Anna Stern loves being busy. In the five years she has lived in Nashville, she started a career in education, joined the Board of a local nonprofit, and become involved in Jewish life through the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s NowGen program. A self-professed “ringleader,” Anna typically finds herself in the middle of things. It is this drive for connection and activity that led her to seek out like-minded friends, namely Hayley Levy, the 2021 Averbuch Award winner. “Hayley and I just clicked immediately,” says Anna, “Thanks to her I kind of fell into my involvement with NowGen.” The Young Leadership Award recognizes distinguished service to the community and was first given in 1971 to Sandy Averbuch. After her passing in 2016, the award was named in her memory. Eric Stillman, CEO of The Jewish Federation, says, “Anna has engaged so many newcomers in her role as co-chair of the NowGen Engagement Committee. She really is an essential welcoming ambassador on behalf of our Federation.”
Anna is originally from Chicago, and attended college at Washington University, St. Louis. After graduation, she spent three years teaching history at a boarding school in Beaverdale, Wisconsin. When she learned of the opening at University School of Nashville, she jumped at the chance to make her move to Music City, and never looked back. Although she was not involved in organized Jewish life as a child, the move to a new city drove her to find connection with her Jewish peers, namely NowGen. “I got really lucky. I entered this group at the perfect age, not too young, not too old,” she says. Thanks to her friendship with Hayley Levy, she was asked, and agreed, to become the involved with the Engagement Committee. “Helping newcomers was a place where I could see my skill set being used to the fullest.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Anna was helping newcomers who came to Nashville during the Covid19 Pandemic. “People were isolated and locked in their apartments. It became obvious how much they needed to make connections, and it was so rewarding,” she says, “It was amazing to see how fast people’s demeanor changes when you take the time to meet and get to know them.” Anna says she is also excited to meet new people and share her enthusiasm for the local Jewish community, as well as for Nashville. “Nashville is a somewhat transient city. There are always people leaving and others coming, so the dynamic keeps changing.” She says young adult programming has grown during the pandemic years. “The pandemic created a need for connection, and now there is something almost every day.”
A forward thinker, Anna is already planning for the future for NowGen. As the young adult population evolves, she sees a need for more robust programming for young families. “We’ve surveyed the young families to gauge their interests in types of programming and scheduling.”
In addition to her involvement with the Federation, Anna is the Volunteer Chair for Gilda’s Club. She loves to help people solve problems and understands the importance of meeting people where they are. Professionally she would like to become an administrator and use her leadership skills to help develop educational policy and curriculum. “I love thinking about how to teach and how to help children learn,” she says. She also wants to work to streamline processes to help organizations avoid complex and unwieldy bureaucracy.
Anna will be joining the Federation’s Board for the 2022-23 year and is excited to learn more about the community. “I’m looking forward to working with the veteran members of the Board, and curious what that opportunity will look like,” she says, “I am so grateful and very lucky that NowGen entrusted me to be the face of The Federation for newcomers. I know what it is like to be in your 20s and 30s in Nashville. It’s been a very rewarding experience.”
The Sandy Averbuch Young Leadership Award will be presented at the 86th Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, on Wednesday, June 8th, at 7:00pm at Congregation Micah. Recent winners of this award include Jacob Kupin, Christie Wiemers, Jacob Ruden, and Ellie Flier. In prior year, winners also included Tara Axelroth, Batia and Aron Karabel, and Ben Russ. To RSVP for the Annual Meeting, visit www.jewishnashville.org/annualmeeting2022