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Lasky receives rare Jack Malitz Levy Leadership Award from Savannah Jewish Federation

  • Joel Greenberg, left, and Michael Karpf, right, share a laugh with Levy Leadership Award recipient Jeffrey Lasky. (Shelly Mobley/For Savannah Morning News)
  • Lynn Reeves, left, hugs her brother, Jeffrey Lasky, as Lori Loncon and Scott Samuels congratulate him on his Levy Leadership Award. (Shelly Mobley/For Savannah Morning News)
  • Paul Kulbersh, previous recipient of the award, speaks at the Jack Malitz Levy Leadership Award brunch Jan. 7, honoring Jeffrey Lasky. (Shelly Mobley/For Savannah Morning News)

Jeffrey Lasky grew up just around the corner from the Jewish Educational Alliance, often participating in many of its activities.

“While I grew up in Sylvan Terrace, all of my time — sports, participating in Boy Scouts, youth groups — the Jewish Educational Alliance was instrumental in my development as a young adult,” he said. After graduating from Benedictine Military School in 1974, he went off to the University of Georgia, earning a business degree in 1978 and his Juris Doctorate in 1981. He is the managing partner and lead litigator for Lasky Cooper Law.

“When I came back to town, as a lot of us do in a small Jewish community as we have here in Savannah, I started volunteering there,” he said. “People need to give back. It is second nature to me. I felt I had the skill set to satisfy that need.”

Leaders at the JEA recognized this skill set and tapped into it immediately. About 36 years later, on Jan. 7, he had the rare honor of receiving the Jack Malitz Levy Leadership Award, the highest honor given by the Savannah Jewish Federation. There are only six other recipients of the award that was established in 1988 upon the death of Jack Malitz Levy, the second-generation owner of Levy Jewelers.

Giving back

Lasky has volunteered many hours in many areas, initially as a coach for the JEA sports leagues and then as chair of the committee responsible for the design of the health and wellness facilities and equipment at the JEA. That was in the early 1980s, when there was only a small workout room and a few pieces of equipment, he said.

The committee did a good job, he added. “We just replaced the equipment last year.”

Outside the Jewish community, he has volunteered with the United Way of the Coastal Empire, St. Andrew’s School on the board and as a basketball coach when son Darryl was a player, and with Royce Learning Center, which son Stephen attended.

“I didn’t know anything about Royce Learning Center until we recognized that my son at about 3 or 4 years old had some significant learning issues.”

The center has three main programs. Chatham Academy for children with learning differences, Adult and Community Education for adult learners and the Tutoring Center.

“Once my son started going there, my wife and I became passionate about helping the program,” he said. He agreed to serve on the board, eventually becoming president.

“A president cannot get a lot done in the first year, so I urged them to make the president’s position a two-year position. It allowed me to both develop a vision for the school and to help initiate it,” he said.

The center applied for and received a SPLOST grant for $1.2 million. They hired a consultant to help with a long-range plan to best use the funds, he said. “We looked at the image, the PR, how we could better serve the population we serve.”

Why volunteer

The majority of people volunteer because they are passionate about an organization’s mission, Lasky said. “Some do it for business purposes and networking, then become passionate.

“I’m a pretty passionate, enthusiastic person in almost everything I do,” he said. “I cannot tell you one project was more satisfying than the other. I’ve taken on some important and meaningful projects in my life. At the time, it was the most important. You tackle the program, solve the problem and get to move on and see the organization has flourished.

“I’ve done three long-range plans for nonprofits. Those are important for organizations to do. Most do not do it. Planning for the future with nonprofits is critical. They are not easy. They require a lot of introspection by an organization. It is the only way organizations, and businesses, can stay relevant and successful.

“I chose a career that I believe helps people every day. We help solve their legal issues and help with their problems. I think volunteering comes from the same source. Volunteers are helping with the mission of the organization, helping people who need to be helped. … I get great satisfaction out of helping people. I think that was part of the basis for doing the volunteering.

“Attorneys problem-solve every day; that’s what we are trained to do. Particularly with the long-range planning process, you are identifying issues, coming up with solutions, creating goals. My organizational skills, my problem-solving skills as an attorney, and my personality of wanting to help others — the three cornerstones of why I do what I do.”

During his career, he also has been and still is active with professional organizations. His current nonprofit focus is with the Savannah Jewish Federation. From 2011 to 2013, he was president of the Federation. Since 2013, he has been its endowment chair.

Local support

For all his volunteer time, he said it was important to have the support of his family and his co-workers.

While accepting his award, Lasky said his wife Stacy “always supported all of my community endeavors and never once said no and never once complained of the years of late-night meetings and community events.

“You were always there when I got home and needed someone to listen to me or to provide me with words of wisdom and or to provide a calming influence whenever I vented about some difficult community issue. …this honor today is not just for me but is truly for both of us.”

He also is thankful to his understanding partners, “because all the volunteering I did never had a business purpose to it. … It was how I was raised to give back, from my parents and grandparents. That’s what you do. If we don’t do it, nobody will.”

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