The Robert and Ellen Gordman Jewish Teen Leadership Award annually honors two local teens who have demonstrated exceptional commitments to our community. Criteria for nomination includes active participation and demonstrated leadership ability in local youth groups, strengthening their organizations, developing future leadership and community involvement.
This year’s recipients will each receive a one thousand dollar stipend for use towards a conclave, convention, Jewish summer camp, or Israel experience of their choice.
The Jewish Federation of Omaha is pleased to announce that this year’s award winners are Laura Kirshenbaum and Jordan Raffel.
Award presentations will be made at the Jewish Federation of Omaha’s Awards Night and Annual Meeting, June 7 at 7 p.m. This year’s event will be held in the new Alan J. Levine Theater. Alive stream will be available. More details to follow in the coming weeks!
Jordan Raffel is the son of Wendy and Adam Raffel. The Millard North Senior has taken advantage of dual enrollment opportunities and is an honor roll student at his high school and on the dean’s list at Metropolitan Community College where he is enrolled in the Business and Entrepreneurship Academy. With a jump start on his college career, Jordan, an avid Jayhawk basketball fan, will continue his studies next fall at the University of Kansas where he plans to major in Finance and International Business Leadership.
“I was excited and honored when I found out that I was selected to be a recipient of this community award. It means a lot to be recognized for the hard work I’ve put in over the past years. This award is also extra special to me because my mom was a recipient of the same award. I plan on using the award money towards a Birthright to Israel Trip the summer after my freshman or sophomore year of college.”
A member of Temple Israel, Raffel has been an active member of the community and has worked at the JCC in member services and as a lifeguard. He joined BBYO leadership in 2017 as local chapter secretary and over the years, served as BBYO local vice president of recruitment, for which he was recognized internationally; in 2019-20, he served as Regional president.
“Jordan has really grown as a leader these last few years and the impact he has on our fellow members is evident,” shares Jacob Geltzer, BBYO and Teen Program Director.
“Jordan’s passion for BBYO is unmatched and it shows through the many leadership roles he has held and the teens he has inspired. Having been the VP of Recruitment, Jordan set out to recruit new members for Omaha BBYO that will one day take our organization to new heights. Jordan received the Tree of Life Award which is given to members who have recruited eight or more Jewish teens into BBYO. Many of the teens who he helped recruit are now serving as board members on the chapter/council level.”
Geltzer continues. “Being part of the first chapter in AZA and BBYO (Mother Chapter AZA), Jordan never shies away from educating new members about the rich history of Omaha BBYO. It’s because of that passion, he has attended and planned many chapter and regional programs. As a member of the Mid America Region Regional Coordinating Committee, Jordan has been able to work and collaborate with other council presidents from the region to plan engaging and meaningful regional programs. As president of his chapter and council, Jordan worked hand in hand with his fellow board members to make sure the legacy of Mother chapter AZA and Omaha BBYO is a long and growing one. For AZA’s 96th Founder’s Day, Jordan planned and lead a discussion about AZA traditions with over 100 fellow brother Alephs from around the world. Talking with past BBYO Alumni and International board members, Jordan lead and facilitated a discussion about the difference and changes that have happened in AZA and BBYO over the past 96 years. Even when Jordan is not in an elected leadership position, he has been a great role model and a very active member in BBYO. He always attends meetings with a smile, excited to spend time with his Jewish friends and ready to talk about his day. Jordan has told me that BBYO is a place where he knows he is always welcome and only wants to pass that same experience off to his current and future members. I am excited to see how he will take his time in BBYO and use it to make his future as successful as possible.”
Over the past two years, Raffel has also served on the JFO Young Jewish Giving Teen Foundation Board. In 2020, Raffel attended AIPAC as a teen delegate who lobbied politicians in Washington D.C. on behalf of the organization. His interest in civics led him to work as a data entry clerk for the Douglas County Election Commission in 2020, as well.
In addition to his work in Jewish organizations, Raffel played Varsity Lacrosse for Millard North throughout his high school career and was 2020 State Champion for Millard North DECA, an association of marketing students that encourages the development of business and leadership skills through academic conferences and competitions.
When asked to reflect on the impact BBYO has had on his life and why he stays involved, Raffel shares the following. “Through having an active roll in BBYO, I have learned many valuable leadership skills and have created many lifelong friendships. BBYO has also helped build and foster my Jewish Identity which I intend on carrying over into college by being active in KU Hillel and possibly joining a Jewish Fraternity. I stayed involved so I could be a leader, mentor, and teacher for the future leaders just as the members older than me did and would encourage all our community’s youth to get involved. When I graduate college and end up starting a life of my own, I plan on taking an active role in the Jewish community in what ever city I end up in.”
Congratulations to both the outstanding Robert and Ellen Gordman Jewish Teen Leadership Award recipients.