HomeCherry Hill NewsPair of locals lauded for community service at Katz JCC

Pair of locals lauded for community service at Katz JCC

Stopek, David recognized for reaching out to those in time of need.

Recent Cherry Hill High School East graduate Emma Stopek (left) is presented the David Back Memorial Maccabi Award by ARCO representative Nick Hasapes at the ninth annual NFI Sports Award Dinner at the Katz JCC on the night of Dec. 3. Stopek was slowed a bit by an injury suffered while rehearsing for a play at George Washington University, which she now attends.

On Dec. 3, Katz JCC hosted the ninth annual NFI Sports Award Dinner, and while the main draw was the appearance of four members of the Philadelphia 76ers organization, the night belonged to honorees Emma Stopek and Rabbi Benjamin David.

Stopek received the David Back Memorial Maccabi Award, while David was presented with the People’s Choice Award.

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Stopek is a recent Cherry Hill High School East graduate who starred on its varsity soccer team for four years and was named captain for her senior season. She is also a four-time medal winner in the Maccabi Games, and was recognized by her coach in the 2016 games for giving maximum effort. 

“This means a lot to me, just because so many thousands of kids participate in Maccabi in South Jersey, and to have stood out that much really means a lot to me. And, to represent the Jewish community in this way means a lot, too,” Stopek said.

Stopek credited her time spent in BBYO (a Jewish teen service organization) during high school – taking on roles as treasurer, secretary and then vice president for recruitment – as a defining element in her volunteerism, particularly that which deals with Jewish identity and community. She   volunteered at her Hebrew school every Sunday and taught second-graders, also working with Eitanim, which teaches Israeli teens skills to succeed in the future. 

And then, there’s everything else. 

“In high school, I was also president of Athletes Against Bullying and we did work like bringing speakers to the school and helping athletes learn how to be leaders both on and off the field and how to be positive role models in that respect. I also ran the blood drive at East and founded Club FOP, where we’d coordinate with the police department to create a holiday party for special-needs kids in the area every December.”

The freshman at The George Washington University, who is majoring in political science, admitted to a mixture of emotions prior to speaking. 

“I’m definitely very humbled to be here and seeing all these people that I know, everyone coming up to me and wishing Mazel Tov. I’m taken aback by it a little bit. In general, I’m excited and happy to be home. I came home from D.C. just for tonight.”

Rabbi Benjamin David (left) is presented the People’s Choice Award by Jason Ravitz (right) of the Ravitz Family Foundation at the ninth annual NFI Sports Award Dinner at the Katz JCC on the night of Dec. 3.

David, also a graduate of East and an alumnus of Muhlenberg College alumni, leads the faithful at Adath Emanu El in Mount Laurel. His path to service also arrived through involvement with sports.

“I was raised on the constant soundtrack to Gene Hart and Harry Kalas, playing in the background at my house. My heroes were (Allen) Iverson, (Randall) Cunningham, (Ron) Hextall, Darren Daulton,” he related. 

“I’ve tried my hardest to live up to all of it. The towering figures that came before me – not only Philly sports legends who exuded resolve and grittiness, but the sages of our tradition, the rabbis who were unwavering in their commitment to compassion and generosity. If I am anyone, it’s because of the teachers and mentors I’ve had, and the wonderful family I have around me: my parents, my wife and our children.” 

David cited three principal reasons for gathering local clergy to join in his passion for running: to short-circuit the idea that we need to remain comfortable in our communities regarding religion, politics and a host of other things; to emphasize that faith goes beyond how one performs in a house of worship; and to show both children and adults that putting a dent in the negative aspects of the world can be achieved. 

It’s why David and his fellow spiritual advisors have raised funds for everything from cancer research to feeding the hungry, supporting disabled athletes and helping those with autism. The race, to coin a phrase, goes on.

“Our next project will be gathering 50 clergy next fall to run in the 50th edition of the New York City marathon, and in the process, raise money to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our country,” he revealed.

Married with three children and an active congregation, David has found time to  complete nearly 20 marathons, including multiple finishes in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. He also battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma for much of 2016, receiving four rounds of chemotherapy.

“Cancer hates exercise,” he said.

Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid (left), Al Horford (center) and General Manager Elton Brand (right) take questions from the audience as part of the ninth annual NFI Sports Award Dinner at the Katz JCC on the night of Dec. 3.

Sixers broadcaster Marc Zumoff added his talents as emcee for a number of auction items. Additional comments were given by players Joel Embiid and Al Horford, along with General Manager Elton Brand, from a selection of crowd-sourced questions. 

According to Katz Director of Fundraising and Development Brian Adler, the night raised a total of $10,000 from the Live Auction alone, with tabulation still ongoing for the Silent Auction.

Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.

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