For six Metro Detroiters, June 21 was a night to remember.
That’s when the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit hosted its annual awards night, which honors exceptional individuals for their dedication to and impact on the Jewish community. Think of the ceremony — held at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts in West Bloomfield — as the Academy Awards for mensches.
The honorees range in age, background and profession, but they all prioritize community involvement for the same reason: They’d rather give than receive. “Anybody can get,” says Guy Barron, the winner of this year’s William Davidson Lifetime Achievement Award. “We get more pleasure out of being able to help others.”
Here’s a look at each award and this year’s honorees.
William Davidson Lifetime Achievement Awards
Since 2000, the William Davidson Lifetime Achievement Award — one of Federation’s highest honors, which celebrates the legacy of its namesake — has recognized Detroiters with extensive track records of Jewish communal leadership.
Barron’s relationship with Federation dates back to the 1960s, when he began getting involved in the organizations that his wife, Nora, supported, including Jewish Family Service and JVS (now Gesher Human Services). Nora was given the William Davidson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
About 40 years ago, the couple — grandparents of four who split their time between Bloomfield Hills and California — established the Barron Family Foundation. The foundation gives more than 50 gifts annually to everything from Camp Tamarack to Federation’s Mission Lab, which the pair created to offer innovative trips to Israel. “There’s always stuff to give away,” says Barron, who, at 89, is still active in his real estate career. “We’ve never had a problem giving it away to people or organizations that need it.”
Roz Blanck is an attorney by profession, but after becoming active in Federation’s Young Adult Division in the early 1980s, she decided volunteering was her true calling. “I haven’t left Federation since,” says the Franklin mother of three and grandmother of four.
Over the past four decades, Blanck has served on dozens of Federation boards and committees, from JVS, the Jewish Fund and the Jewish Community Relations Council to Tamarack Camps and Hillel of MSU. She’s also been president of the Women’s Philanthropy Department.
As a lifelong Detroiter, Blanck, 70, says her involvement strengthens her ties to her beloved community. “I get to see how the community works together as a whole,” she says. “We’re all in this together.”
Young Leadership Awards
The Sylvia Simon Greenberg Young Leadership Award has been recognizing rising female leaders since 1965, when Greenberg’s family established it as a memorial to their beloved wife and mother. This year’s honoree, Amye Goldhaber of Franklin, has focused her efforts on Women’s Philanthropy, sitting on the board of directors and becoming co-chair of Young Women’s Philanthropy. In November, she’ll travel to Israel with the Susie and Norm Pappas Inspire Campaign Leadership Program.
“Motivating is a word I’d use to describe winning this award,” says Goldhaber, who owns an interior design firm and is also active at Hillel Day School, where her two children attend. “It fuels my efforts to realize that something I enjoy doing is making a meaningful contribution.”
In 1961, Frank A. Wetsman’s family established an award to recognize exceptional leadership potential and service to the Jewish community by a young man. Shimon G. Levy, this year’s recipient, has dedicated his life to serving his community, both in his native Israel, where he was an IDF squadron commander — and in his adopted hometown of Detroit.
Levy, 37, began his volunteer journey with NEXTGen Detroit, where he sat on the executive board through 2022. He’s held leadership positions on JFNA’s Young Leadership Cabinet, Federation’s Board of Governors and has led missions to Israel, Cuba and Hungary. He sits on several Federation committees.
A father of two young children who runs investing and consulting firms, Levy is also passionate about combatting antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments and building community, which he and his wife do by hosting large Shabbat dinners and community events at their home. “The understanding that Federation gives you so much more than you give it is a guiding beacon,” he says. “What you give, you get back tenfold.”
Created in 1993 by Florine Mark and family, the Mark-Lis Family Young Leadership Award recognizes an established NEXTGen Detroit Division leader with a track record of remarkable commitment and success in the division as well as Federation’s Annual Campaign.
This year’s honoree, George Roberts of Detroit, has been involved in NEXTGen Detroit since 2015. Under his leadership as president, the NEXTGen Detroit campaign raised more than $1 million for the first time in 2022, and Roberts attracted more young people to NEXTGen Detroit by refreshing everything from events like Epic to the organization’s social media strategy.
A real estate developer who focuses on building equitable communities across Detroit, Roberts, 34, also applies his professional skills to volunteer work: He’s leading the revitalization of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue.
“I’ve always looked up to Federation leaders [who are] part of our history and community,” he says. “I’m hoping that sharing how meaningful leadership has been for me will inspire others.”
Madge and Bill Berman, both of blessed memory, established the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Award for Outstanding Professional Service in 1988 to acknowledge exceptional communal professionals. These individuals’ hard work and commitment are key to advancing Federation’s mission.
This year’s honoree, Tracey Proghovnick Edelstein, has dedicated her career to helping others, particularly those unable to help themselves. She’s worked for Jewish Senior Life for nearly 25 years, during which she’s helped countless seniors and their families navigate the challenges of moving into assisted-living facilities.
As the director of residential marketing and community relations, Proghovnick is responsible for getting the word out about JSL — which serves about 850 seniors across Metro Detroit — and representing the organization at events and conferences.
“When you do your work every day, you do it because you care, not because you’re looking for accolades,” says Proghovnick, who lives in West Bloomfield. “This is the biggest honor I could ever imagine.”