Blazing a Trail
Laura Dinerman, middle daughter of Erwin and Doris Zaban, has both altruism and leadership running through her blood. With her family name emblazoned on local institutions, including the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta at Zaban Park, the self-described professional volunteer has carried on her family’s legacy. She credits her parents and grandparents, who devoted themselves to many Atlanta organizations, for igniting her passion and commitment to charitable endeavors. “My sisters and I saw them doing their share in the community, and it really laid out a roadmap for us,” Laura relays. “My dad was always involved with the JCC, and his interest peaked mine.” Laura’s husband Marshall also encouraged her involvement. “My mother-in-law worked [at the MJCCA] when he was a child, and it’s an important place we both felt connected to,” she explains.
While their three children attended Camp AJECOMCE in the mid-1970s, Laura began her MJCCA volunteerism as Chair of the Day Camps Committee. Several other roles followed, which propelled her into a senior leadership program that prepared volunteers for a board succession plan. Yet all previous MJCCA presidents had been men. “Atlanta was so provincial back in the 1970s and 1980s,” Laura recalls. “I never thought being president was in the cards for a woman, but I knew I was on track to be if needed.” As it turned out, it was. Laura was nominated for and served as the MJCCA’s first female president from 1993 to 1995. “I did all that was asked of me and more and felt honored to achieve it,” she reveals. “Volunteering for the J was my work and how I wanted to spend my time and energy. It’s something I’ve always been proud of.”
During Laura’s tenure, the MJCCA developed new cultural and educational opportunities to engage members and encourage new membership. Adult Jewish learning classes as well as Jerry’s Habima Theatre for actors with disabilities all stemmed from Laura’s leadership term. Perhaps the most significant concept initiated while Laura was at the helm was the Book Festival of the MJCCA, which has since evolved into one of the Southeast’s premier literary events. “Authors now look to us ― and the cross-section of people who attend and support it is mind-blowing,” Laura beams. “These programs changed the way people used and thought about the JCC. It put us on the map in so many different ways.”
Having grown up during a time when she remembers local establishments had signs restricting Jews from entry, Laura asserts, “It’s always been important for the Jewish community to have a place to call our own and to be ourselves.” And now, she’s amazed to see people from all backgrounds taking part in all the MJCCA offers.
“It thrills me that we’re running such good programs that others are looking to us. We have come so far. We’re clearly doing something right.”
It thrills me that we’re running such good programs that others are looking to us. We have come so far. We’re clearly doing something right.Laura Dinerman