Shalom Austin Staff & Volunteer Spotlight

Shalom Austin Staff & Volunteer Spotlight

Jen Reed
JCC Athletics Director

What is your role at Shalom Austin?
I am the Director of Athletics. I oversee Youth & Adult Sports, Aquatics and I’m the Delegation Head for Team Austin Maccabi. I started as the Assistant Director in 2000.

Tell me about your background…
I’m a product of team sports. I grew up playing every sport I could. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to play softball at Texas State University, where I graduated with a degree in Exercise & Sports Science with an All-Level Teaching Certificate. I taught Elementary Physical Education for 8 years in AISD prior to coming to Shalom Austin.

What do you feel has been your most rewarding experience so far?
Early on I found working with the 3-5 year olds in our sports enrichment classes to be one of the highlights of my day, and that hasn’t changed. Years later, those same kids are members of Maccabi Team Austin or working for me as sports camp counselors. I really love having that history and feel privileged to watch them grow up.

What is your favorite part of working at Shalom Austin?
The interactions and relationships I have with families, members and my co-workers make every day meaningful. I also enjoy the opportunities we have everyday to create positive experiences for the community. Everyday is a new opportunity.

Do you have any exciting projects or programs in the works?
We are in the midst of Maccabi tryouts and recruiting for Maccabi Artsfest. This year we're taking Team Austin to Miami, FL. This is my third year as the Delegation Head and I really love what the program offers our teens. It’s a perfect combination of activities & events that engage them, and structure that allows them a sense of independence. I’m really proud to be a part of it.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
I think our campus inspires people to connect. I would encourage them to come to an event or class and have that experience first hand, then they can see all the opportunities available.

Wade Monrow
Co-Chair, Jewish Foundation of Austin and Central Texas

What is your role at Shalom Austin?
I’m one of the co-chairs of the Jewish Foundation, a branch of Shalom Austin.

What made you decide to become a Shalom Austin volunteer?
Several things. About 10 years ago, my wife and I decided to set up a foundation so we came to the JCAA and met with Diane Radin and discovered there was no Jewish Foundation. My wife’s parents had set up a foundation about 30 years ago or maybe longer in San Antonio and we had participated as their children in recommending gifts to different charities and that motivated us and we just felt like it was the right thing to do. At that time when I came there, Diane told me there were plans to establish a Jewish Foundation sometime in the future and if I wanted to go ahead and set up a foundation with the caveat that I could transfer it to the Jewish Foundation once it was established that would be a good idea. I went to Austin community foundation and set the foundation up in 2006 and then, when the Jewish Foundation was established in 2014, I picked up my fund and transferred it over to JFACT.

Tell me a little bit about your background and what you’ve done with the organization…
I was on the board of the JCAA around 2012 and became involved at that time. In 2014, David Brenner and Jay Rubin asked me if I would be a co-chair on the Foundation. I am to a limited degree in the computer software business. I’ve been in Austin about 25 years. My background is financial and most of my career I’ve been with large, public companies. A close friend’s son started a software business and asked me if I would join back in 1990 and I looked it over and my former boss was a chairman so I joined it. It was a startup and I had never been with a startup before. But I enjoyed working with very young, bright people and that kind of motivates me. I retired a long time ago, but I stayed involved in software startups because I enjoy working with young, bright people and frankly that’s been by big motivation with the Jewish Foundation. To be honest, I went to my first cabinet meeting with the Jewish Foundation and they fired about 10 questions at me and I could probably only answer two. I learned real fast I needed to be prepared. And those are the kinds of people I enjoy working with. They challenge me and I get a real kick out of it. When you work with people who are very bright and you face some difficult issues and you’re able to overcome them, that’s what really motivates me and I think causes organizations to grow and be successful. We’ve had some incredibly bright people to work with at the Foundation, everybody from Arlene Miller, Brit Cohen, Diane Radin, Dan Kraus was one of our founding members, all have made significant contributions and I have so many times just done my best to stay out of their way.

Why is volunteering important to you?
If you look at the Foundation’s mission, it’s really to try to be the center for Jewish philanthropy. If you have ever tried to go out and set up your own foundation, you quickly learn how difficult it is in terms of requiring attorneys, requiring accountants and having to spend a good amount of time getting up it and keeping it going. I think what we’ve done is set up a situation where a family can come in and have their own foundation, join the Jewish Foundation and they can be unencumbered with a lot of the regulations where they’re just looking at making donations out of their foundation to different charities, and they can be Jewish or non-Jewish charities, it doesn’t matter, but it gives them a free hand without them having to endure a lot of difficulties getting it up and operating it. Not only do you have to operate it, you have to report to the IRS and make investments and investment decisions and to the extent that we can simplify that and help people do what they want to do, I think is a very positive element.

What do you feel has been your most rewarding experience so far?
Working with the people, getting to know the people and making friends with the people — we’re pretty diverse, most of us come from different backgrounds — and the ability to learn. I really didn’t know that much about foundations and we have learned a lot and we continue to learn. As we say when we go into sessions or meetings on a particular issue, we come out with five more issues to go resolve. I think the development of a partnership with those people and with new people coming in.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
I think they should come visit and get acquainted with the people…everyone from Rabbi Daniel to people leading the different organizations and understanding what those organizations are really doing. A good example, 12-13 years ago (I still do this), I was tutoring 4th and 5th grade students in low income areas and I had a student that had a real anger management problem. He was a bright kid, but he had trouble. I called all over Austin trying to get him some help because his family did not have much money at all and the one place I found was Jewish Family Service.  They were willing to help the young man, he was probably 9 years old, overcome his problems.

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