John Perlman’s two-year term as president of Jewish Family & Career Services didn’t quite end where he’d hoped, but he was close.

Perlman handed over the gavel to Michael Levy at the agency’s annual luncheon Thursday, March 16, amid a sense of accomplishment at the improving financial strength, expanding reach and impact of services, rising quality of those services, and increasing number of working relationships with other agencies.

But the meeting was held at Congregation B’nai Torah, not at the upgraded, expanded JF&CS campus about four miles away, where the groundbreaking took place a year earlier, immediately after the 2016 annual luncheon. Although parts of the renovated facilities are in use, the grand opening isn’t until May 10.

Perlman called it a “big disappointment” not to have the meeting on the completed campus, but he said staffers such as clinical counselors who are already in their new offices love them.

Still, he said the No. 1 achievement of his second time leading the agency — he was the president of predecessor Jewish Vocational Services in the 1990s — is the transition of Rick Aranson to CEO from chief operating officer after Gary Miller retired.

The praise and mutual respect between Perlman and Aranson did leave room for some laughs at each other’s expense. Perlman, for example, gave Aranson a parting gift of a compass so the CEO can find the incomplete northeast section of the JF&CS main building in the future, while Aranson’s farewell presents to Perlman included a candy dispenser.

Levy, a partner at accounting firm Aprio, said his focus as president will be the implementation of a recently refreshed strategic plan, which he said will help JF&CS fill the gaps in services left by public funding.

The plan’s three main planks are to put the right people and facilities in place to be responsive and adaptable, to focus and scale programs to help clients achieve self-sufficiency and an improved quality of life, and to promote agency sustainability.

“Without people and funding, JF&CS couldn’t exist,” Levy said. “As we grow, so must our base of volunteers and donors, who combine to bring all of our programs to life.”

The agency also presented two awards during the luncheon:

  • Tara Kornblum, a JF&CS board member and volunteer, received the Herbert Kohn Meritorious Service Award. After pushing the annual fundraising campaign above $1 million as its leader in 2011 and 2012, she led the annual campaign for a third time in 2016 and exceeded the goal by raising more than $1.4 million.

“Tara’s energy and devotion are beyond measure. She ate, slept, drank annual campaign,” said Cherie Aviv, who presented the award as last year’s winner.

  • Ashley Semerenko, the social services program manager at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, received the Stacy G. Fialkow Staff Appreciation Award from last year’s winner, Chris Greer.

Semerenko started as an intern with JF&CS about five years, “and we realized we did not want to let her get away,” Greer said.

He said she has managed over 20 community partnerships at the Massell Dental Clinic, has developed training guides for new team members, has found resources to bring in medical and vision services, recently earned her licensed clinical social worker certification, and still will go outside to direct traffic in high heels and organize the clinic’s Halloween costume party.

Photos by Michael Jacobs