Karen and Joel Piassick are 2018 Hands Up Together Honorees

In their 54 years of marriage, giving back has always been a priority for Karen and Joel Piassick – even as newlyweds in 1966, when Joel was a young Army officer headed to Vietnam. “I remember that year we gave to the Jewish Federation in Atlanta,” he recalled. The focus of the Piassicks’ community involvement shifted westward 14 years ago, when Harbert Management Corporation recruited Joel to its Birmingham office from Atlanta. Since then, the Piassicks have become deeply involved in the city’s arts organizations and the Jewish community – so much so that they were an easy choice to be honored at CJFS’s 2018 Hands Up Together event.

The event, which will be at 2:30 pm April 29 at the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ Day Theatre, is being chaired by Sheryl and Jon Kimerling. “When Karen and Joel came to Birmingham, they brought so much vision, wisdom and kindness with them, and our entire community is the better for it,” Sheryl said. “Jon and I are delighted to help CJFS honor a couple who is so deserving.”

Karen Piassick began exploring the arts as a young girl, when she took a pottery class at the Butler Institute of American Art in her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. “I fell in love with the galleries, just walking through them,” she recalled. As a teen, she volunteered for the local symphony as a way to attend concerts. Today, she is still moved by the communal experience of a live performance. “Music just brings everybody together,” she said. “It’s a healing process, like going to Temple.”

In Birmingham, the Piassicks have been leaders and generous benefactors of a long list of organizations that enrich life in the city. Karen serves on the boards of Alys Stephens Center and Alabama Symphony Orchestra, as well as the grants committee of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. Joel is Finance Chair for the Birmingham Museum of Art board and was Fund Development Vice President for CJFS. Together they served as Chairs of the Birmingham Jewish Federation Annual Campaign and they’re both on the board of the Rabbi Grafman Endowment Fund for Temple Emanu-El, and Joel has served on the Temple board. 

Look around, and you’ll find that Karen has been president of the Atlanta International Tennis Association, founded the Georgia Women Flyfishers and chaired the Chevra Kadisha, the burial society at Atlanta’s Ahavath Achim synagogue.  They both serve on the museum board in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where they also own a home.

 “Karen and I want to support not just programs that we care about but ones where we can make a difference,” Joel said. “In the arts, the government’s not doing as much as it could, so it’s important for people to step up.” Asked about their passion for CJFS, which supports independence and enriched quality of life for older adults, Karen and Joel spoke about the hard decisions we all face as we age. “CJFS provides the expertise, services and guidance that help people stay in their own home, and we think that’s so important,” Joel said. “We’re fortunate because we know we’ll have the financial resources to stay in our home,” Karen added. “Through CJFS, we can help offer that option to people who don’t have as many resources … nobody wants to be uprooted.”

If you would like to honor Karen and Joel AND support CJFS by becoming a sponsor for this year's Hands Up Together event, please contact Elaine Witt at elaine@cjfsbham.org or 205.879.3438