Scholarships and various programs at the Valley of the Sun JCC (The J) are getting an almost $300,000 boost.

The money was raised through The J’s “New York State of Mind” gala on Dec. 2, with more than 500 guests in attendance.

“The sold-out ‘New York State of Mind’ was a smashing success,” said Jonathan Hoffer, The J’s board chair, in a press release. “The event exceeded expectations on all fronts and allowed us to raise meaningful dollars.”

Along with raising funds, the event also honored three people who have been dedicated to The J and the Jewish community.

Jennifer and Steven Schwarz were presented with the prestigious Irv Shuman award, named for the beloved philanthropist and real estate developer who was killed in 2008. The award is presented to those who exemplify the spirit of tzedakah through commitment, passion, service and leadership within the community.

“To be surrounded by over 500 of our community friends was overwhelming and incredibly special,” stated Jennifer Schwarz in a press release.

Jennifer has spearheaded many efforts at The J, including the building of the outdoor playground, a teen sports league and teen lounge. She also 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.

Kristina Brown received the inaugural Maya Schulder Rising Star Award. The award is named after 15-year-old Schulder, who died last year during a camp trip in Israel. The award honors a member of The J’s community who gives of his or her time, talent and skills to help transform the lives of families.

Although Brown has been involved in The J in many ways, she is most proud of her work in helping to start the Grandparents Club at The J’s pre-school. The club not only is a place where grandparents can meet other grandparents, but it is also where grandparents and their grandchildren can create special memories.

“One of the best parts of volunteering to support The J is that The J has become our family’s home away from home,” Brown said in a press release. “I wish everyone knew about The J and belonged in some way or form, because whoever you are, whomever you love, from wherever your heritage comes, you are welcome at The J.”

The J was transformed into the streets of the Big Apple for the gala and guests partook of street-style eats and entertainment, including a subway musician, card shark, break dancers and the Naked Cowboy of Times Square. There was also a Broadway-style show featuring local theatrical talents Michele Kahn, Hector Coris and Rebecca Steiner. Even event co-chair, Tiffani Bachus, got into the act by dancing in the opening number. The Schwarzes’ children surprised their parents with a special song during the event.

“It really felt like we were walking the streets of New York and the entertainment was tremendous, and it was so touching that our girls were included,” Jennifer Schwarz said.

The event was co-chaired by Tiffani and Dan Bachus and Michelle and Bryan Kort. JN

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