Phoenix chapter of American Friends of Magen David Adom to honor community leaders

Posted 12/28/21

The Phoenix chapter of American Friends of Magen David Adom will honor Jay and Karen Bycer, of Cave Creek, and Barry and Barbara Zemel, of Paradise Valley, on Jan. 30.

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Phoenix chapter of American Friends of Magen David Adom to honor community leaders


The Phoenix chapter of American Friends of Magen David Adom will honor Jay and Karen Bycer, of Cave Creek, and Barry and Barbara Zemel, of Paradise Valley, on Jan. 30.

The Bycers and Zemels are longtime friends who helped raise $1 million over the last 20 years from the Phoenix community for Magen David Adom, Israel’s paramedic and Red Cross service organization, according to a press release.

A musical celebration will take place at Beth El Congregation in Phoenix with acoustic artist, Todd Herzog performing soulful, spiritual songs in Hebrew and English. Dr. Eilat Shinar, director of the Magen David Adom Blood Services Division, will be guest speaker, according to the release.

“There would be no Arizona chapter today without the Bycers and Zemels,” says Catherine Reed, AFMDA chief executive officer, in the release. “We are grateful for their dedicated and tireless efforts for 20 years on behalf of Magen David Adom and its 30,000 EMTs and paramedics. They are role models who practice the mitzvah of tzedakah [charity and righteousness] on a daily basis and are so deserving of this honor.”

In 2001, while Jay Bycer served as chair for a dinner,  honoring Irving and Frances Horn, of blessed memory, parents of honoree Barbara Zemel, the Bycers were inspired by the Horns’ work to help Magen David Adom, detailed the release on how the journey began with continuing efforts on behalf of MDA.

Background on community leaders

Honorees Karen and Jay Bycer

Karen Bycer has a lifetime of volunteering for many Jewish organizations in the community, including Hadassah, ORT, National Council of Jewish Women, and Brandies National Committee.

Jay Bycer has served on AFMDA’s National Board of Directors for several years and he helped other chapters create similar programs for their communities throughout the country. He managed the Jewish community demographic study in 1983, and helped with the 2001 study.

“The things I am most proud of in my service to MDA have been creating two award-winning programs for our community,” he says.

He served on numerous boards including the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, Bureau of Jewish Education, Beth El Congregation, Jewish Free Loan, Jewish Tuition Organization, ASU Hillel, and Israel Bonds. The founder/president of Market Solutions Group, before retiring in 1996, was president of the Phoenix chapter of the American Marketing Association. He taught for years at Rio Salado College.

“On my many visits to Israel, I saw firsthand how important MDA is to the people of Israel,” says Jay Bycer in the release. “I visited the blood center, the national dispatch center, and rode along in ambulances. How could you not be inspired to support their efforts? Magen David Adom is an example to the world in how to preserve life.”

For their philanthropic and civic commitment, the Bycers have been honored with the Jewish Free Loan’s Presidents Award, Jewish Educators Assembly’s Keter Torah Award, Jewish Arizonans on Campus Annual Leader Award, and were recognized on AFMDA’s 70th Anniversary Scroll of Distinguished Leaders. They have also endowed Holocaust collections of books, videos, and other materials for the Prescott and Chino Valley Libraries.

Their involvement in educational and fundraising events include Partners for Life (Federation’s Belle Latchman Award) with more than 1,000 children in grades K-8 taught what MDA does to help their Israeli brothers and sisters; created the Judaic Cultural Orchestra; and through six concerts raised about $250,000. In total, they raised $1 million dollars, including sending four ambulances to Israel, one of which was the Murray and Sabina Zemel Ambulance.

Honorees Barbara and Barry Zemel

Barbara Zemel assumed numerous leadership positions over the years with the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, Brandeis National Committee, and Arizona State University’s Hillel. She was a teacher in Beth El Congregation’s pre-school, as well as a youth group advisor and board vice president.

After teaching, she launched a 10-year retail career, founding one of the first food and gift basket companies, The Basket Case. She is on the board of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, and he is on its committee for the New Hope and Humanity Building.

“For the past 20 years I have poured my heart and soul into Arizona friends of MDA,” says Barbara Zemel in the release. “I think my greatest and proudest achievement was helping to create the Judaic Cultural Orchestra, which produced six amazing concerts with Jewish themes that were so well received by our Phoenix community and raised thousands of dollars for MDA.”

A real estate investor, Barry Zemel was president of ASU’s Hillel and served on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, the Jewish Community Foundation, the Jewish Community Center, and was president of the Arizona Jewish Theater Company.

The Zemels’ philanthropic support for Jewish and non-Jewish causes include sponsoring a medical outreach van for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. For their many civic and philanthropic endeavors, they have been honored by the Jewish Federation, Jewish Free Loan, East Valley JCC, and American Jewish Committee.

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Contact Elana Michael at; or 619-489-0329.


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