Diane Kraitman Accepts the Robin Perlo Berry NextGen Leadership Award
Note: Over the next week, we will be posting the wrap up from our wonderful Reconnect and Reboot event. Stay tuned for more speeches and videos!
Thank you Sam and Evan. Being your big sister continues to be one of my favorite roles, and I am so proud of all that you have accomplished. I consider myself to be rather humble and modest and was therefore surprised when my dear friends and stellar NCJW volunteers, Jody and Bari, informed me of this honor. There are so many tremendous leaders in our community deserving of this acknowledgement. I am just doing my small part. However, serving our community is one of my greatest joys. I have had the pleasure of getting to know members of our community, lay leaders and professional staff. It has been an honor to serve with each of you and to watch working relationships turn into friendships.
As I thought about tonight, I tried to think about what motivates me to serve our community. That is hard because I can’t imagine NOT serving our community. I tried to recall an “aha” moment when I started serving the community or started caring if an injustice was fixed. I trace it back to at least elementary school; my dear friend and I petitioned the Mayor to get a street fixed. The street had a large pot hole in it that caused a legendary bus accident. At a young age, I learned how to effect change. Today, you can call 311 or use an app to get a road fixed. 35 years ago it wasn’t that easy, but I learned an important lesson at an early age- that I could use my voice and actions to help others. I thank my parents for raising me to appreciate giving back and serving the community. I hope to inspire Jackelyn to serve our community and create social change. At eight months of age, I have certainly dragged her to more than her share of committee meetings, volunteer opportunities and community events.
I am so honored to volunteer with this important organization On a personal note, NCJW has strengthened many of my relationships and friendships. NCJW’s efforts to impart social change resonates with me, I cannot underscore the importance of championing the needs of women, children and families. NCJW promotes the belief that progressive ideas put into action can improve the world. I am proud to participate in NCJW’s community service projects and advocacy.
I am so proud to receive an award named for Robin Perlo Berry and to join the list of distinguished recipients. Each of them is inspiring as was Robin. Robin embraced community service and philanthropy and her family. I only hope to be a deserving ambassador and to carry on her legacy and good will. I can still see Robin’s expansive smile at Beth Yeshurun. She and Josh were so dedicated to our community and to their family. I am pretty sure that Robin would have loved my favorite NCJW event: The Back2School Store.
Each year, we provide supplies and clothing for low-income children preparing for school. It requires significant energy and financial resources from NCJW volunteers but it is so rewarding to see the smiles on the children’s faces. They are so excited to start the school year with a new backpack, uniform, shoes, underwear and bows. I walk away with a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that they will be better prepared for the year ahead and their future. I am so grateful that NCJW provides the opportunity to help these families. The Houston Back2School store has only been open for two years. I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow in year 3.
I am thrilled to share this evening with the Kalmans family. Congratulations. I have long looked up to your family for your tremendous dedication to our community. I had the pleasure of serving with Lewis on the JCC’s board of directors and the development committee. Your list of service to our community is never-ending. I hope to model your family’s love of tzedkah and tikkun olam.
I also want to thank tonight’s chairs Aliza, Rachel and Rebecca and interim director Kristina. Thank you for your tireless efforts to make this night a success. I truly appreciate your attention to all the details and for giving our community a chance to come together to reconnect. I know you had to quickly make a decision about this evening in the wake of Harvey. While so many are still in the midst of recovery, I think it is important for our community to embrace opportunities to connect. More importantly, the programs that NCJW serves such as AVDA and HIPPY need our support more than ever. Thank you for giving so much to our community by putting on this event.
Before I wrap up tonight, I would also thank those that have helped be a dedicated volunteer. These last 8 months I have had the pleasure of serving in my favorite role that of mother. While adding this large hat, I am proud that I have been able to maintain my volunteer efforts. My village, compromised of my encouraging husband Javi, my incredible mom Karen, my loving in-laws Ben and Marta and so many others have stepped in to help take care of Jackelyn while I have volunteered. I will forever be grateful that you have allowed me to continue my passion for volunteering. I also thank my uncle and brother for their flexibility as I have pursued my community work. Each of you allowed me to be at the JCC non-stop to assist with Harvey relief efforts and so much more. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving our community. I am grateful to my friends and family that made a special effort to be here tonight. I stand here tonight knowing that one of my biggest admirers is not here to kvell in this evening. Dad, I know you were always so proud of my accomplishments in the community, and I loved attending community events with you. The JCC’s Book Festival, formerly known as the Book Fair, just wasn’t the same without you.
I also stand here tonight knowing that we as a community have many challenges ahead. I look forward to working with you to enhance our community and to continue to help as many people as possible. Tonight is a celebration of what has been accomplished but also a commitment to continue to be an agent of change and service.