By Charles Bernsen
More than 150 people were on hand on Jan. 29 to honor Patti and David Steine Jr. for their lifelong commitment to the Jewish people and to help kick off the 2017 annual campaign of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
Following personal tributes from Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos and the Steines’ daughter, Mara Steine, Federation President Lisa Perlen recounted the couple’s long involvement in leadership positions with many of Jewish Nashville’s most important institutions – from the Federation and the Gordon Jewish Community Center to Akiva School, Hillel and BBYO to Congregation Sherith Israel to The Temple. She then presented them with the 2017 President’s Award, the Federation’s highest honor.
“Your grace, your humility and your extraordinary compassion are the greatest gifts you continue to bestow upon all of us,” Perlen said.
The presentation took place at the GJCC during the annual President’s Award Dinner hosted by the Bonim Society, which includes individuals and couples who have made a gift of $1,000 or more to the annual campaign. The event was open to the entire community.
Aside from kicking off the public portion of the 2017 annual campaign, the dinner marked the beginning of a month-long educational campaign called 30 Days of Doing Good in which the Federation aims to inspire community members not only to contribute to the annual campaign but also to learn about and become involved in community activities and causes.
The Pargh Auditorium was decorated with banners with the catchphrase “Donate. Do Good. Explore our Impact” as well as posters with testimonials from individuals whose lives have been enriched by any of the programs, services and institutions the Federation sponsors or helps fund. A number of those individuals also spoke in a video presentation about the Federation’s impact.
In remarks kicking off the evening, Dr. Frank Boehm, chair of the 2017 annual campaign, said this year’s ambitious goal of $2.7 million – a 10 percent increase over the 2016 total – is aimed at addressing needs identified in the recent demographic study funded by the Federation, including the fact that about 11 percent of the local Jewish population has troubling paying for basic needs like food, housing or medication.
Reminding those in attendance that the Jewish people, though small in number, have built a remarkable history of achievement through their commitment to learning, ethical behavior and each other, Boehm said, “Likewise, we Nashville and Middle Tennessee Jews may be small in number, yet our 4,700 households containing 8,000 Jews speak forcefully, act boldly and commit ourselves to what is good and holy in life. We stand together as one community and one people.”
In accepting the President’s Award, Patti Steine recalled how involvement in Jewish communal affairs after her marriage to David 28 years ago provided an opportunity to become familiar with her new community.
“From the very early chavurah we were members of, to the Temple Preschool, Temple Sisterhood Board, NCJW, Federation, Akiva School, and the Jewish Community Center, I came to know so many wonderful people with varied Jewish backgrounds and practices,” she said. “I have gained much satisfaction through my involvement and appreciated the welcoming and inclusive nature of the people I have worked with.”
For his part, David Steine, a native of Nashville, said the involvement of his parents, the late Peggy and David Steine, in civic and philanthropic affairs instilled in him and his siblings the importance of giving back to both the Jewish community and the larger Nashville community. He also paid tribute to other communal leaders who had inspired and counseled him, in particular Sandy Averbuch, the first recipient of the President’s Award in 2012, who died last fall year.
“Sandy taught me and many others that communal decisions and discussions must take place within the context of our Jewish values, even if the results of those decisions cost us more time and money,” he said.
Steine also recalled how his Jewish volunteerism began with a simple request by Annette Levy to help set up and run the annual Jewish book fair at the old JCC on West End Avenue.
“She did not ask me if I were ready to begin a 40-year commitment to the Jewish community. If she had, I probably would have said no,” Steine said. “In a similar way, we must learn to engage many more Jews in our community – 25-year olds and 65-year olds, men and women, who are willing to help in ways suited to their unique talents and interests. Whether it is for an hour, a day or a year.” •