2018-07-04 / Voice at the Shore

Creating jobs is a form of tikun olam for Young Leadership Award winner

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Stephanie and Dan Koch received the Young Leadership Award. Pictured (from left) are Dan and Stephanie Koch with Jewish Federation President David Lieberman. Stephanie and Dan Koch received the Young Leadership Award. Pictured (from left) are Dan and Stephanie Koch with Jewish Federation President David Lieberman. Work is a passion for Stephanie Koch, a local Jewish community member who serves on the Atlantic County Workforce Development Board.

“I believe that employment and work is a conduit for self-sufficiency. It empowers people to provide for themselves and their families and to create healthy communities through it. Once people climb that ladder, communities thrive,” said Koch, who works at JEVS Human Services in Philadelphia, serving as its senior vice president of strategic and business development.

Koch, who helped to start the local Jewish Federation’s Jewish Business Network, recently received the Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Award along with her husband, Dan, managing partner at Seashore Wealth Management in Northfield and a former board member for both the Margate JCC and local Jewish Federation.

For Koch, job creation is a form of tikun olam. Her Jewish values and upbringing inspired her to pursue a career in social work, and her passion for job creation brought her to her current work with JEVS Human Services. JEVS, which began in 1941 as a vocational service for Jewish refugees in Philadelphia, is now dedicated to enhancing employability and quality of life in a broad service area that includes the Jersey shore.

Toward that end, JEVS recently collaborated with the Atlantic County Workforce Development Board and Stockton University to host a Youth Employment Symposium at Stockton. The event, which took place in late May, sought to help local youth with minimal education connect with local employers, educational opportunities, and human service organizations.

According to Koch, the symposium was about “helping youth create their individual paths to promising futures.” She hopes it will become an annual event. “As a resident of this community and a member of the Atlantic County Workforce Development Board, I have a vested interest in making sure young people succeed,” said Koch, who noted that a quarter of the population in Atlantic County does not possess a high school diploma, and that Atlantic County has the second highest unemployment rate in the state.

Koch urged Jewish business owners to consider hiring local young adults. “How do we lift them up? Can we mentor them? I would like to see us have more conversations about work in our community,” she said.

Getting young people in Atlantic City working is important to everyone, she stressed. “If Atlantic City doesn’t thrive, neither does Margate,” and if South Jersey doesn’t thrive, “then North Jersey won’t thrive either.”

“Helping thy neighbor is part of the Ten Commandments,” stressed Koch. “To lift someone up—I think that’s what Judaism is really all about.” Providing young adults with job training is a powerful and lasting way to lift them up—and also has the potential to lift up the whole community and to improve the economy, said Koch. 

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