Faith and Humanity Award
Early in 2015, a documentary film called Deli Man opened nationwide, looking at the men behind the food behind the tradition of delicatessens in Jewish culture. Front and center in the film is Ziggy Gruber, owner and chef of two Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen Restaurants in Houston. Gruber is the third generation in his family to own a deli. Where grandfather Max started at 16 and father Eugene at 12, Ziggy stepped behind the counter at age eight. Following the death of his grandfather and with his family’s support, Ziggy left the deli business and enrolled at the Cordon Bleu in London.
When first asked to come to Texas, Ziggy’s first question was, “Is there a Jewish community in Houston?” Of course, he not only found out there was quite a vibrant one, he quickly became a vibrant part of it. Over the years, he has worked tirelessly helping raise funds for various organizations like the Jewish Community Center, various area synagogues and Hillel, the international Jewish campus organization. After Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area in 2017 damaging or destroying so many homes of Jewish families, Ziggy opened during the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays for the first time in the 17-year history of the restaurant. In doing that, he also donated a portion of all sales to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston.
On a national level, Ziggy took the message of the ‘Deli Man’ movie and in 2016 founded National Deli Month, recruiting Jewish delis across the country to participate and bring attention to the diminishing number of remaining delis. Each August since, each deli creates a special menu from which a portion of sales goes to a local charity. For the past two years, Ziggy has raised dollars for the Holocaust Museum Houston. Throughout the year, Ziggy offers to help in various causes, sometimes tied to unexpected tragedies and sometimes tied to festivals, celebrations or singular crusades.
Debra Gaitz Cohen
Debra G. Cohen is a native Houstonian and has been active in many Jewish organizations. She is currently serving on the Chair’s Cabinet for Jewish Federation of Greater Houston as Vice Chair of Special Projects. She has been a member of the board for many years, receiving the Barbara Falik Young Leadership Award and serving as Women’s Philanthropy Chair for two years. Presently, Debra is also a member of various committees, including the Women’s Cabinet, Israel/Overseas, Fund for the Jewish Future, the Flood Committee, and the Planning Committee. She previously co-chaired a delegate mission to the UN on behalf of JFNA. She was on National Young Leadership Cabinet for six years, holding several portfolios. She was a National Women’s Philanthropy (NWP) board member for six years, with leadership portfolios.
Debra served as President of the Board of Jewish Family Service in Houston from 2014-2016, and she was a board member and executive committee member for over a decade, serving as both Vice President of Program Services and Development. She co-chaired the endowment campaign in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Jewish Family Service.
In addition, she serves on the Houston Jewish Family Foundation board. Ms. Cohen has been an active board member of Holocaust Museum Houston since 2003 and has also served on the executive committee. She is also a member of the board of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).
Debra is passionate about the global Jewish world and has traveled extensively on many local and national missions. She serves as a board member for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), where she works on various committees. She served as a committee member on the Board of Governors for Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) for several years. Additionally, she is a board member of Mental Health America (MHA) of Greater Houston.
Debra attended Tulane University. She is married to Steven Cohen and has two daughters, Courtney CohenGarson (and her husband Josh) and Hilary.
Robin Perlo Berry NextGen Leadership Award
Rachel and Levi Strauss
Rachel and Levi Strauss have been long standing volunteers, and are committed and passionate about the organizations they serve.
Levi, who professionally serves as Vice President of Health Care Consultants, a Health Insurance brokerage, is most proud of his dedicated work he did with the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation of Houston. Most recently, Levi has completed his term in 2017 as YAD Chair. Before this, Levi served in a number of leadership roles, including Vice Chair, Legacy Co-Chair, Big Gig Committee, Kick-off Chair. Today, Levi sits as a fitness committee member for the Jewish Community Center.
Rachel professionally is employed as the Director of Business Development for EHIM, a healthcare solutions company headquartered in Southfield, MI. Her lay leader life began almost 20 years ago, as an active student member of the Michigan State University Hillel. As a participant and recruitment chair for the first ever Birthright mission to Israel in 1999, something “clicked” and she realized the power of Jewish community. As part of the YAD/NextGen board for the Federation of Metro Detroit, Rachel served in various leadership roles, most notably as NextGen President in 2014. In 2011, Rachel was honored with the Florine Mark Young Leadership Award for her commitment to the revitalization of Detroit’s young adult community. Rachel was also a proud member of National Young Leadership Cabinet where she also held various leadership portfolios, most notably as the women’s national chair for TribeFest 2012 in Las Vegas. After finding her B’Sheret Levi, Rachel moved to to Houston in 2014, where she jumped into YAD with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston immediately. Locally, Rachel has served a number of leadership roles, including co-chair of the first Legacy Campaign event in 2015, and most proudly as co-chair of the Leadership Development Program’s first year. In 2017, Rachel was the recipient of the Barbara and Harold Falik Young Leadership Award. This past spring, Rachel was excited to have chaired the NCJW Intergeneration Tea, which propelled her passion for this incredible organization.
Today, Rachel serves on the Board of Director’s for Federation of Greater Houston, and is part of the Campaign Council. Rachel and Levi have two children, Leo, 2 and Goldie who is 9 months old.