By Jennifer Marshall

The Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center (JCC) will honor Arcadian Bob Silver with the Irv Shuman Award this month. Silver is recognized for his dedication to tzedakah (charity/the giving of charity).

Silver was born and raised in Arcadia. College carried him to the East Coast, followed by a stint in Chicago before returning to the Valley in 1990.

“Like a salmon returning to spawn, I returned home,” Silver said. “My parents have always been very involved with the Jewish community, and when I came back, they encouraged me to do the same.”

After settling back in Arizona for a couple of years, opportunity struck when a friend asked him to help out with the JCC. The timing was perfect as the organization was going through a period of decline since the Jewish population had moved away from the JCC’s part of Phoenix, and membership had fallen.

“When I got involved,” Silver said, “we were running our preschool at a local synagogue and summer camps out of rented space. We needed to regroup, and we needed a new home.”

Through what Silver calls “a series of fortunate events and a lot of great leadership in the community,” they were able to build a new place, located at The Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus on Scottsdale Road north of Cactus.

“When we opened in 2002,” Silver said, “I was very involved as first board chair. I was also part of the volunteer team hiring new staff, developing the initial programs and, in general, relaunching the new JCC.”

Silver’s volunteerism with the organization also led to his involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, where he also served as board chair. The Jewish Federation is essentially the equivalent of the United Way as it supports local Jewish organizations and does fundraising.

Around four years ago, the center created the Irv Shuman Award to honor people who have contributed to the organization and the community in general. While the award is not bestowed every year, its criteria is always exemplary leadership and community involvement.

“When I was coming up through the ranks,” Silver said, “Irv was one of the guys I looked up to. He was so selfless, and everything he did was always about the organization, the community and the people – it was never about him.” 

Silver was able to meet and befriend Irv Shuman before his passing in 2008.

“I’m honored to be the recipient of the Irv Shuman Award,” Silver said. “For me, it’s even more special given I had the pleasure of knowing Irv and seeing his work in the community.”

Today, Silver is board chair at the Opportunity Tree, which provides services to youth and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.