BRIAN NEILINGER is the son of the late Barry Neilinger and the punctual Dorey Neilinger. His wonderful parents provided an idyllic Jewish home with an endless supply of affection, encouragement and bagels. While education and Jewish values were paramount, the family was no stranger to the tennis court and the ski hill. Before his fourth birthday, Brian’s family moved from New Jersey to Montreal where he beneﬁted from a multi-cultural city with a large and dynamic Jewish community. Jewish camps, Hebrew School, Canadian Jewish Appeal (CJA) and a trip to Israel for the Maccabiah Games provided the foundation for his intellectual curiosity and emotional passion for Judaism. He is an honors graduate of both Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and the University of Notre Dame Law School. Brian started his career as a real estate and structured ﬁnance attorney and spent the last twenty years focused on commercial real estate debt and workouts of distressed real estate and corporate loans.
Fresh out of law school, Brian joined UJA in New York where he focused on raising awareness of and money for trustworthy and outstanding community based organizations in the United States and around the world. During his tenure as chair of UJA-Federation of New York’s Real Estate Division (REX), Brian led missions to Israel and Argentina, and at its annual gala in March of 2006, REX honored Brian (providing his parents with tremendous nachas).
After moving to Greenwich in 2008, Brian joined the board of UJA-Greenwich and in late 2013, he was elected President, a position he served for three years. Ever respectful and appreciative of the diversity of opinion in our community, Brian sought to achieve philanthropic success through common goals and shared wisdom. Brian lives in Greenwich with the love of his life, his wife Sheila (also very involved in UJA Greenwich) and their greatest achievement, their son Kevin. They all enjoy weekly Shabbat dinners with the families of this year’s gala co-chairs.
ANDREW LUSTIG is a Jewish spoken word artist and a Jewish identity writing workshop facilitator. Films of Andrew’s poetry have been viewed online hundreds of thousands of times. Andrew has delivered keynote addresses at the USCJ Centennial, the URJ Biennial, the UJIA Annual Fundraising Dinner in London, the JNF National Conference, and BBYO’s International Conference. Andrew is a co-creator and the Educational Director of One Wish Film Project. Both ‘One Wish Jerusalem’ and ‘One Wish for Iran, Love Israel’ have been viewed over 100,000 times and have received festival awards. In the summers Andrew is an artist-in-residence and mentor for college students at the Brandeis Collegiate Institute in L.A. Andrew spent a year studying at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.
SERENA BAKER is a junior at Greenwich Academy. She is a dedicated volunteer for The Friendship Circle, working with children with special needs every Wednesday. After numerous trips to Netanya, Israel, Serena decided to create a computer graphic design program for the Ethiopian girls at the Shapiro School as her mitzvah project. While visiting the school, Serena chose a former storage space in the basement of the school to convert into a computer center for the girls. After listening to the girls’ stories and hearing their struggles, Serena decided to add art therapy as another component to the program. Serena’s mitzvah project, which she is still involved in today, has inspired a matching program that connects children in the United States who are deciding on their mitzvah projects with the Netanya Foundation.
NATALIE LILIEN is a senior at Greenwich High School, and will be a freshman this fall at Cornell University School of Industrial Relations. Natalie maintains an active proﬁle in Jewish philanthropy, splitting her time as co-founding member of JCC Greenwich Teen Action Committee, where she has completed more than 60 hours of service, and as Mazkirah and Board Member of the Greenwich BBYO chapter. Highlights of her three-year involvement with JTAC include raising funds to purchase a freezer at the Schoke Jewish Family Service Kosher Food Pantry, mentoring middle school students and co-leading a breakfast for the homeless and hungry in New York City. More recently, she helped JTAC spearhead a drive for victims of domestic violence in partnership with YWCA Greenwich and the Met Council on Jewish Poverty. When not planning and executing community service activities, Natalie is an Israel advocate with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. In 2016 she attended the Summer Saban Leadership Seminar and AIPAC Policy Conference, and lobbied Congressman Jim Himes.