Mega stars

Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Camryn Manheim, center, was the featured speaker of the 2014 Mega Event sponsored by the Jewish Community Association Feb. 25 at the Arizona Biltmore. Pictured, from left, are co-chairs Rudy and Donna Troisi, Manheim and co-chairs Andi and Sherman Minkoff.

The annual Mega Event for the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix, held at the Arizona Biltmore on Feb. 25, drew 1,000 attendees and raised approximately $360,000 for the 2014 Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs. The funds raised will help serve Jews in Greater Phoenix, Israel and more than 65 countries around the world.

This year’s theme, “Come Together for Good,” inspired guests to learn about the Association’s mission and how, through donor funding, the Association makes an impact in our community every day.  

The event was kicked off with a beautiful performance by Abe Meth, a 101-year-old Holocaust survivor singing “Hatikvah” and the Mega Event chairs revealing of the Jewish Community Quilt, a communitywide initiative demonstrating the unity, strength and power of the Valley’s Jewish community by symbolically tying all of the Jewish organizations and synagogues together.

Donna Troisi, Mega Event co-chair, who came up with the idea for the quilt, says “it represents one caring Jewish Community that strives to work together for all Jews both within our community and around the World.” The Jewish Community Quilt features 80 Jewish organizations and synagogues and will be toured around the community and eventually placed at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center.

Stuart Wachs, president and CEO of the Association, shared his insights on the Pew study and what it means for our community. “The Pew study has caused a lot of concern within the Jewish community, not just ours but across the nation.  But there is great hope! I look at the fact that 94 percent of U.S. Jews are proud to be Jewish as a great opportunity for our community to grow and thrive.”  

Wachs’ speech highlighted that while the Pew study calls out the high rate of intermarriage and the low percentage raising their children Jewishly, interfaith marriage is not the challenge but the opportunity and need for better engagement.

“Interfaith marriage is not the problem.  The opportunity is in how we build a welcoming, supportive community that increases the chances of interfaith couples raising their kids Jewishly.”

Berry Sweet, a longtime supporter and donor of the Association, gave a heartfelt speech that communicated the importance of connection within our community stating how the fabric of one’s own quilt is also part of the larger community’s quilt.  

Berry asked, “What will it take to reinforce those stitches holding our community together, especially when it seems that everywhere, subtle, insidious forces are tearing at the fabric of Jewish life – apathy, increased assimilation, diminishing participation, reluctance in some circles even to identify as a ‘cultural Jew’?”  And she answered, “it will take reminding ourselves that our identity, our peoplehood, has always been based upon our being responsible, one for the other and that there is still much to be done.”

The evening featured guest speaker Camryn Manheim, best known for her Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning role on “The Practice.” Manheim greeted the Phoenix Jewish community and its members like old friends and even told stories and jokes she shared during the pre-reception with the people she just met. She delighted the audience with personal stories about her Jewish journey, made them laugh with her father’s haikus and shared a humor-filled poem she wrote about the Association.  

 Jennifer Grossman, Association vice president of marketing and public relations, says the Association gives special thanks to Donna and Rudy Troisi and Andi and Sherman Minkoff, Irwin and Shari Kanefsky and Berry Sweet for their incredible work to make the evening a success.  

“Without their passion, dedication, and commitment the evening would not have been nearly as successful at kicking off the campaign and bringing the community together in such a momentous manner,” said Grossman. 

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