Scott Vogel joins co-chair Cindy Finestone in leading the Memphis Jewish Federation’s 2019 Campaign Team. As a lifelong Memphian and communal leader, he follows in the footsteps of his parents who were deeply involved with the Memphis Jewish and general communities. (Above) Scott meets with Cindy and Jewish Community Partners President/CEO Laura Linder.
Where in Memphis did you grow up?
I grew up near the old Baron Hirsch in Midtown. When I was 15, my mom, Sandy Vogel Lewis, married Kirke Lewis and we moved out East where my backyard was Hutchison School.
What was your first volunteer role in the Jewish Community?
As a teenager I was a member of BBYO. Later I served on the Memphis Jewish Federation Board and was a chair of YAD (Young Jewish Adults).
How/Why did you first become involved with Memphis Jewish Federation?
Thirty years ago I showed up for an annual meeting and was asked to participate. I believe then, and continue to believe, that as a community member I have a responsibility to “show up,” be willing to volunteer and give tzedakah at a personally fulfilling level.
Looking back, my perception in those earlier days was that it was difficult as a young person to participate in the Jewish Community. There just weren’t many young people on boards. Now, 30 years later, I look at the Jewish community and see the same view. Although I believe millennials see the world differently than before, we have the opportunity to execute more marketing and informational programs more frequently through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We also need to understand the passions of our youth and give them the opportunity to change our community now.
Why did you agree to serve as a Community Campaign Co-Chair?
This is another step in continuing to give back to a community that has given so much to my family and my children. Federation has provided funds or programming to support everything I do Jewishly in Memphis. I know that it is challenging to meet all the needs, but chairing the campaign with Cindy and Eileen Posner, who is chairing the Lions of Judah, allows us to bring new ideas to the table.
I want to help tell the Federation story and explain it in ways so that donors understand the importance of “community giving.” Hopefully I can influence their decision so they become emotionally moved to make a donation because they know they are making a difference.
Who most influenced your volunteer involvement? And how?
That is easy. My parents, Sandy and Kirke Lewis taught our family to give back by “doing” and “giving.” They demonstrated the importance of showing up and having a voice at the table. As a blended family they each had their own interests. My mom was a committed volunteer at Baron Hirsch. She worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where she started as a secretary in a research department to soon become the Danny Thomas’ point person when he was in Memphis. She was in charge of touring all the VIPs, she established the gift shop, volunteer program and was the secretary to the Board of Directors. Growing up all I knew was St. Jude and giving back.
Kirke married my Mom in 1979 and became an influential and instructive father from day one. His background could not have been more different than my mother’s. He was reform, while we were orthodox. But he appreciated the traditions and rituals we brought to the new family. He was a past president of Temple Israel and a successful life insurance professional who became president of the largest life insurance professional association in the country.
Plough Towers was the one place they worked together. He was part of the founding board to build Plough Towers and served as its first President. Years later my mother joined its board and eventually became president as well.
My sister, Tammy, and I always saw them giving themselves to make our community better. I hope my children see the same commitment from me that I saw in them.
What does your volunteerism mean to you?
I have been volunteering my whole life. Whether selling World’s Finest Chocolate for the Memphis Hebrew Academy, doing bike-a-thons for St. Jude or participating in the Jewish community at different levels, it feels so good to give back. I enjoy the comradery of a group who is passionate about giving their time and money for a common cause. We can replenish our money, but we cannot replace our time, so it is the precious commodity that I continue to struggle with to choose the right places to serve.
Describe the most impactful Jewish moment for you.
It sounds cliché, but it is difficult to pinpoint that one moment. From childhood to adulthood, I have been blessed with many special Jewish moments. As chair of the Lemsky Committee, I had the opportunity to return to Israel four years ago after not visiting for 20 years. Since then I have visited Israel each year. Each visit becomes a special moment.
It has been a privilege to serve on many of the Jewish boards and especially having the opportunity to serve on the executive committee of JCP and Federation. It is rewarding to see engaged members from various backgrounds and different congregations come together for the good of the community. It is impactful to know that we are sitting around the table for the mission to work together, give together and to allocate funds in a communal effort.
Scott currently serves in numerous volunteer positions including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, St. Jude/ALSAC board as a national committee member, chaired the St. Jude Garden Harvest for 350 people for the last seven years, Plough Towers treasurer, University of Memphis Research Foundation board member, MJCC board member.
He has previously served as: chair of the St. Jude Marguerite Piazza Gala, Hillel advisory committee member, Baron Hirsch board member, past president TN Health Information and Management Systems Society (TNHIMSS), University of Memphis Innovation Council, Zeroto510 Mentor, StartCo mentor and community advocate, National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference of Community of Justice).