The East Valley JCC has brought on the president of the Tempe and Gilbert accounting and tax preparation firm The Blau Company, Aaron Blau, as its new board chair.
Blau — who is replacing the previous chair, George Goffman — has a storied past with the EVJCC. His mother, Ilene, served as the EVJCC’s first executive director for 20 years before retiring in 2005. Her commitment to the center is one of the reasons Blau took the position.
“Her work was certainly an inspiration to serve the community,” Blau said. “Having an understanding of what she went through as the leading paid professional of the organization will help me shape how I operate as a board chair.”
Some of his responsibilities include supporting the staff, providing direction and reviewing high-level policy-making.
This is not the first time Blau has embraced the legacy of one of his parents — his father, Alan, founded The Blau Company in 1965.
Blau said he wants to match his mother’s distinct vision for the center. Ilene began working at the EVJCC in the early ’80s when it was called the Tri-City JCC and located in Tempe. The organization changed its name to East Valley JCC in 2004 and moved to Chandler the following year, although Ilene retired while the new center was still under construction.
Throughout her tenure at the EVJCC, Ilene was responsible for the addition of infant and toddler programs, preschool classes for 2-year-olds, 10 weeks of summer camp, Men’s Club, Book Club and resurrecting the BBYO.
Her presence can be felt throughout the EVJCC. Recently, the center named a teen leadership program after her. The Ilene Blau Teen Leadership Institute helps nine students develop leadership skills through study and activities with a focus on Jewish identity.
Blau said that Ilene wanted the center to be a welcoming and warm place for everyone in the community, where anyone who enters receives a hug rather than just a handshake. “The EVJCC should be built on communal relationships rather than transactions and a place where people feel comfortable to come visit in good times and bad,” he said.
The East Valley went through a major expansion during Ilene’s time as executive director. Blau said that some cities, like Gilbert, grew much larger than when his mother first started working, and some of the challenges that the EVJCC now faces are reaching and serving such a large community.
“Our JCC has no membership fee,” Blau said. “Everybody who walks in the door is a member and everyone who needs services in the East Valley is a member. Our organization strives to serve our membership.”
The CEO of the EVJCC, Rabbi Michael Beyo, said he was excited to work with Blau.
“Aaron Blau has a lifelong connection to the East Valley JCC and I’m thrilled to have him be a partner in the EVJCC’s future growth,” said Beyo. “He is a successful business owner that brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table and I look forward to working with him as we continue to build and strengthen community.”
Blau was introduced at this year’s Pillars of the Community event — the EVJCC’s annual meeting and recognition event — on Sept. 25. There, the new board chair spoke about his mother’s work and how he essentially grew up at the EVJCC.
He said that his mother was proud to see him take on such an important responsibility for the EVJCC.
“I’m excited to continue the mission that my mother worked so hard on for 20 years of her career,” Blau said. “But most of all, I’m excited to make a difference and do my share.” JN