Jewish community agencies tap top volunteers for honors at awards event

This is part two of a series on the Jewish agency volunteers who received 2018 Special Recognition Awards at the Jewish Community Awards Celebration, organized by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, held May 10 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

Dr. Ellis Friedman

Ellis Friedman, Tucson Hebrew Academy

A native of Reading, Pennsylvania, Ellis Friedman retired to Tucson after what he calls a “very fulfilling career” as an orthopedic surgeon at the ninth busiest U.S. emergency room, at the Reading Hospital & Medical Center. He began volunteering at Tucson Hebrew Academy in October 2000, twice weekly with second grade math enrichment. Ten years later, he moved to first grade reading skills, where all the eager readers wanted to work in “Dr. Ducky’s” one-on-one sessions.

Friedman explains: “In my first year of medical school, the British secretary to the dean of the school of medicine made me her favorite, and always called me, ‘Ducky.’ My classmates quickly found out, and I’ve been Ducky ever since. I was always paged as ‘Dr. Ducky Friedman’ at the hospital — and was given over 200 silver, crystal, Venetian glass, and wood ducks by patients. My grandchildren call me ‘Papa Ducky’ while students love to call me Dr. Ducky, and find it non-threatening.”

Outside the classroom, Friedman was a Congregation Anshei Israel member for 13 years and board member for eight years. A member of Congregation Bet Shalom for five years, he chairs its endowment committee. He is involved with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and its Maimonides Society, a fellowship of medical professionals. “I’m also the longest-serving coach in The Reading Seed program, having done that for 18 years,” he says. He and his wife, Irene, have three children with 10 grandchildren scattered across New Jersey, California and Israel.

“Friedman has been volunteering at Tucson Hebrew Academy for 18 years — this is his ‘Chai’ year of service! He dutifully shows up week after week to help our first graders learn and grow. For about a decade now he’s listened to them read, and read to them. He’s earned a special place in the hearts of every THA first grader and become part of what makes the year an amazing experience for our kids,” says Jon Ben-Asher, THA head of school.

Nancy Koff

Nancy Koff, University of Arizona Hillel Foundation

“Nancy Koff is quite possibly the most selfless person I have ever had the opportunity to call my friend,” says University of Arizona Hillel Foundation board chairman John Judin. “I remember for years hearing Nancy say how she was going to be retiring from her job as the associate dean of the University of Arizona Medical School, and how after she went ‘part-time’ it seemed she was working 60 hours per week. Was full-time 120 hours, Nancy?”

Koff retired in 2014, following a 24-year career at the University of Arizona College of Medicine as senior associate dean for medical student education.  She also was active nationally leading medical school accreditation teams for the liaison committee on medical education. 

“Despite her workload at the university, she always managed to find the energy to tirelessly devote to our community as a volunteer, both inside and outside of the Jewish community.  This is her second stint on the board of UA Hillel, she spent years on the Temple Emanu- El board of directors, and she continues to volunteer at the synagogue,” says Judin.

During her current and fourth term on the UA Hillel board, Koff served as the chair of the strategic planning committee.  “Her dedication and tireless efforts in this position provided the organization with a dynamic plan and direction toward the future,” says Judin. She actively participates on Hillel’s annual benefit committee, and is always ready and willing to help out with any number of projects, he adds.

With the College of Medicine, Koff serves on the Education Leadership Council of the Center for Integrative Medicine and stays involved with the college through the Gold Humanism Honor Society and its Nancy Alexander Koff Award to Recognize Humanism in Medicine. She also administers the Theodore H. Koff Scholarship, established in memory of her late husband of 19 years. He was the founding director of Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging.

Outside the university setting, she is a precinct committeeperson for the Democratic Party and served as the liaison between the College of Medicine and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona since the establishment of the Cindy Wool Memorial Seminar for Humanism in Healthcare nine years ago. She currently serves as the seminar’s co-chair.

“I truly enjoy working with Hillel and was very honored by this special recognition,” Koff says.  “I’ve enjoyed participating in the growth of the number and diversity of programs and activities connecting students to their Jewish identity and helping them develop leadership skills. I find it especially gratifying to contribute to something that so positively affects the educational experience of Jewish students and benefits the UA, which has been central to my life and that of my late husband for so many years.”

“It has truly been a privilege to have had Nancy’s support, counsel, and friendship during my tenure as UA Hillel board chair,” says Judin.

Ken Goodman, Tucson Jewish Community Center

“We recognized Ken for his body of work on the building committee for many years,” says Todd Rockoff, Tucson J president and CEO. “He always makes himself available, when something goes wrong or something goes right. He is generous with his time and always raises his hand to help. He’s been here forever and I hope he will continue to be.”

Goodman is a general contractor and a carpenter by trade. With his former company, Environmental Strategies, and now with his son Jonathan’s company, SCBS, LLC, Goodman continues to help the Tucson and the Jewish communities on many fronts.

In 2009, as the recession was deepening, Goodman’s philanthropy went from donating money to volunteerism, donating his time and expertise to the community.  He has been a member of the J for more than 30 years, served on the board for eight years and was named the J’s Volunteer of the Year in 2010 and 2017. Since 9/11, he has served on the security committee, helping design security enhancements for the center. He was part of the construction oversight committee for the expansion of the sports and wellness wing, early childhood education and special needs area. He was the contractor for the Stone Avenue Temple reconstruction and the Community Mikvah at Young Israel renovation.

Goodman served on the board of directors for Tucson Hebrew Academy and Temple Emanu-El and currently serves on the Jewish Family & Children Services board. He is chairman of the Pima County Small Business Commission.

An avid runner, Goodman has completed over 20 marathons, breaking three hours three times. He’s been on the masters swim team at the J for nearly 10 years.