Temple Sinai, Middletown hosted Federation's successful 48th Annual Meeting where Orange County Federation Partner  synagogues and organizations honored special individuals who have shown outstanding service as their Volunteers of the Year. 


We welcomed Elizabeth Frederick as our new PJ Coordinator, and Loretta Trinco as our new JOY Teen Coordinator. 


COMING SOON! The pictures below were taken by Gail Conklin, thanks, Gail. Please click on a thumbnail for a larger view.

Volunteer of the Year List 2023-2024

Congregation Agudas Israel --- Sharon Kelson
Congregation Beth Hillel/WJCC --- Marilyn Nelson
Congregation Eitz Chaim & Sisterhood --- Bonnie Brunner, Vicky Morales & Ellen McNally
Jewish Federation --- Allen Nakagawa & Lorraine Wernow
Jewish Family Services --- John Mattera
Kol Yisrael --- Debbie Metzner
Monroe Hadassah --- Maria Rabinowitz
Monroe Temple of Liberal Judaism --- Robin Rosenberg & Michael Isseks
Monroe Temple Beth-El Sisterhood --- Leslye Joseph
Newburgh Jewish Community Center --- Alyson Mehr
Temple Beth Jacob --- Susan Notar
Temple Beth Jacob Sisterhood --- Estelle Brown
Temple Beth Shalom --- Gail Conklin & Catherine Greenblatt
Temple Beth Shalom Sisterhood --- Wendy Wayman
Temple Sinai --- Jay Karisak

Volunteer of the Year Bios

Congregation Agudas Israel: Newburgh
Sharon Kelson: Congregation Agudas Israel is pleased to nominate Sharon Kelson as our Volunteer of the Year. Sharon is a long time member of Congregation Agudas Israel. She has served in many leadership positions over the years including President, Treasurer, Ritual Committee, and Rabbi Search Committee Chair. Sharon also volunteers her time for local and national Jewish organizations. She is currently Vice President of Kol Yisrael and National Annual Planning & Revenue Share Chair for Hadassah.
Sharon is always one of the first people at CAI to step up and take on whatever needs to be done. You can find her cooking in our kitchen for a Friday night dinner, handing out aliyot during High Holiday services and actively directing Board discussions. She has been a major presence in our building and our congregation life.
Sharon - congratulations and thank you for all that you do for our CAI community!

Congregation Beth Hillel/Walden Jewish Community Center
Marilyn Nelson: Marilyn is a long time member who works behind the scenes to keep our shul and pantry supplied with all the items we need for every event we hold--for decades. Marilyn does not ask for thanks or attention, but quietly and humbly does the work that every shul needs to function. Marilyn is also a baker. Again, quietly and behind the scenes Marilyn comes to our kitchen and bakes for the holidays, especially Chanukah. Congregation Beth Hillel/ Walden Jewish Community Center is proud to honor Marilyn-- Eshet Hayil and Woman of Valor.

Congregation Eitz Chaim & Sisterhood: Monroe
Congregation Eitz Chaim and our Sisterhood nominate Bonnie Brunner, Vicky Morales, and Ellen McNally for our Volunteers of the Year. They have dedicated countless hours cleaning out and organizing our basement. Through their efforts, our basement now looks fantastic, many people and organizations were able to benefit from items we were no longer using, and whatever was unusable was responsibly recycled.

Bonnie Brunner: When Bonnie Brunner married David in January 1988, he was already a member of Eitz Chaim. She became a member as well, and has been volunteering with the synagogue ever since. From Education Committee Chairperson to Sisterhood Membership Co-Chair, to Trustee, to her most recent project of cleaning out/recycling the Eitz Chaim basement and the library, she is being honored today for her on going dedication to Eitz Chaim.

Vicky Morales: Vicky Morales joined Etz Chaim sisterhood through her friend Shelley Goldbaum. When she joined she became sisterhood secretary. Most recently she was involved in finding homes for books & gift shop items.
Etz Chaim has inspired her to look deeper into her journey with Judaism.

Ellen McNally: Ellen McNally has been a member of Eitz Chaim since 2017 and has served as a trustee since 2020. She joined the Eitz Chaim Sisterhood in 2013. As a Sisterhood member, she serves as co-chair of the membership committee. Over the years she has helped to organize Sisterhood dinners, as well as trips to Jewish Museums and exhibitions in the city. These past few months she has worked alongside Bonnie and Vicky to clear out the Eitz Chaim basement by recycling a room full of books, educational materials and gift shop items. She is being honored for the time she has put into this project and for her dedication to Eitz Chaim.

Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County
Allen Nakagawa: Allen Nakagawa helps prepare our mailings in the office whenever his wife tells him to! He is always ready with a smile, a more efficient way to get the job done and to show up when needed - including helping at our first annual Federation Funday - Allen, our 2nd Funday is on August 18th - we hope you're available that day too!
Lorraine Wernow:
Lorraine Wernow finds time to squeeze us in to her busy volunteering schedule! She not only helps prepare our mailings, but is available to help with other office support including; filing, shredding, and bringing lunch when it's needed! She was honored by her synagogue as volunteer of the year last year, so it's our turn to honor her this year.
Both Allen and Lorraine regularly make time to help us, and without the work that they do for Federation we would not be able to get everything done. We are extremely grateful for their helping hands and positive attitudes!

Jewish Family Services
John Mattera: Jewish Family Service of Orange County is a not-for-profit organization that provides transportation, case management, shopping assistance, counseling, and various other services to seniors and individuals with disabilities in the Orange County community.
John Mattera is an active volunteer with Jewish Family Service of Orange County. He is a member of the Warwick Knights of Columbus, St. Stevens Parish Council, is a St. Stevens Usher, and is involved in the Rotary Club. He believes that volunteering has changed his life tremendously, saying that he is “Getting more out of it than he is giving”, when talking about how volunteering has impacted his life.
John has volunteered for over 900 events, equaling to a total of 1,459 volunteer hours with Jewish Family Service. John began his volunteer journey with JFS 5 years ago in May of 2019, and volunteers 3-5 days a week. He assists several seniors in our Orange County Community with transportation to medical appointments and also provides rides to our neighbors so they may attend daily mass at their local Church. John provided care to a blind man who needed help in completing tasks such as shopping or getting transportation for medical appointments.
John’s most inspirational and influential volunteer experience with JFS was when he was taking a man to dialysis every week for two years, and toward the end of his life they had grown so close that he had asked John to look after his wife and family after he has passed. The man also asked John to make sure that the Knights of Colombus’ were at his wake, and that the service would go as he planned. He is now best friends with the man’s wife and regularly checks in with her. John does not just bring neighbors to and from their appointments; he bonds with them and becomes their friend and confidant in a time of need.
John would like everyone to consider volunteering because of how much it has changed his life, believing that it added a quality to his life he didn’t know he was missing. He mentioned that when his kids left the house as they got older, he felt a void growing, and volunteering has helped fill that void. John stated, “Volunteering adds love to your life”.
We believe that John is an ideal candidate for the Volunteer of the Year award due to his continuous dedication to volunteering and helping our Orange County community.

Kol Yisrael: Newburgh
Debbie Metzner: Debbie Metzner was born and raised in Orange County. She is a lifelong member of Temple Beth Jacob where she currently serves as a board member and sits on the cemetery committee. An integral part of the Kol Yisrael community, Debbie regularly dedicates her time to events, fundraisers, and gatherings for all of our organizations. This year, Debbie was a core volunteer for a major Tikkun Olam project and multiple major fundraisers, among many other events and projects. She recently retired from the Orange County Department of Social Services after 30+ years of working with children and families in need. We are grateful to have her positive energy and helpful attitude during all of our events.

Monroe Hadassah
Maria Rabinowitz: It is with great honor and privilege that Monroe Hadassah nominates Maria Rabinowitz as our Volunteer of the Year. Maria became a Hadassah member and a Monroe Hadassah board member just 8 years ago. She started out as our hospitality chair, and then became at-large for a period to take care of her ailing husband Marty. Her Hadassah membership is Silver Chai Society, and she is a Monroe Hadassah Heroine donor. She recently became our social secretary and our Cards & Certificates chair, increasing sales exponentially. We look forward to her input at our monthly board meetings and her kosher recipes at our monthly membership meetings. She is especially appreciative of the support of her Hadassah “sisters” since Marty’s passing just over a year ago. In his memory, she often wears her Endless Beginnings necklace, which has the quote from Hadassah’s founder, Henrietta Szold, “There is no ending that is not a beginning."
Maria decided to convert to Judaism in 1978 after she met and married Marty Rabinowitz. Marty considered himself a “holiday Jew” then, but he encouraged her desire to have a kosher home, declaring, “a contented wife makes a happy life.” The two of them became staunch supporters of Jewish culture and religion. They lived for a time in Brooklyn NY, where she worked as an elementary school teacher, before moving to Monroe. Maria is proud to support Chabad of Orange County, Monroe Temple Beth El, and Eitz Chaim, as well as Jewish Federation.

Monroe Temple of Liberal Judaism
Robin Rosenberg: Monroe Temple of Liberal Judaism is proud to nominate Robin Rosenberg as our Volunteer of the Year. A former Sisterhood President and the current 1st Vice President of the Temple, Robin is a committed member of our Temple family. A little over our year ago Robin volunteered revamp the way our Religious School Committee worked by leading monthly parent discussions. Unbeknownst to Robin, or anyone, her role quickly changed as the Monroe Temple and Temple Beth Shalom in Florida began discussions of merging our two religious schools.
In addition to her other Board responsibilities, Robin worked tirelessly helping combine our two religious schools, not just through our Beit Sefer Committee and Executive Committee, but also by being present every Sunday to ensure that there was leadership continually present when parents from the different synagogues would attend. She made sure to not only comfort their souls with her presence, but also their bellies with the bagels she brought in every Sunday!
Robin is one of the primary reasons for Beit Sefer’s successful inaugural year. As there was no principal or director, she served as an important community and Temple voice during what could have been a difficult transitional period.
We would be remiss not to mention Robin’s favorite story regarding Beit Sefer, “Beit Sefer is Hebrew for House of the Book. We literally named our school, ‘school.’”
Michael Isseks: Monroe Temple of Liberal Judaism proudly nominates Michael Isseks as our Volunteer of the Year. A history and social studies teacher with over thirty years of experience, Michael has always been passionate about Israel, Israeli current events, and Israeli politics. Over the years, Michael has hosted a variety of discussion groups regarding all things Israel.
However, within 48 hours of the October 7th tragedy, Michael sprang into action to lead a discussion for the congregation and community, who were struggling to come to terms with what had just happened. This initial gathering turned out to be the first of an ongoing series of discussions dealing with the aftermath of October 7th.
Attendees quickly found these gatherings to be safe places where we could not only discuss the issues facing Israel but where we could openly share our feelings and emotions. Many attendees have commented that Michael’s groups have not only been eye-opening and educational but they have proven to be a therapeutic outlet as well.

Michael’s passion and love of Israel and Judaism are abundantly apparent as is his willingness to gather, educate and invigorate his community. Most importantly, Michael Isseks has worked tirelessly to inspire future generations of proud and informed Jews.

Monroe Temple Beth-El Sisterhood
Leslye Joseph: Leslye is extremely, honored and privileged to be nominated as “Volunteer of the Year”. Leslye is heading in to the third year as President of the Sisterhood for Monroe Temple. She loves what she does and is proud to lead such a fantastic group of women on a spiritual, social and meaningful journey if Jewish life.

Newburgh Jewish Community Center
Alyson Mehr: Alyson Mehr has a professional background in social work, social policy and youth education. She is currently the lead in the curriculum development & design of the most recent iteration of the Tot Shabbat Program at the Newburgh JCC. Her dedication to helping create and lead this program has made a significant impact on the JCC's community outreach in getting new people to the Center. She is a JCC board member and a current Temple Beth Jacob community member. She enjoys being a mom, working with young people in non-traditional learning environments, and furthering her own study of Judaism.

Temple Beth Jacob: Newburgh
Susan Notar: Temple Beth Jacob is very proud to nominate Susan Notar as our volunteer of the year. Susan is the president of our sisterhood and ensures that there is a robust slate of activities - from monthly Rosh Chodesh gatherings to
bi-monthly book clubs to seasonal favorites - Susan is the chief planner and the brain behind the operation ensuring that we are kept busy, entertained and thinking. She is very knowledgeable and able to lead us in a wide myriad of historical and current topics and ensures everyone is included. From trips to local theatre to holiday specific events, such as women's Seder and Hanukkah proneg, she ensures that the modern Jewish women's voice is heard. Susan works to ensure we have a platform to discuss, support and even commiserate when needed. She fosters an environment of friendship, and bonding. For the thousands of small things she attends to, which make events seamless and everyone feel included, we are proud to have her as our volunteer of the year.

Temple Beth Jacob Sisterhood: Newburgh
Estelle Brown: Estelle is one of the founding members of the TBJ sisterhood and currently serves as our Treasurer. In her duties she makes sure events are priced fairly and that all funds are disbursed and collected. She carries out these duties with fairness, professionalism and decorum. Estelle always has a smile on her face and always volunteers to help - whether it is planning, setting up or cleaning up. You don’t need to ask Estelle - she sees a need and immediately pitches in. She gets along with all and her presence and actions help make events run smoothly and successfully. Her spirit and sense of ruach is contagious. For these reasons, the TBJ sisterhood is very proud to nominate Estelle Brown as our volunteer of the year.

Temple Beth Shalom: Florida
Catherine Greenblatt and Gail Conklin: Catherine Greenblatt and Gail Conklin are Temple Beth Shalom’s Volunteers of the Year. They are both long-time members of TBS.
Catherine is just completing her term as Co-President and will become our Board Treasurer. Gail has been our Corresponding Secretary and pictorial documentarian for many years.
For the past few years, Catherine and Gail have teamed up to “cater” many of our in house events. We have given them the nickname of Green-Lin Caterers. From homemade lentil soup to homemade rugalach and more, whatever they prepare tastes better than store-bought. We thank them for their dedication to Temple Beth Shalom.

Temple Beth Shalom Sisterhood: Florida
Wendy Wayman: Our sisterhood at Temple Beth Shalom may be small in number, but we play an essential role in helping to make TBS a warm and welcoming community throughout the year. We have the help of our Jewish Federation Volunteer of the Year Wendy Wayman, and her devotion to sisterhood and Temple Beth Shalom. She is instrumental in organizing our successful fundraising event and being in the forefront of everything sisterhood. I personally would like to thank Wendy and the Sisterhood board for their continued support of me and all our events and fundraising.

Temple Sinai: Middletown
Jay Karisak:
Jay Karasik has been a member of Temple Sinai for 10 years. Born and raised in Monticello, NY, and had a successful 30 year career at Mid- Hudson Psych. Jay has been very active member during his time here with Temple, he is an active participant on Sabbath mornings, bringing the torahs out, leading in the procession. When called upon he also helps out with misc. projects that are needed by our office staff, and lastly Jay is also an active member of our Men's Club. Jay embodies the culture of what it is to be an active member of Temple Sinai.