Rae Hirsch and Ben Russ are recipients of Jewish Family Service’s 2023 Chesed Award. They will be honored on May 11 at the annual Chesed Dinner.
Rae Hirsch and Ben Russ are the recipients of Jewish Family Service’s 2023 Chesed Award, given each year to acknowledge the contributions the recipients have made to the Jewish and broader Nashville communities. Chesed is Hebrew for “loving kindness,” and occurs when the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” is fulfilled. The Jewish community of Nashville couldn’t be luckier to have Rae and Ben as neighbors, as they are prime examples of what Chesed means in the Nashville Jewish and broader community.
Rae and Ben live and breathe the essence of Chesed. “They both share their talents freely with so many organizations both in the Jewish and broader community,” said JFS Executive Director Pam Kelner. “One of the aspects I love most about the Chesed Award is the opportunity to share with the entire community what our amazing honorees have done to impact the quality of life for so many in our community. Everyone always leaves the Chesed dinner inspired by what our honorees have accomplished, and Rae and Ben will definitely inspire.”
Having learned from her parents the importance of commitment to the Jewish community and philanthropy, Rae took on leadership roles in many areas of the Nashville community. She was on the Board and Executive Committee of the Temple, where she chaired the Membership and Beautification Committees and co-chaired the Temple Arts Festival for nine years.
Rae served as Co-President of the Nashville Section of the National Council of Jewish Women. Over the years, she has chaired numerous NCJW committees, including several turns at the helm of NCJW’s Ways and Means.
Rae’s involvement in the Jewish Federation included co-chairing the Ladies’ Philanthropy Program when Nashville hosted the Federation’s North American General Assembly; the Ladies’ Night Out; and the Women’s Campaign event.
She actively served on the board for JFS, co-chairing the Chesed Dinner and the Annual Campaign for several years. She remains an active participant in the Chanukah Project—now a family affair, as she passes her values on to her grandchildren by involving them in the endeavor.
Rae’s most recent volunteer involvement has been with Gilda’s Club, where she serves on the Board, on the Program Committee, and where she has chaired the Gilda’s Red Door Bash Fundraiser for two years.
When reflecting on her involvement with JFS, Rae said, “It has been an honor to dedicate my time and efforts to JFS. I am proud to be involved, in any way that I can, with the incredible programming and services which JFS provides to those in need in our community. I hope that my participation will serve as an example of Tikkun Olam for my children and grandchildren.”
Ben has been deeply involved in numerous Jewish organizations in the Middle Tennessee area including the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville, where he served on the Board and as the Chair of the Grants Committee. He is currently Secretary of the Board of Congregation Ohabai Shalom and is also the current President of the Nashville Drug Court Support Foundation. The Chesed Award is not the first received by Ben. In 2017 he was also recognized with the Sandy Averbuch Young Leadership Award by the Jewish Federation and was recognized in 2015 by The Temple with their 3 generations of Leadership Award.
Ben is past president of the Jewish Family Service Board. While on the Board he was an active participant, chairing the Annual Campaign with his wife, Marissa Moses Russ. During his JFS presidency, Ben guided the agency through a Strategic Planning process as well as taking on the yeoman’s job of updating the HR Manual.
When asked about his involvement with JFS, Ben said, “I have dedicated time over the years to JFS because it is an important, efficient, and meaningful organization that has a commitment to serving all segments of the Jewish community through a plethora of services. For those reasons, it was and is an easy agency to support and it was my honor that they entrusted me with a leadership role which I thoroughly enjoyed. “
The awards will be presented to Rae and Ben at the annual JFS fundraiser dinner that will take place on Thursday May 11, 2023, at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. The Chesed Dinner will begin with a reception at 6:15 p.m. with kosher dinner following at 7 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person. For more information or to make reservations, contact Pam Kelner at (615) 354-1644 or RSVP online at https://jfsnashville.org/ways-to-help/chesed-dinner/.
The Chesed Dinner is the primary fundraiser for Jewish Family Services, one of Nashville’s oldest social service agencies. Last year JFS served more than 1,800 individuals through its 21 services and programs in the areas of adoption, counseling, psychotherapy, financial assistance, senior services, information and referral, and family life and community enrichment.
For more information about JFS, contact Pam Kelner at (615) 354-1644 or visit the JFS Website at www.jfsnashville.org.