Jessica Black, second from left, with daughter Jorja, husband James Odorczuk, daughter Jayla, mother Emy Black and son Jaden were honored by Cohen Hillel Academy at its annual gala.
By LEAH DEARBORN
When Jessica Black asked her mother about what first inspired her father, Stan Black, to become involved in philanthropy, she got a response that’s unlikely to surprise anyone familiar with the family’s legacy.
“She believed it started with his dad, who passed away when he was only 15. I think that’s how he became interested in giving,” said Jessica.
Jessica referenced the Hebrew saying “l’dor va’dor,” which means “from generation to generation.” She said that whether you’re passing on a name or habits, the influence of family can’t be overlooked.
Stan, who died in 2005, left behind a legacy of philanthropy and community. A Swampscott resident, he was a strong supporter of many community organizations, including the Jewish Federation of the North Shore, Cohen Hillel Academy and Triangle, Inc., an organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities.
His spirit of generosity has continued to live on in the deeds of his family, led by his wife, Emy, and daughters, Jessica and Arlyne.
“My father believed that all people should be able to work and be productive. That was very important to him,” said Jessica about what motivated Stan to become involved with Triangle, Inc. more than 40 years ago.
Jessica has continued her father’s tradition of philanthropy, currently serving as vice president of the board of directors at Cohen Hillel Academy in Marblehead, where her three children have attended. She also serves as a member of the school’s marketing, governance and admission committees.
Additionally, she has served on the boards of the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore and Triangle Inc.
As for her own volunteer work, Jessica said it was driven partially by a desire to become more involved with the community. She said that although volunteering is always a worthwhile endeavor for its own sake, it also helped her to make and strengthen connections with the people around her. She and her husband, James Odorczuk, moved from Boston to Swampscott be closer to relatives and to the ocean. James is a financial advisor who is mainly involved with school as a parent and a donor. He has also been active in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in Boston and in Swampscott.
In October, Cohen Hillel Academy honored the Black family with the Dr. Bennett I. Solomon Community Leadership Award at its 28th annual gala. Emy and the late Stan were named for the honor, as well as Jessica and James.
The gala was held in conjunction with a performance of the award-winning musical “An American in Paris,” which played on the same night at the Citi Wang Theatre in Boston. The Solomon Award was established to honor the memory of the school’s beloved principal and recognizes extraordinary commitment made by individuals to the school and the community.
“In terms of being honored by Hillel, I do believe in the school,” said Jessica, who praised the quality of the education at the independent Jewish institution. “It’s a wonderful school that goes beyond the four walls of education. It actually teaches them to be good people. They can be smart and they can be athletic, but to be a good person I think is really the most important thing.”
Jessica also offered some advice for anyone who is thinking of volunteering but not certain where to begin.
“Start small and start where your interest lies,” she said, adding that doing so can lead to future opportunities to contribute. Volunteering has become Jessica’s main occupation since her children were born and she encourages them to do tasks for the public benefit, such as beach cleanup, whenever the chance arises.
“We teach our kids to give back in small ways,” she said.