CJFS honoring Bearman family at Hands Up

Collat Jewish Family Services in Birmingham will have an intergenerational celebration at its annual Hands Up Together event, honoring the Bearman family for decades of leadership, volunteer and professional roles with the agency.

The April 26 event will honor Suzanne and Howard Bearman, daughters Sheri Krell and Michelle Bearman-Wolnek and sons-in-law Jimmy Krell and Seth Wolnek. Final details for the event will be announced in the weeks to come.

“Suzanne Bearman served as our agency’s president at a critical time in 1991 and ’92, when CJFS had just welcomed more than 100 Jewish refugees to Birmingham from the former Soviet Union” said CJFS Executive Director Lauren Schwartz. “Suzanne led a broad community effort to help those immigrants learn a new language, adapt to a new culture, find employment and so much more, and that was just the beginning of this family’s involvement.”

Years later, Michelle joined the agency’s staff as a social worker providing counseling, community outreach, education and tornado relief. Michelle later served on the CJFS board, and was president in 2019 and 2020. Both Seth and Jimmy also served on the board, and in 2015, Jimmy co-chaired the “Min Halev: From the Heart” endowment campaign, which met its goal of boosting the CJFS endowment to $5 million.

In 2019, Sheri was named CJFS Volunteer of the Year, recognizing the many hundreds of hours she has devoted to such diverse tasks as delivering produce boxes to low-income senior housing communities, coordinating volunteer activities for teenagers and older adults, assisting with mailings, helping clients shop and run errands, and volunteering at the CJFS CARES dementia respite program.

“The services and care provided by CJFS go hand in hand with the involvement, time, and love which the Bearmans, Krells, and Wolneks have devoted to our community for decades,” said Susan Lapidus, who is co-chairing the event with CJFS past president David Romanoff.

Michelle recalled as a child or young adult asking her mother why she devoted so much time to the agency, then known as Jewish Family Services. “She would say it was important, to make our community a better place, important enough to leave us. It made me realize that this organization was really special.”