Debbie and Ricky Rudy to be Honored at IGNITE! with LBJ Humanitarian Award

Community News, Shalom Austin, The Jewish Outlook

Mar 4, 2021

Ricky and Debbie Rudy. Credit: Dave Hawks

By Amy Hyman

At IGNITE: Home Edition Sunday, April 18, Shalom Austin will honor Debbie and Ricky Rudy with the LBJ Humanitarian Award. This award recognizes those who are dedicated to public service, passionate about philanthropy and committed to the Austin community. 

Past recipients include Vicki and Billy Osherow (2016), Sherrie and Bob Frachtman and Lecia and Jim Sud (2015), Debra and Brett Hurt (2014), Donna and Philip Berber (2012), Morris Gottesman and Bobby Krumholz (2011), Philip Spertus (2010), Carol and Sandy Dochen (2009), Jeff Newberg, Andy Pastor and Kirk Rudy (2008), Suzanne and Marc Winkelman (2007), Louise and Hymie Samuelson z”l (2006), and Susan Zane Epstein and Bobby Epstein (2005).  

When Debbie and Ricky Rudy were first looking to escape Chicago winters, they did not have one single connection to the Austin community but were attracted to the city’s weather and vibrant music scene. Upon a quick Google search of Jewish Austin, a publication by Shalom Austin popped onto the screen, and they found a realtor who exuded the warmth, friendliness and hospitable nature of the city. Although their intention was to split their time between Austin and Chicago, they quickly realized that Austin was becoming their new home. 

Shortly thereafter, their son Ethan Davenport moved to Austin to finish school, followed by their pregnant daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter ,Emily, Brian and Sadie Luvera. Their multigenerational migration to Austin was complete when Debbie’s mother, Steffi Bierig, moved to Austin several years later.  

Debbie and Ricky quickly learned that those who showed even the slightest interest in getting involved in Austin’s growing Jewish community would be embraced with open arms, and they dove right in. They became major donors to Shalom Austin’s Annual Campaign and were instrumental in growing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee movement in Austin. Debbie joined the Anti-Defamation League Board and Ricky joined the Texas Hillel Board, as well as the Shalom Austin Board. 

Debbie fondly remembers advice from a dear friend that remains at the top of her mind in her community work. 

“’Every time you serve on a board or committee you meet new people and make new friends,’ and I have always taken that to heart,” Debbie said. 

Through their involvement as leaders and donors they have deepened their ties to Austin’s Jewish community, strengthening the foundation for their family and countless other newcomers to experience vibrant Jewish life in the city they now call home.  

As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Debbie grew up in a very Zionistic home, but neither she nor Ricky had ever been to Israel until traveling there in 2008 with their Chicago temple. Ricky reflected on the impact the trip made on his life.

He said, “This trip changed everything; I switched from indifference to ardent Zionism.” 

As grandparents, they always try to create Jewish experiences and cannot wait until they can visit Israel with their children and grandchildren in the near future.  

After traveling to Israel, Debbie experienced a profound shift in her approach to Jewish leadership, and felt a deeper desire to create a lasting impact. 

She said, “There was something bigger than myself, and I wanted to work for something to endure beyond my life. Israel can endure and so can my community. I feel a deep sense of obligation to our Jewish community here now, in the future and those that never had the chance to experience it.”  

Jewish community is central to the daily life of Debbie and Ricky, and they are passionate about being involved at Shalom Austin. 

Joining Phil and Adam Loewy at the Prime Minister’s Council giving level, a nationally recognized society of donors contributing $100,000 or more to the Annual Campaign, Ricky shared, “Shalom Austin is, and should be, the cultural and demographic center of Austin’s Jewish community. It’s the one place where every member of our community — regardless of religious practice, social class, income bracket, political leaning or any other sub-category — comes together for fun, for Jewish culture, for education, for community service and to advance our single unifying aspect, that of our Jewish-ness.” 

He further emphasized their philanthropic leadership, recognizing, “If our Jewish community is to survive and prosper, we must lift it up and hold it high.”  

As leaders, they also understand the importance of inspiring others to join together in building and strengthening Jewish life in Austin, Israel and across the globe. 

According to Debbie, “Leadership is about cultivating the next generation of leaders and not about doing everything yourself.” 

Ricky expanded on the importance of ensuring a leadership pipeline, likening it to a “leadership conveyer belt and keeping it fully stocked.”  

To hear more about Debbie and Ricky’s inspiring journey into leadership and the impact they have had on Jewish life in Austin, please consider attending IGNITE: Home Edition, a celebration of friends, family, community and philanthropy Sunday, April 18.  Registration is now open. Visit www.shalomaustin.org/ignite for more details.  

IGNITE! Home Edition

One Family. One Community.  

Join us for Sunday Supper!

Sunday, April 18
5:15 p.m. Pre-Show |  5:30 p.m. Program
$36 General admission (per household)
$18 Young adult price (30 and under)
Local dining opportunities, celebrity surprises and a night of giving.  

Co-Chairs:
Nora & Allen Lieberman  |  Courtney & Jake Manuel
Margo & Arthur Smith  |  Courtney & John Young

Registration is now open at shalomaustin.org/ignitetix.
A suggested minimum Annual Campaign gift of $180 is requested to attend.

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