Community volunteers recognized for outstanding work

This is part one of a series on the Jewish agency volunteers who received 2018 Special Recognition Awards at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Jewish Community Awards Celebration held May 10.

Max Cohen, Jewish Family & Children’s Services

President and CEO Carlos Hernandez attributes much of Jewish Family & Children’s Services’ recent fiscal management success to board member Max Cohen. A retired account, Cohen “used his skills and knowledge in finance to help revamp and streamline JFCS’s accounting procedure,” says Hernandez. “As such, the organization receives positive feedback from its financial auditors, and the agency is operating in the black.”

But what drives Cohen to contribute so much of his free time is his commitment to JFCS’s mission is his advocacy for mental health and social services and his recognition of the community’s most vulnerable people, notes Hernandez. “The staff and board of JFCS are truly grateful for all of Max’s contributions.”

The retired CPA has lived in Tucson for 34 years, moving from upstate New York where he was a partner in a large, regional accounting firm, providing services for small- and medium-size businesses, nonprofits and individuals.

Since arriving in Tucson, he’s concentrated on providing services to small businesses as a part-time controller.  “In this role, some of my clients grew to where they could support a full-time position and I moved on to other clients,” says Cohen. He also worked as a real estate broker in his late wife’s residential property management business.

Cohen began volunteering at JFCS in 2010 as a member of the audit committee, joining the board as treasurer in 2013. Since, he has served on numerous committees and assisted the accounting department and management with budgeting, staffing and other matters. “Participating as part of the JFCS has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” he says.

Eric Rudner, Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging

A University of Arizona graduate in business administration with emphasis in accounting and finance, Eric Rudner has been with Ludwig Klewer & Co. PLLC since graduation in 1993 and was promoted to partner in 2010. Having developed expertise across several industries, his income tax experience includes corporations, partnerships, LLCs, trusts and individuals. Rudner is a past president of the Jewish Education Tax Credit Organization board of directors and a former member of the Arizona Blind and Deaf Children’s Foundation, Inc. and the University High School Alumni Association boards.

Currently serving as vice president of the Handmaker board, he also serves on their audit and finance committees. It was about four years ago, he says, that he decided to get more involved with Handmaker and joined the board.

“Eric stepped up by filling the position of treasurer when that position opened up unexpectedly,” says board chair Phil Bregman. “As vice chair of the Handmaker board, Eric has involved himself in as many aspects of the organization as he has been able to …  regularly attending finance committee meetings, tax credit meetings and events.”

“Handmaker has always been special to me as I remember visiting there when I was a young student at Tucson Hebrew Academy,” says Rudner. “My grandfather was treated with excellent care there while he was recovering from a fall.  Then, about five years ago my grandmother moved there to live, progressing through all the different services they provide until she passed away in February. I love what the organization stands for and the people they help, and have seen the great service that they provide first hand. The employees really care for the residents and their families.”

Evan Mendelson, Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona   

Evan Mendelson has over 40 years of experience working in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, including consulting and executive roles for local and national organizations, in small cities and large, and for mainstream and grassroots organizations. Those roles included Jewish Funders Network founding executive director, Diamond Family Philanthropies senior program officer, Casa de la Luz Foundation interim executive director and David and Lura Lovell Foundation executive director.

She became involved with the Jewish Community Foundation when her friend and colleague, Tracy Salkowitz, arrived in Tucson to lead the Foundation. “It was important for me to find a volunteer opportunity that I was passionate about,” says Mendelson. That passion is making a difference through grantmaking.

“Evan is a planner, and a big picture person who takes every opportunity to educate those with whom she is working, and encourages those around her to do the same and act accordingly,” says Robyn Schwager, the Foundation’s grants and legacy officer.

Mendelson also is involved with the Foundation a as a board member and chair of the grants committee. She founded the Jewish Fund for Justice and serves as president for both the Arts Foundation of Tucson and the Traveling Jewish Theatre. “Evan’s energy and wealth of information make her an invaluable asset to the Foundation and any organization she works with,” adds Schwager.

“Giving away money seems easy, but it is actually quite challenging to give it away well. As a volunteer, I learned about the many important programs in the local Jewish community, the local general Tucson community, and in Israel. It makes me a more strategic funder in my personal philanthropy and allows me to have a small role in helping our Jewish community fulfill its responsibility to tikkun olam (repair of the world),” Mendelson says.