There’s No Place Like the J: The Children’s Scholarship Ball Celebrates 30 Years

Thursday, October 17, 2019
Posted by: Michelle Frankfort, Children's Scholarship Ball Coordinator

CSB LogoFor the 30th year through its Annual Children’s Scholarship Ball, the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC of Houston is ensuring all children in Houston can learn and grow from the J’s array of enriching classes, camps, and early childhood programs.

The Scholarship Ball benefits the Irvin Kaplan Children’s Scholarship Fund, and will be held this year on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. The black tie gala will include a seated dinner, dancing, live music, and a silent auction, all to help support families in the community who may not have the means to fully afford programming for their children at the J. Since the ball’s inception, over 9,000 children’s lives have been brightened by the more than $12.5 million raised.

There's No Place Like the J!

The theme of this year’s event, “Emerald City, There’s No Place Like the J,” highlights the J’s long-time fun, educational programming and its supportive, family-friendly atmosphere. Since 1936, the J has functioned as the town square for Jewish life in Houston and served as a gem in the community for generations. The event’s honorary chairs this year are Ann Kaufman and Barbara Hurwitz—both of who chaired the inaugural ball in 1991—and Marc Shapiro, the event’s inaugural honoree.

A History of Making Connections at the J

CSB Team
(L-R) Esther Freedman, Samantha Lee, 
Lea Radom, Laurie Pickei 
Photo Credit – Lezu Photography

Gala co-chairs Laurie Pickei and Esther Freedman each have a long and rich connection, both personally and professionally, to the J.

“We’re so honored to chair the 30th annual JCC Children’s Scholarship Ball and highlight the incredible generational history that exists throughout all facets of the JCC,” said Pickei. “From growing up to growing old, the J holds a special place in the hearts and lives of so many within our community. There’s truly no place like the J.”

Born and raised in Houston, Pickei attended preschool at the JCC West Houston, where she also learned how to swim and play basketball. The JCC was her foundation for countless childhood memories. She fondly remembers watching her father play in the softball league and waiting for her mother outside the facility’s jazzercise studio. Together with her husband Ross, their son Morgan, 3, and another baby on the way, Laurie and her family have continued to embrace and enjoy all the J has to offer, including family programming, summers at the pool, camp and more. Laurie is a communications consultant and content creator, working with businesses on brand management, communications strategies, creative content development, and copywriting.

As a native Houstonian, Freedman spent countless summers at the J. She began in camp as a child and went on to become a camp counselor during college. Her husband, Doug, also enjoyed many summers as a camper at the J. Now, he works out at the fitness center and on the J’s basketball court. With their own children, Naomi, 5, and Tova, 3, the Freedmans continue to make the J a central part of their daily lives. Both girls attended J Camps this year where they enjoyed swimming and Shabbat. Freedman is also the founder and creative director of cuteheads, a kids clothing label for girls up to age 8 dedicated to special occasion outfits.

“I have such fond memories of going to camp, gymnastics and dance at the J,” Freedman said. “I helped create the first Young Adult Night at the annual book fair in my early 20s. Now, my own kids are loving being a part of the J community. There’s really nothing like it in Houston, and we’re proud to honor that.”

Rounding out the leadership of this event are 2020 Tribute Chairs, Elizabeth Rubinsky and Lindsay Schmulen and the 2020 Auction Chairs, Samantha Lee and Lea Radom.

Share Your Story of What the J Means to You

Tell us your first experiences at the J, what brought you to the J, what you've learned at the J, how the J has made a difference in YOUR lives.

Share Your Story


Visit our web page to learn more about the Children's Scholarship Ball or to purchase tables or tickets.



Category: Giving