The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s MEGA event, which kicks off the organization’s 2018 annual campaign, offered star power and honored some leading members of the Valley’s Jewish community.
Around 700 people attended the Feb. 15 event, which featured a keynote address by broadcast journalist David Gregory, the former moderator of NBC News’ Sunday morning talk show “Meet the Press.” He told his audience about his father’s reluctance to discuss being Jewish, which eventually led to Gregory making a deeper commitment to his faith as an adult.
Before the keynote address, Federation’s Medal of Honor was presented to Irwin Kanefsky. Since moving to Scottsdale in 1986, Kanefsky has served in multiple Federation volunteer positions, including vice chair, major gifts co-chair and campaign co-chair. He also served as the board chair of the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center (The J) and the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus.
The Medal of Honor recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a long and deep commitment to Jewish life, as well as exemplary leadership and service to Federation and to the Jewish community. Kanefsky’s wife, Shari, received the same award in 2014.
During his time as board chair of The J, Kanefsky was instrumental in bringing the JCC Maccabi Games to the Phoenix Jewish community in 2006, which he said is the greatest highlight of his community work.
The inaugural Harold & Jean Grossman Award was given to Jonathan and Rachel Hoffer. Federation’s newest award, named after local philanthropist Jean Grossman and her late husband, Harold, recognizes outstanding volunteers who have made exceptional contributions to the vitality of the Jewish community.
Jonathan Hoffer is the immediate past board chair of The J and sits on the boards of Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix. Rachel Hoffer is a board adviser of Federation’s NowGen program and co-chair of
Federation’s Violins of Hope. She also serves as the Israel and overseas vice chair for Federation’s National Young Leadership Cabinet and is the North America board chair for Youth Future.
During her acceptance speech, Rachel Hoffer said that while working as a baby room attendant at the then-Phoenix JCC, “I was trying to figure out why there was this guy, [Jonathan], always coming into the baby room. It didn’t take long for me to realize that he wasn’t there to see the babies, but instead he was there to see me.”
After the awards were handed out, Gregory spoke about his career at NBC News, which included serving as the moderator of “Meet the Press” for six years following the death of Tim Russert.
Becoming a journalist was Gregory’s dream since he was a young boy growing up in Southern California.
Gregory also discussed his strained relationship with his father. When attempting to talk to his father about being Jewish, Gregory remembers being pushed away.
“My dad wasn’t a religious person and the things that were most interesting to me, where I thought I could connect with him on, were something that never mattered to him,” Gregory said. “As life went on and I became older, I realized that my Jewish faith was important to me and I decided to write a memoir called ‘How’s Your Faith?’”
In the book, released in 2015, Gregory shares his attempts to deepen his own faith amid the world of his broadcast news career. Gregory is currently a political analyst on CNN and the host of his self-titled podcast, which features interviews with newsmakers and thought leaders. JN