The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) have selected Randy Goldof Atlanta, GA, as the 2011 Jewish Community Hero of the Year. Nominations from across the nation were made and online votes were cast over the course of the months-long campaign.
A panel of judges including actress Mayim Bialik, Jewish Daily Forward editor Jane Eisner and former Facebook marketing executive Randi Zuckerberg made their selections from among the top 20 nominations. Gold was selected because of his ongoing work with the Atlanta Jewish Gene Screen project (AJGS) he founded. The function of AJGS is to create awareness and to educate rabbis, doctors and community Jewish couples about the benefits of screening for potential life-threatening genetic illnesses such as Tay-Sachs disease.
For his work with AJGS, Gold was presented with a $25,000 grant by representatives of the JFNA. Since the late 1960s, when efforts at Jewish awareness of Tay-Sachs disease were first made, the incidence has decreased by 90%. According to AJGS, one in five Ashekenazic Jews has the capability of passing up to 19 preventable genetic diseases.
Other finalists awarded $1,000 grants from JFNA were Shana Erenberg of Chicago, of Houston, Hart Levine of New York City and Jenine Schwekey of Long Branch, New Jersey.