Gary Weiss to receive Irv Shuman Make a Difference Award

Family rallies to ensure Casino Night is an award presentation and fundraiser to remember

Casino Night 2015 at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center takes on a western flair under starlit skies at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus on Oct. 17. The community is invited to bring out their jeans, boots and hats and join in the J’s fundraiser, which includes a poker tournament, blackjack and roulette. The evening includes dinner buffet, drinks, dancing and $100 in casino cash as well as a live auction and raffle drawings.

A highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the Irv Shuman Make a Difference Award to this year’s recipient, Gary Weiss. Gary’s community involvement began in 1997 with the formation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Young Leadership Division. He was on its inaugural board and served as the vice president of community service. When planning began for the Valley of The Sun JCC campus in 1999, Weiss was asked to serve on the board. He held various board positions over the next 14 years, including chair in 2006-2007. It was during his tenure that the International 2006 Greater Phoenix JCC Maccabi Games were held here, marking one of Gary’s proudest moments as a community volunteer.

In 2007 Gary received the JFGP’s Sy Clark Award for Outstanding Young Leadership. Gary also became one of the inaugural board members of the Jewish Community Association, serving on the task force that created the JCA, which combined some of the roles of the federation and VOSJCC.

It was through his community involvement that Gary met his wife, Debbie Berkowitz. The couple has been very active in supporting Jewish life – the VOSJCC, federation, Jewish National Fund, Temple Chai and Camp Swift are among their favorite causes. Their children, Jonah, Abrie, Brett, Seth and Evan, are involved in the community as well and carry forward their family’s belief that it is each individual’s responsibility to contribute to a strong, vibrant Jewish community.

The Irv Shuman award was established in 2010 and is presented each year to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of tzedakah: someone who demonstrates commitment, passion, service and leadership within the Jewish community. Irv Shuman was a man of exceptional values who lived for causes, including the well-being of Israel and the furtherance of Jewish education as well as the arts. He was named VOSJCC’s Man of the Year, and he was a recipient of the Jewish Federation’s highest award, The Medal of Honor. Supporting over 100 charities, Irv was tireless, deeply committed and passionate.

This year’s event is also special because it’s a “Family Affair.”

“When we learned that our brother was receiving this award, we thought it would be fun to chair the event – to show our support of him and the place he is so passionate about,” says Scott Weiss. “We’re very proud of him and have always admired his dedication to The J.”

Joining Scott and his wife, Andi, as co-chairs are Gary’s sister, Laurie, and her husband, David Kline. The Klines are charter members of the JCC, and their three children attended preschool and summer camps at the J. “We have always been proud of how involved Gary was with the community, even as a father with two young sons at home. The JCC always was and is a big part of his life,” says Laurie. “We were honored to step in behind the scenes to rally behind Gary and to help make the event a success for him and the community.”

Tickets are $150 per person, or $75 for those under 30 or preschool parents. Cocktails begin at 6 pm on the soccer fields just east of the main JCC building on the campus at 12701 N Scottsdale Road. Proceeds support scholarships and programming at The J.
For more information, call 480-483-7121 or visit

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