Jewish Federation presents Medal of Honor to Joel Kramer


More than 150 guests were present on Dec. 11 as the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix presented its highest award, the Medal of Honor, to Joel Kramer during its Donor Appreciation and Award Brunch.

Longtime friend and business partner Len Miller presented the award. While accepting the honor, Mr. Kramer shared how Mr. Miller and Bob Gottschalk encouraged increased involvement in the Jewish community, first with the Valley of the Sun JCC and later with the Federation.

Mr. Kramer, in turn, encouraged guests to find their “Joels.”

“You are all the Lens and Bobs of our community. Find a Joel, lead them in the right direction. In return, you will have someone who is indebted to you for the experience of a lifetime, where they learn, make lifelong friendships, have life-changing opportunities, meet people who teach them the joy of Tzedakah (thank you Gerald), where efforts are rewarded with progress and yes, there are challenges along the way that adds to your character,” said Mr. Kramer.

“Most importantly, when you look back there is no doubt that you have received far more than you have given.”

In addition to the Medal of Honor, the Federation presented the 2016 Belle Latchman Award to Or Tzion’s Project Isaiah, collecting food and raising money for Jewish Free Loan to help families in need.

Lily Behboodi, vice chair of Federation NowGen, received the Lee Amanda Young Leadership Award for her service to the Federation and to the community.

Outgoing leadership were also honored: Steven Schwarz, outgoing board chairman; David Weiner, outgoing campaign chairman; Esther and Don Schon, M.D., outgoing major gifts chairs; Julee Landau Shahon, outgoing Women’s Philanthropy chairwoman; and Sally Oscherwitz, outgoing Women’s Philanthropy campaign chairwoman.

American-born IDF veteran Izzy Ezagui rounded out the inspirational morning. He shared the story of how he, a young boy from Miami, made the decision to serve and protect Israel and how he lost his arm at age 18, just after completing basic training when his special forces unit was called to patrol the Gaza border in Operation Cast Lead in 2008.

He told guests how he worked to return to combat just two months after his injury; having learned how to clean, load and fire a gun with one arm, how to pull grenade pins with his teeth and doing one-arm pushups. When he finished, the entire room gave him a standing ovation.

“It was a wonderful morning celebrating the amazing work of our lay leadership, organizations and the amazing impact the Federation has on the lives of Jews here in Phoenix and around the globe,” said Stuart Wachs, president and CEO.

“Hearing Joel’s story was such a powerful message of the impact of mentorship and a little leverage to get people to step up and realize the joy and satisfaction from major involvement with the Federation. It is the ‘Joels’ in our community that enables the Federation to truly enrich so many lives and create vibrant Jewish communities.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix is located at 12701 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. Visit

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