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Our Honorees

JFGH is elated to present the 2019 awardees! Congratulations to Steven Eidelman, S. Robert Cohen Award recipient, and Leslie & Sam Kaplan, Melvin S. Cohen Community Service Award recipients. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all you do within our communities!

The Board of Directors of JFGH established the S. Robert Cohen Annual Achievement Award in 1986, to be given each year to the person or entity who “best exemplifies the spirit of JFGH and its commitment to independent living.”

This award honors the service and devotion of Bob Cohen for his role in creating a solid foundation for the agency, its programs and, most importantly, its residents.

Steven Eidelman is the H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services Policy and Leadership at the University of Delaware and the co-founder and faculty director of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities. He is a past president of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and serves as senior advisor to the chairman of Special Olympics International. Steve also serves as the executive director of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation.

His recent efforts have focused on leadership development for practicing disability professionals and on implementation of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, focusing on deinstitutionalization. He was the Pennsylvania state government official in charge when Pennhurst State School and Hospital was closed and has served as an expert witness on Olmstead-based deinstitutionalization litigation. His professional interests focus on professional development of disability professionals and on deinstitutionalization and the development of community supports for people with intellectual disabilities.

He holds a MSW from the University of Maryland, a MBA from Loyola Baltimore and a Post-Masters Certificate in the Administration of Social Services from Temple University. Steve and Rachel have been married for 44 years and have a daughter Jennifer, an attorney in Washington, DC, and a son, David an engineer in Washington, DC.

As the dream of Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH) came to fruition, Melvin and Ryna Cohen and their family were instrumental from inception until today making the vision a reality.

The Melvin S. Cohen (z”l) Community Service Award is presented annually by JFGH to an individual or family who represents Mel’s eight keys to life. Among these cherished keys are: Be generous: Share your good fortune in life with those less fortunate; Be Truthful: Always be honest and sincere; Faith: Demonstrate a strong belief in G-d and Judaism.

Leslie and Sam Kaplan met in college at a Hillel mixer for freshmen. This was the beginning of their love story and their shared Jewish journey. Soon after they moved to the DC area, they were invited to join United Jewish Appeal’s Young Leadership Council, which was their introduction to the breadth of services provided in our Washington Jewish community.

Leslie and Sam have been lifelong advocates for persons with disabilities. They are co-founders of JFGH. Leslie is a past president of JFGH and Sam is a member of the executive committee. Leslie is currently vice-chair of the JFGH Endowment.

Through the years, Leslie has served as vice-president and a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, the Jewish Social Service Agency, the Jewish National Fund, and SEEC (an organization which serves persons with disabilities). She was a trustee of the Greater Washington Jewish Community Foundation and an ORT chapter president. 

Sam is currently president of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). He is a member of the Board of Directors of Sunflower Bakery, GatherDC, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. He is a past president of the Jewish Council for the Aging. He has served on Federation’s executive committee and its National Young Leadership Cabinet. Leslie and Sam have been members of Ohr Kodesh Congregation for many years.

Leslie and Sam are the proud parents of Seth and his wife Barbara, who live in Northern Virginia; Philip and his wife Kari, who live in New York; and Joseph, who lives in JFGH’s Gerry and Howard Polinger Group Home in Silver Spring. They have three amazing grandsons – Jacob, Jonah and Lev.

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