Wherever we find ourselves today, we are a different community than we were one year ago. We have seen unprecedented threats to our health and wellbeing, tectonic shifts in the workplace and in our schools, and pivotal changes in our habits at home and away. Few have wrestled more intimately with the challenges of safeguarding the future of Jewish Detroit than Dennis Bernard, newly elected President of the United Jewish Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit. And few are as well prepared to meet the community challenges ahead.
As Founder and President of Bernard Financial Group, Michigan’s largest commercial mortgage banking and servicing firm, Dennis holds a longtime record of professional and philanthropic leadership in both the Jewish community and greater community of Detroit. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Michigan, Dennis has co-chaired Federation’s Covid Emergency Campaign in partnership with Matt Lester, Federation President (also beginning his term in October). “Faced with a crisis, humans are truly remarkable,” Dennis reflected, “The response of our Jewish community - with their hearts, with their brains, with their wallets - has been nothing but astounding.”
If ever you wonder what inspires leadership at Jewish Federation, ask Randi Sakwa. An energetic and highly motivated volunteer since her early days with Federation’s TOV Volunteer Network, Randi now serves on the Boards of Federation and its Women’s Philanthropy. Her heart in Israel – and a frequent visitor there with family and friends closely tied to Michigan’s Partnership Region of the Central Galilee - Randi is fully committed to her work as Co-chair of the Parternship2Gether Steering Committee and its programming, now celebrating 25 years of fellowship and accomplishment. Beyond her service to Federation, Randi is Vice President of the West Bloomfield Board of Education and a member of the Boards of JCRC/AJC and Hillel of Metro Detroit. Additionally, she is a participant in the prestigious Shalom Hartman Detroit Leadership Program and a Graduate Fellow of the Legacy Heritage OnBoard Detroit Cohort (2019).
Born in Chicago, proud to call Jewish Detroit his home where his family roots are firmly planted, Rabbi Joshua Bennett celebrated his 25th anniversary at Temple Israel on June 26th in a moving Kabbalat Shabbat service via Zoom. “We are living in the midst of Covid-19, a pandemic that has changed our lives for the foreseeable future,” he said in the sermon he delivered that evening. “We also are living through another pandemic of racial inequality that has divided our nation. It might seem as if the best of times is behind us. But I do not believe it so. I believe another life is just beginning. I have been blessed with Temple Israel 1.0 as my proving ground for a quarter of a century. Now, I get to dream about version 2.0 and the words written on my tallit. Ve-im lo achshav, ei’matay? If not now, when?”
Building trust as a builder of custom homes in the community, and building community as a career volunteer with Federation and its partner agencies, Mark Adler has served in many roles: in Campaign Fundraising and Capital Needs, in Michigan’s Israel Partnership, in Tamarack Camps; he and his wife, Laura. are the parents of Hillel Day School and Frankel Jewish Academy graduates. Now, in his 7th year on Federation’s Security Committee, serving for the past four years as Chair, Mark has found his calling. “I see my role as the eyes and ears of our community,” he says. “What I bring to the table are my skills in business and organization, but I work with a team of top professionals under the leadership Federation’s Security Director, Gary Sikorski. In partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement working closely with our agencies, we are recognized as having one of the most capable and robust Federation Community Security Departments in the nation.”
A mission for Gen Xers? Geared for first-time visitors to Israel? Why not! Launched in January 2020 - with the generous support of longtime community leaders, Andi and Larry Wolfe - Federation’s inaugural Gen X Mission brought 33 first timers to tour, discover and experience all that Israel has to offer through the lens of Jewish Detroit’s vibrant connections there.
So far, so good . . . Michigan winters and Detroit drivers haven’t bothered Tomer Moked, not a bit. “Driving in Michigan is a little like driving in Israel,” he says, “Everyone is in a rush, but they know where they want to go.”
In his previous role as Assistant Director at Tamarack Camps, as many know him, Tomer was never one to rush into a decision. And he knew with certainty where he was going, moving from Israel to Michigan into the heart of the Detroit Jewish community. Leaving the house he owns in Beit Arye and the business he’s established in Tel Aviv - Tomer maintains that he’s found “a dream come true” in his new position as Federation’s Director of NEXTGen Detroit.