Hi, my name is… Sheryl Jane Bronkesh and I am the president of the Phoenix Holocaust Association (phxha.com).
I’ve lived in Scottsdale for 42 years and I love it because… The walking paths, hiking trails, great parks, and beauty in every direction I look.
A typical day in my life includes… As soon as I awake – which is usually around 5 a.m. – I play word games on my phone before getting up for coffee. Next on the agenda, every day, is walking my poodle, Lily. Our walks are getting shorter because she is nearly 13 and is slowing down. Two days a week I work out with a fantastic trainer and one morning a week I hike in the preserve with friends. Typical days include many hours at my computer, Zoom meetings, and calls. Lately, I have been going to ASU for meetings about Genocide Awareness Week and to give docent tours of the exhibit “Holocaust by Bullets,” at the Hayden Library on the Tempe campus until April 17. Before dinner, there is another walk with my dog. My day nearly always ends with a show on HGTV or an episode of the “Great British Baking Show.”
My family is… Myself, my daughter and close friends. My daughter is a graduate of Chaparral High School in Scottsdale and then went to college in Connecticut. I am happy she settled in Los Angeles after college. My car knows the way from Scottsdale to L.A. quite well as I have visited multiple times during the past two years. Because I don’t have biological family living in Arizona, my friends are my family.
When I was younger, I wanted to be… A journalist. My undergraduate degree is in journalism although I realized early on that I didn’t want to be an investigative journalist. Through a college internship, I was exposed to public relations and marketing. That was a good fit.
The people who motivate me are… My parents. I do what I do at the Phoenix Holocaust Association to honor the memory of my parents, both Holocaust survivors, and the memory of my ancestors who were murdered during World War II. My parents emigrated to the United States as refugees after the war with no material goods, had to learn a new language and make a way for themselves and their baby daughter, my sister, who was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany. I came along a few years later while they were living in Bronx, New York. When I was four, we moved to southern New Jersey to a chicken farm. Neither had ever raised chickens but through incredibly hard work they gave us a home, food, piano lessons, and education with both daughters going to college and graduate school.
The last thing that made me laugh out loud was… I have a special relationship with a friend’s granddaughters, aged two and almost five. Whenever I take care of them, something they say or do always makes me laugh. The innocence of youth is awesome to observe. The silver lining to the pandemic has been getting close to these girls as I helped care for them while they were kept out of daycare and their parents worked from home.
My favorite local nonprofit is… The Phoenix Holocaust Association. As a partnership of Holocaust survivors, their descendants and the larger community, the Phoenix Holocaust Association (PHA) honors the memory and legacy of the survivors and victims, promotes awareness of the Holocaust, provides education of this and other genocides, and contributes to “tikkun olam,” which means, “repair of the world.” PHA provides, sponsors, and supports a number of Holocaust education related events and programs, as well as provides speakers, materials and references to Holocaust information.
My life is… Fulfilling. Since retiring from my career, I have focused my energy on promoting Holocaust and genocide education through my role as president of the PHA and chair of the community advisory board for Genocide Awareness Week at ASU.
The best gift I’ve ever received was… That my daughter, who doesn’t enjoy traveling like I do, agreed to travel with my mother (who was 88 at the time) and me in 2009 to Poland and Ukraine to retrace my family roots. While the reason for our journey was a difficult one – my mother fled her home in 1941 to survive the Holocaust – our trip forged strong bonds between generations.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received… Was from my mother who always stressed the importance of education because it is the one thing no one can take away from you. Growing up, money was extremely limited in my family but there was never a question that I would attend college. A few years after completing college, I decided to go to graduate school at ASU, where I got my MBA.