This year, the Campus Gala shines a light on four community members: Debra Shifrin and Steve Newman are this year’s Campus Gala Honorees. Mimi Surloff will receive the Tikkun Olam Award, and Sylvia Lewis will receive the Community Spirit Award. Their respective devotion to our community sets an inspiring example.
The gala takes place on Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Schultz Campus for Jewish Life. The theme of the signature event is “Light Up The World,” and it benefits The Shaw JCC, The Lippman School, and Jewish Family Service.
Campus Gala Honorees: Debra Shifrin and Steve Newman
Shortly after marrying and making their home in Akron, Debra Shifrin and Steve Newman were participants in the first young leadership group in Akron and were members of the memorable 1987 mission to Sweden and Israel. Through the years, they have also chaired Super Sunday events together.
“The Jewish community is first and foremost in their minds,” Cathy Baer, gala co-chair, says. “Debbie and Steve always say yes. They just give and give and give.”
Steve is a past president of Beth El. In addition, he has been involved with many organizations, including The Lippman Day School, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Community Board of Akron (JCBA), and the Shaw JCC, on which he currently serves as a board member. Steve works for Summit Management Services, Inc., providing housing for seniors and individuals with disabilities.
Currently treasurer of the Shaw JCC, Debra has served on the board of The Lippman School and Beth El and was a member of the inaugural class of JWLI (Jewish Women’s Leadership Initiative). She was also a past president of JCBA and campaign chair for its Annual Campaign.
Outside the Jewish community, Debra has been involved with Blick Clinic and the Women’s Endowment Fund (WEF) of the Akron Community Foundation. Debra has also been involved with Women’s Network and Athena Akron.
Professionally, Debra is a principal in the law firm of Shifrin Newman Smith Inc., in which she limits her practice to representing the disabled. She has been involved in many legal, women’s, and charitable organizations; and is co-recipient, with Dianne Newmann, of the Ohio Legal Aid Association Fund’s Pro Bono Award in 1999. In 2015, Debra was a finalist for the Northeast Ohio Athena Award.
Debra and Steve’s proudest achievement, however, is that the next generation understands the importance of being involved in the Jewish community. Their children Scott and Meghan are involved here in Akron on various boards in the Jewish community, and Matthew works for the Cleveland Jewish Federation.
Tikkun Olam Award: Mimi Surloff
Born and raised in Akron, Mimi Surloff married her high school sweetheart, Stewart, right after graduating with her master’s degree in social work from The Ohio State University in 1974. Their daughters, Shelby and Abby, both graduated from The Lippman School, where Mimi and Stewart were active volunteers. She feels blessed by her three grandchildren.
Most of Mimi’s 40-plus years as a social worker have involved work in the area of child welfare, specifically, adoption and foster care. She was the first paid coordinator of the Guardian Ad Litem/CASA program at Summit County Juvenile Court. She served as adoption services coordinator at Jewish Family Service. Until her retirement in 2016, Mimi worked at Caring for Kids where she supervised the Dave Thomas Foundation’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.
Her passion for children and her belief that legal permanency is attainable for all children despite any challenges they may face has led her to be a part of many successful adoptions. For 12 years, Mimi has been mentoring a young woman who grew up in the foster care system, and she considers this a lifelong commitment.
“She always put her heart into her work,” says Eileen Benson, gala co-chair. “And Mimi has shown never-ending dedication to this community.”
Her past community involvements include: Guardian ad Litem volunteer for Summit County Juvenile Court; Akron Children’s Hospital Twigs; Haddassah story teller and Breast Cancer Awareness program volunteer; past board member of the Battered Women’s Shelter; and co-president of the Shaw JCC Women’s Auxiliary.
Mimi’s proudest community involvement is the establishment in 2004 of Stewart’s Caring Place: Cancer Wellness Center, in memory of her late husband Stewart, who lost his battle with cancer in December 2001. Mimi served as the first board president of Stewart’s Caring Place and remains involved as a lifelong board member, committee member and volunteer.
Community Spirit Award: Sylvia Lewis
Sylvia Lewis has “an amazing and exhaustive list of accomplishments and involvement” in Akron and beyond, says gala co-chair Cathy Baer. “She definitely put Akron on the map as national president of Na’Amat.”
Currently a member of the advisory board of NA’AMAT USA, Sylvia has been active in the organization since 1947. In 1993, she was elected its national president and completed her second term in 1997. In 2004 and in 2007, she was national vice president of program and education.
Sylvia’s leadership skills have benefited numerous organizations in her community— and nationally and internationally. She has served as president of the Presidents’ League of Jewish Women’s Organizations, the Jerome Lippman Jewish Community Day School, Women’s Division of the Akron Jewish Community Federation, and was vice-president of the Akron Jewish Community Federation (now JCBA). She chaired the Akron Jewish Community High School and the federation’s education and continuity committees.
From 1999 to 2001, Sylvia served as president of Planned Parenthood of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties. She is a founding member of the government affairs committee of Ohio Jewish Communities. She has been a delegate to the World Zionist Congress five times; from 1992 to 1997, she served on the Zionist General Council of the World Zionist Organization. In 1985 and 1987, as part of the Volunteers for Israel program, Sylvia served seven weeks as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli army base.
In 1995, Sylvia was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. Some of her other commendations include: the JCPenney Golden Rule Award; Northern Ohio Live Magazine’s Top 43 Professional Women; the YWCA’s “Women of Achievement Award”; the YWCA’s 100 Outstanding Women in Summit County. In 2003, she was one of 200 women selected for inclusion in the book, “Profiles of Ohio Women, 1803 -2003” in conjunction with Ohio’s Bicentennial celebration.
Sylvia and her husband Allen (of blessed memory) have four children, eight grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.