Two East Bay volunteers win federations Lesser Awards

"That first day at orientation, I heard how the day will go — circle time, story time, nap time. Then they said `and on Friday we do Shabbat.' Right then I knew it would be a great experience," she recollects.

"Fliers came home about Jewish holidays, and suddenly I knew I had found a place where my children would get a positive feeling about being Jewish," says Mayper, who is completing her third year as BRJCC's president and has agreed to serve another year.

In recognition of their commitment and leadership, the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay presented Ruby, 43, and Mayper, 42, with the prestigious 30th annual Moses M. and Celia R. Lesser Young Leadership Awards at its annual meeting earlier this month.

As part of their recognition, the Lesser Family Endowment Fund, held by the Jewish Federation Endowment Foundation, is sending Ruby and Mayper to the general assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations, which meets in Indianapolis in November. At the assembly, they will be recognized internationally as Young Leadership Award winners.

Lesser Award winners are selected for outstanding participation in Jewish organizational life and potential for leadership, broad community involvement, and Jewish community fund-raising efforts. Since 1967, when the awards were established in memory of Moses and Celia Lesser, the 42 men and women honored have gone on to make their mark as community and federation leaders.

Neither Ruby nor Mayper, who were selected by a committee of past winners, had been told of their awards in advance.

"I was delighted, honored and proud," said Ruby. "I looked at the women at my table, all three former winners. I'm very proud to be part of that group."

When Ruby became involved in the Jewish community, she learned about the federation and moved swiftly from being a donor to a committed volunteer. She was driven by concerns for providing social services, and international rescue and relief.

Now she finds that by working on those goals, she is also helping to build the Jewish identity and community she was seeking.

Ruby says that positive family role models gave her strong Jewish values. Her grandfather helped found a Detroit synagogue and was philanthropically involved with Israel, and her mother served as president of the local Hadassah, among other volunteer positions.

Ruby moved to the Bay Area in 1975 to study fine arts, earning her bachelor's degree from California College of Arts and Crafts in 1978. After spending a year making jewelry, she built a successful career as a sales representative, marketing jewelry collections by other designers. After marrying husband Rob in 1986 and having a son, she left her career after 17 years to devote more time to her family and community.

Ruby co-chairs the Federation's Business and Professional Women's Division and will be co-chair of the federation's 1998 campaign. She has served on the federation's executive board, planning and allocations committee, campaign cabinet and finance committee, and on the advisory council of Jewish Community Services of Oakland-Piedmont.

Ruby also volunteers in the Piedmont public school Parent Educator Program for drug prevention and will be joining the board of the Piedmont Education Foundation. he and her family are members of Temple Sinai in Oakland.

Like Ruby, Mayper was surprised when her name was announced as a Lesser Award winner. Raised in Palo Alto, in 1972 — at her mother's prompting — she went to Israel for a year. She returned to study at U.C. Berkeley.

After graduating in 1978 and marrying Mark Mayper in 1980, she went on to study law at the University of San Francisco, earning her juris doctor in 1988. She was a business litigator for five years.

The Maypers have two children: Amy and Aaron, 5.

In addition to service as BRJCC president, Mayper has been secretary of the board, chair of early childhood education, and chair of the annual fund-raising auction for the past two years.

At the federation, Mayper serves on the Family of Funds committee, nominating committee, and the Board of Delegates. She is also a newly appointed board member of Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito, where she has served as scrip committee chair.

Looking ahead, Mayper hopes to strengthen the BRJCC's financial base and programs because this is "my chance to be involved in preserving Jewish continuity."