In honor of JCC Denver’s upcoming Annual Dinner, we sat down with Samantha Walsh, Assistant Director of Development, and Allison Levy, Donor Relations and Events Manager to hear their perspective on the Annual Dinner and the meaning behind the Hineni Award.
How long has the Annual Dinner taken place?
Samantha Walsh: The Annual Dinner has taken place for at least a decade. We’ve been giving out the awards since 1995.
Who is this year’s honoree?
Allison Levy: Norman Brownstein. Norm is a ‘larger-than-life’ attorney in town who has been deemed by many as the “101st Senator.” He is a founding member and Chairman of the Board of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and he does a lot of national and international work for the Jewish community.
SW: He’s very politically active. He’s been an important figure for the on-going fight against anti-Semitism.
AL: He’s also the Vice President of AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee)—he works on a local, national, and global level to support Israel.
What awards are handed out at the Annual Dinner?
SW: One is called the “Jerry Gray Service Award” and that’s an award for someone who has served the JCC specifically. Then we have the “Hineni Award,” also known as the “Hineni Pillar of the Community Award,” and that was more for someone who has served the Jewish community locally, and often nationally. We’ve given the Hineni Award maybe four or five times and then last year we renamed it, in perpetuity, of Bob Loup. Now it’s the “Robert E. Loup Hineni Award.” It’s the same general idea of someone who’s not only a JCC volunteer but someone who has served the greater community. That’s why it’s very fitting for Norm because he’s obviously served a huge amount of the Jewish community.
How does the JCC choose who they’re going to honor at the Dinner?
AL: This year’s process was particularly different as Bob Loup was very ill and he wanted the JCC to have a lasting legacy. He phoned up Norm Brownstein and said “Will you be the honoree?”
SW: Norm said, “Let me think about it.”
AL: He typically does not accept awards, especially publicly. It took a couple people in conversation with him until he came back and said “yes.” So, it is very special that Bob was the person that he was and what he’s done for the community and the J and that he then chose Norm to do this. It’s almost like Norm is the same type of human that Bob was, so it’s very fitting that he’s doing this.
SW: I think we elevated the status of the award by naming it after Bob and I think that Bob felt that this even further elevated the award by having Norm be the first recipient of the re-named award because the word “Hineni” means, “Here I am. Here I stand.” It’s about feeling the need to serve in every way. Norm accepted this honor because of Bob and his undying respect for him.
As a department, what is your favorite part about the Annual Dinner?
SW: I think it’s a nice celebratory event. The event itself is a wonderful celebration of the past year at the JCC. There’s focus on where we’ve been and what’s to come. It’s a great event for the people who come for the honoree, as well as for the people who attend that have been long-time supporters of the JCC.
AL: I enjoy getting to know all of the people both in the building and the larger community. It’s about creating the experience so when the guests walk into that room, they feel really good about what they’ve contributed to. I love figuring out how to tell the story and make it different than anything that’s been done before. When our guests attend the Annual Dinner, we want them to be able to see the true value of their on-going support. That’s what drives me, that’s my passion. It’s all with the ultimate goal of seeing the J survive and thrive for the next one hundred years.
About the JCC Annual Dinner
At its core, the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center is about one thing: belonging. For nearly 100 years, we’ve had the opportunity to offer this invaluable gift of belonging to a growing community that extends far beyond the walls of our center. At our 2017 Annual Dinner, we’ll gather to celebrate the progress we’ve made, the successes we’ve experienced, and the future of the JCC—a future we’re building together.
This year’s Annual Dinner takes place November 1 at the Grand Hyatt Denver.