Jewish life is a passion for this Cherry Hill native
Husband Bob and two children,
Max (10) and Jacob (13)
Cong. Beth El
Cherry Hill East, Goucher
College, and a Master's in
Social Work (MSW) at
Wurzweiler School of Social
Work at Yeshiva University
Works out at Katz JCC; rabid
Eagles fan and season ticket
holder; travel; and seeing
Sushi, "bloody rare steak,"
bread, pasta, and Ketel One
When a young couple is looking forward to the miracle of parenthood, the last thing on their minds is often the possibility of their future child suffering, and perhaps dying, from a Jewish genetic disease. Unfortunately, that is sometimes a reality, particularly for Ashkenazic Jews, those of Eastern European background.
Mariam Shpeen Feist wants to change that reality. She not only wants to save the lives of Jewish children, she wants to save families from a devastating emotional and financial toll. She wants Jews to take the simple blood test that can tell them if they are carriers of one of 11 Jewish genetic diseases. She also wants them to be aware of the Victor Ashkenazi Jewish Genetic Disease Screening Program headquartered at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.
The Victor Center was founded by Lois Victor, who lost two children to Jewish genetic diseases. The Center collaborates with the Jewish Federations and Family Services in Southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Philadelphia as well as Hadassah to educate as many Jews as possible to be screened as early as possible.
Working for Einstein Hospital as well as with the Victor Center is the latest career stop in the hard charging Feist's devotion to Jewish life. "No matter how much I've tried, I can't get out of the Jewish community," she joked.
Her career has taken her from a stint as youth director of the JCC in Trenton to a job as fundraiser for the UJA Federation of New York to positions as Women's Division director, Campaign director and assistant executive director for the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, and then to Jack M. Barrack (formerly Akiba) Hebrew Academy, where she was director of institutional advancement. Currently, she is director of Major and Planned Gifts for the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, the region's only Jewish hospital.
"When you are a fundraiser, you are a salesperson. I could sell anything, but I choose to sell Jewish life," said Feist. She said that everything she has been able to do, she has done from the heart. "It's a passion."
Her list of Jewish volunteer accomplishments equals her list of Jewish professional work. She is a board member and incoming vice president of Jewish Family & Children's Service (JFCS) of Southern New Jersey, an active member of the Jewish Federation, and a member of Barrack Academy's Recruitment Committee.
Feist learned about the organized Jewish community from her parents at an early age. Her father, Dr. Harold Shpeen, was a president of both the JCC and Jewish Federation. Her mother, Judith, chaired the JCC's early childhood programs, was active in Federation's Women's Division, and chaired Camp Harlam's board of directors. "My parents were my role models. It wasn't until I was into double digits that I found out my father was a dentist. I thought he worked for the JCC and the Federation." .