West Hempstead Jewish Community Center elects first woman president

Janna Gabel cites community involvement as top priority


Janna Gabel, a resident of Franklin Square for 31 years and a member of the Jewish Community Center of West Hempstead since 1981, has become the center’s first female president.

Gabel, 54, was elected president at a board meeting on June 4, and her term began on July 1. She moves up from first vice president — which she became a year ago — and replaces Richie Selzer as president.

“It was a natural progression, in a sense,” Gabel told the Herald, “because being first vice president meant I was really next in line for president.”

Gabel explained that before she was first vice president, she had been president of the Sisterhood, an organization for women within the center, for 10 years. “There came a point when the opportunity [for first vice president] was available,” she said, “and I decided I just had to go for it.”

Asked how she feels about being the center’s first woman president, Gabel explained that she has focused more on the responsibilities at hand. “Frankly, I’m trying not to pay too much attention to it,” she said. “I just want to do the best I can in the job. I hope it means that they have confidence in me as the best person for the job, and not just as the best female for the job.

“I don’t want to pay attention to male versus female — it shouldn’t matter,” she added. “The first vice president is also a woman, Leah Freeberg, and so is the second vice president, Fran Welner.”

Gabel is married to Lawrence Gabel, 56, who was president of the community center from 2006 to 2008, and they have two children, Shari, 27, and Jeffrey, 23, who live in Boston.

Janna grew up in Queens, graduated from Bayside High School in 1974 and went on to Adelphi University, where she earned a degree in foreign language studies, focusing on French and Spanish, and minored in secondary education.

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