Hundreds Gather for Spring Benefit Honoring Leener and Sirota-Schiffrin Families


Caroline Hirsh   June 3, 2019

Hundreds Gather for Spring Benefit Honoring Leener and Sirota-Schiffrin Families

(From left) Stephen Wise Free Synagogue President Alan Riffkin honored Jamie, Lance and Jesse Leener, and Josh Schiffrin and Dana Sirota with the Shem Tov Award at this year's Spring Benefit. Photo by Hilary Katzen Photography.

Hundreds gathered Sunday, June 2, at the elegant Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers for the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue annual Spring Benefit honoring Lance, Jamie and Jesse Leener, and Dana Sirota and Josh Schiffrin.

The evening included a dinner by renowned caterer Abigail Kirsch and  featured entertainment by members Marc Bernstein, Robin Lyon-Gardiner, and Erica Komisar, and Cantor Dan Singer, who performed a wide range of music — from comedic Broadway show tunes to moving Jewish and secular songs — accompanied by our remarkable band leader and pianist Dan Rosengard. The cantor sang a moving rendition of “Grateful” by John Bucchino, perfectly capturing the mood of a room full of people appreciative of the blessings in their life and eager to give back.

In Jewish tradition a shem tov, a good name, stands above all. Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s Shem Tov Award honors congregants who go above and beyond in generously giving of their time, wisdom, and financial support. Synagogue President Alan Riffkin presented this year’s award to the Leener and Sirota-Schiffrin families for truly exemplifying what it means to be active and involved members of our community.

Since 2014, Lance and Jamie Leener have together managed the synagogue’s on-site homeless shelter. “Anybody who’s ever volunteered at the shelter knows that you get so much more out of it than what you give,” said Lance, a middle school teacher who has served as vice president of our synagogue and as a board member for a decade. Jamie, a managing director at Credit Suisse, has held leadership positions at our Early Childhood Center and Religious School, and Jesse, an ECC and Religious School alumna, has blown the shofar for our community during the High Holy Days since she was a child.

Dana, a pediatrician and assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center, and Josh, a partner at Goldman Sachs, are just at the beginning of raising a family, but still find time to regularly attend synagogue programming, volunteer at the shelter and Emergency Food Program, and actively support organizations that benefit disadvantaged children.

Video by Afterimaging.

Speaking about the honorees’ boundless humanity, many talents, and abundant contributions to the synagogue and beyond were Senior Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, past Shem Tov honorees Sherri and Brett Miller, and Barbara Birch and Ben Schneider.

“If the future of our people looks like them, we are in good hands,” said Rabbi Hirsch. “They contribute to our community because they consider it their obligation. It is not for honors, it is not for recognition or personal enrichment; they believe it is required simply by virtue of the fact that we are human beings. They so deeply personify the best of human qualities: that we owe compassion — and even more importantly, we owe material support — to those who are less fortunate than we.”

Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch speaking at this year’s Spring Benefit. Photo by Hilary Katzen Photography. 

The honorees concluded the inspirational evening by imploring the community to continue its work of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.

“At Stephen Wise, it is the meaning and joy – sprinkled throughout every service and learning experience, and the ever-present emphasis on tikkun olam – that keeps me engaged and coming back,” said Josh. 

“Hopefully, the synagogue is just the beginning of our community’s engagement with social action on a grander scale,” said Lance.

It’s not too late to support Stephen Wise by giving to the Spring Benefit. Click here to make a gift!