Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) announces the retirement of Alayne Lowenberger, who directed the Jewish Scholarship Service (JSS) for more than 28 years. JSS is a program administered by JFCS on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
“Many members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community today can proudly say that college was made more affordable for them and their family as a result of Alayne’s work with JSS,” said Jordan Golin, JFCS President and CEO.
JSS is the country’s largest scholarship program for Jewish students. Over the past 28 years JSS has helped between 3,000 and 4,000 students with need-based scholarships for college and graduate school. JSS consists of dozens of private funds that were created to help address the high cost of college.
Over the years, JSS has been asked by various Jewish organizations and foundations — including those established through National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Women International, and family foundations held by the Jewish Federation and the Pittsburgh Foundation — to manage distribution of their scholarship funds. JSS assumes the workload involved in reviewing applications and awarding scholarships to eligible students.
Before JSS was created in 1966 under the name Central Scholarship and Loan Referral Service, Jewish students often had to apply to multiple community sources to secure sufficient scholarship funding. JSS simplifies the process for students – with just one application they have access to multiple scholarship programs.
Because JSS is an established entity in the Jewish community, students and parents know that the scholarship program is the place to turn for assistance, which leads to funds being fully utilized to benefit students. An advisory committee composed of community lay leaders works with JSS staff to award the scholarships.
Lowenberger, who is both a social worker and an attorney, held a variety of jobs for Pittsburgh nonprofit organizations before assuming her role at JSS in 1994. For her, the most meaningful part of the job was her interactions with students.
“I watch them grow from high school into young adults,” she said. “We get to help them on the road to their careers. It’s a wonderful thing. With adult students, we help them change careers and have a chance to better support their families. It’s so fulfilling to see what a difference you can make.”
In exchange for Jewish community support, JSS encourages students to maintain a Jewish connection on campus and in their post-college lives. Lowenberger said she periodically recognizes the names of former awardees in The Jewish Chronicle as they have gone on to become community leaders.
“It is so gratifying to know in some small way we helped them,” she said.
Dana Himmel worked with Lowenberger for many years as the administrative assistant of JSS, and stepped into the role of Scholarship Coordinator when Lowenberger retired at the end of September. She credits Lowenberger with transitioning the application from a paper process to one that is online, which makes it easier for students to apply.
“The students were always her first priority,” said Himmel. “Alayne did whatever it took to get a student the help they needed. While most scholarship programs weed out applicants, Alayne was the exact opposite, trying to get all students that qualified to apply and receive awards.”
In recent years, JSS became one of the programs included within JFunds, an initiative to increase access to financial aid within the Jewish community, which Lowenberger says is very meaningful.
“Working with the other Jewish organizations has been an amazing experience,” she said.
Under Himmel, JSS’s work will continue, but Lowenberger’s contributions over nearly three decades will be missed.
“We will miss Alayne’s passion and dedication for our community’s college students, her painstaking attention to detail, and her incredibly warm heart,” said Golin. “We wish Alayne all the best in this next phase of her life.”
By Susan Jablow, JFCS Grand Coordinator