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Young leadership honorees from ‘helping professions’

Read this story in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.

By Leon Cohen

In a curious way, both of this year’s Milwaukee Jewish Federation young leadership honorees come from helping professions.

That is certainly clear with Monica Arnstein, recipient of Women’s Philanthropy’s Ann Agulnick Young Leadership Award on May 19.

She studied rehabilitation psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her undergraduate degree, then obtained teaching certification for early childhood to sixth grade and taught preschool for a time.

But it is also true with Brent Arnold, who will be receiving the MJF’s Benjamin E. Nickoll Young Leadership Award this month. Arnold works as project estimator for the Hunzinger Construction Company.

“I love meeting with clients to help them determine what they have the capabilities of building, where I think it’s best for them to spend the money in their building,” he said.

They also have a Jewish leadership development experience in common. Both of them participated in the George Weinstein Fellowship and with their spouses traveled to Israel as part of that program.

“That really opened my eyes so much to what the community does,” said Arnstein.

“That program was when I truly learned what the Federation does and the amazing programs they create and support,” said Arnold.

In contrast to their commonalities, the two started literally in different places.

Arnstein is originally from Minneapolis, where “I grew up really involved” with the Jewish community. Her parents were active in her synagogue and she was a member of United Synagogue Youth.

She met her husband, David, at UW-Madison and came with him to Milwaukee. As she became a mother — they have three children, 9, 7 and 3 — she started volunteering at the Jewish Home and Care Center’s ceramics class.

That led to other volunteering with the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center’s preschool (now called Gan Ami) and the Mequon Jewish Preschool.

After participating in the Weinstein Fellowship, she has been working for several organizations, including the MJF’s Israel Center (she co-chaired the Israel Memorial Day celebration) and Women’s Philanthropy, and the National Council for Jewish Women, serving as president of the local chapter.

Among the things she said characterized her Jewish community activities is “that it’s not [only] all about Jews helping Jews… but also about helping the general population and all humankind. I love that.”

And she said she felt “very humbled” and “very touched” to receive the Ann Agulnick Award. “But it did feel a little bit funny to be recognized for doing the things that I love to do.”

Arnold likes to say he was “born and brewed in Milwaukee.” He attended Nicolet High School and was active in BBYO, becoming Wisconsin region president. He also attended Jewish summer camps.

“BBYO was my first true chance at becoming integrated into the Milwaukee Jewish community,” he said. “I just really embraced it and loved it.”

He studied first at the University of Kansas, intending to be a psychology major, but switched to the Milwaukee School of Engineering and architectural engineering.

He met his wife, Kelly, through a summer school class at UW-Milwaukee. They have two boys, 8 and 4, and his becoming a father led him to renew his activities with the Jewish community.

He has been on the board of BBYO and the JCC and is on the executive board of Congregation Shalom. He is on the MJF board of directors and is now working with the MJF’s MilwaukeeChaverim group.

When asked why he does volunteering in the community, he said, “I do it because I enjoy it, and because I want to see a better and stronger Milwaukee Jewish community.

“And I’ve met the most inspiring people through the Milwaukee Jewish community and through these boards and through the federation. That really inspires me. And I do it for the next generation, for my kids, so that they have a stronger Jewish community to be a part of.” Receiving the Nickoll Award, he said, “is pretty awesome. I never expected it at all… It really felt good to be appreciated for the things I’m involved with… And I hope that’s inspiring some of the younger up-and-coming Jewish professionals to get involved as well.”

Arnold will be receiving the award at a luncheon on Thursday, Aug. 13, noon at The Pfister Hotel. The luncheon costs $40 (dietary laws observed). To RSVP and for more information, call 414-390-5720 or email TelaB@MilwaukeeJewish.org.

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