each year for their mitzvah project,” explains Steven. “He raised about $5,000 the year he did it. It’s held on the JCC field every year.”
Another important factor that has laid the groundwork and foundation for their children has been Jewish overnight camp. “All three have gone to the St. Louis JCC overnight camp,” says Jennifer. “It has really shaped so much of their Jewish identity, and desire to be connected.”
The family enjoys the many offerings at The J, and both Jennifer and Steven have nothing but praise for The J’s CEO Jay Jacobs, COO Kim Subrin and all the staff and board members. “They have done such a fabulous job with the evolution of the JCC,” says Jennifer. “To watch where it was, and see where it is now, there is no reason why anyone wouldn’t want to be a member of The J. You walk in, and you feel the energy.”
What: “New York State of Mind” fundraiser with street-style eats, entertainment, live auction and a Broadway-style show. Proceeds support the program and services at The J.
When: Dec. 2; event starts at 6:30 pm
Where: Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center, 12701 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Tickets: $150 per person; available at vosjcc.org/newyork