Dori Konig made a new friend last year. His name is Gary, and he’s 88 years old. They met when Konig interviewed him for the Memoirs Project at Selfhelp, recording the Holocaust survivor’s life story and submitting it to the Claims Conference, so it will never be forgotten.
The Israeli native, who lived in Toronto and Boston before settling in New York, got involved in Jewish giving at a young age, participating in phone-a-thons and package deliveries for the UJA while in high school.
“What makes our community so strong is everyone’s understanding of the importance to help one another,” said Konig. So when he moved to New York, he re-connected with the UJA-Federation of New York, and took part in the Observership Program, which places young leaders on the boards of member agencies around New York. He was immediately drawn to Selfhelp, which aids Nazi victims in New York. “It’s something that is extremely near and dear to my heart,” said Konig, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors. “When I tell people about it, the first thing they want to know is how to get involved,” he said.
After spending a year observing the Selfhelp board in action, Konig became a full-fledged member — the youngest by several decades. Then he launched NextGen, an initiative aimed at getting younger people involved in the organization that serves a “forgotten part of our population,” he said. NextGen now has 25 board members, and it has created the Memoirs Project, which is entering its third session, plus other cultural, social and volunteer events. “We’re really developing strong leaders,” Konig said.
Konig also chaired the UJA Observership Program for three years, keeping former “observers” involved with the agency and allowing them to connect with each other. And, after convincing the UJA-Fed that they should allow “observers” on their own board, he became the first to join for one year.
Overseas connections: Konig met his wife, Maya, while they were both studying abroad at Tel Aviv University. Ideal relaxing weekend: Playing at the park with kids Makayla, 2, and Aiden, 6 months.