ALBANY – The Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center (AJCC) has announced the selection of its 2023 Pillars of the Community Awards recipients Andrew and Julie Safranko, Helena and Neil Davidoff, and Jessica and Alan Richer. The three couples will be honored at the Pillars of Community brunch from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Sunday, April 30, at Beth Emeth, 100 Academy Rd., Albany. The brunch will also feature the presentation of the Susan Shpeen Award and the Applebaum and Bellin Awards for students.
According to organizers, the honorees were selected based on the recipients acting as moral pillars and dispensers of wisdom and advice (Torah), providing continued service and/or leadership (avodah) and acting generously in the spirit of justice, tzedakah (G’milut Hasidim).
Neil and Helena Davidoff
Since their arrival to the Capital Region in 1968, Neil and Helena Davidoff have been involved in the Albany Jewish Community. They have been active members of Congregation Ohav Shalom for over 50 years and have been involved in a multitude of activities and projects.
Neil’s ties to the Jewish community began with his involvement as chairman of the B’nai B’rith luncheon for new citizens and participating in a movie night at the Daughters of Sarah Nursing home in Troy. Neil also served as president of the Daughters of Sarah Jewish Foundation from 1988 to 1990. He served on the nursing home board and was chairman of the long-range planning committee, which resulted in the remodeling of the nursing home and construction of The Massry Assisted Living facility. He then once again served as president from 1999 to 2001. In 2005, he served as executive vice president of the Daughters of Sarah Senior Community until the appointment of a full-time executive. In acknowledgement of this work, he received the B’nai B’rith Covenant Award in 2005.
Helena Davidoff also has strong ties to the Jewish community. She is a life member of Hadassah and was involved in the Colonie chapter. She was co-chairwoman of UJA’s Super Sunday for two years and chairwoman of the Ohav Shalom Hebrew School Board in the late 1980s.
Alan and Jessica Richer
Alan and Jessica Richer moved to the Capital Region in 1990 and have been married for 37 years. During that time, both have been involved with Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York as members and in leadership positions. Jessica has been chairperson of the Jewish Federation’s Aging Committee and co-chairwoman for the collaboration of an interfaith initiative with the Catholic Dioceses Aging Committee. Alan was co-chairman of the Federation’s Cardoza Society of Lawyers, was on the steering committee of its Brandeis Baruch Society of Jewish Business Professionals, and still serves on the Endowment Committee. Alan serves on the AJCC’s Board of Directors and as the chairman of its building and grounds committee.
He is an internationally noted historian and collector of the potato chip and is known as the “Toga Chip Guy.” He has consulted for and appeared in several television and podcast episodes of the History Channel’s show, “The Food That Built America.” He retired as a senior tax counsel-global tax initiatives leader for General Electric and is a freelance journalist for 518 Profiles Magazine.
Jessica is a board member of the Daughters of Sarah Jewish Foundation and serves on the
Congregation Beth Emeth Board of Trustees. Jessica also serves as the longtime co-chairwoman of AJCC’s annual Pillars celebration. In her professional life, she managing partner of The Richer Team at Hanna Commercial Real Estate.
Andrew and Julie Safranko
Julie and Andrew Safranko are lifelong residents of the Capital Region who have been longtime members of the Albany Center. Not only have they sent both their children to nursery school at the AJCC, Julie is a former member of the board of trustees and served on various nursery school committees. Members of AJCC, they have both participated on committees and have supported the Jewish community by supporting the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York. Andy also serves on the board of trustees for Jewish Family Services.
For the last 23 years, Julie Safranko has been a special education teacher for the Troy City School District. Andrew, an attorney, has been in private practice for 23 years. In 2012, he formed LaMarche Safranko Law PLLC, a nationally recognized law firm focusing on personal injury litigation, professional discipline, and criminal defense.
Susan Shpeen Award Recipient
Campus Director Janet Andrade will receive the Susan Shpeen Award for Professional Excellence. Janet began her AJCC career in 2019 as director of philanthropy, served for a time as interim director, and since 2020 has been in the Center’s newly created campus director position overseeing day-to-day operations.
Student Award Winners
In addition to these honorees, local high school students Max Ginsburg and Emily Kurlander have been named recipients of the Applebaum and Bellin Awards (respectively) presented annually to Jewish high school seniors who have shown outstanding leadership and contribution to the Albany Center and the community. Ginsberg is the son of Jane and Lev Ginsberg of Menands. An “alumnus” of AJCC’s day care and summer camps, he is now a senior at Shaker High School and a Congregation Ohav Shalom congregant. Kurlander is the daughter of Robyn Easton of Delmar and is a senior at Bethlehem High School. A congregant at Congregation Beth Emeth, she is a former AJCC Maccabi athlete and camp attendee. She also received her lifeguard certification at the Center.
Information about the Pillars event, to buy tickets, or to become a member of the honorary committee, may be obtained on the website, https://www.albanyjcc.org/pillars.