San Antonio’s Congregation Agudas Achim broke ground Sunday on a new youth center to provide a place for area teens to gather and socialize.

The Kavy Youth Center at Congregation Agudas Achim is named after Cary Kavy who died last year at age 59 from brain cancer.
The Kavy Youth Center at Congregation Agudas Achim is named after Cary Kavy who died last year from brain cancer. Credit: Courtesy / Law Offices of Dykema Cox Smith

The Kavy Youth Center is named in honor of Cary Kavy, who died last year at age 58. Kavy, a member of the Agudas Achim congregation, was a senior attorney with the law firm of Dykema Cox Smith at the time of her death.

“We want to serve the youth of our congregation and their friends,” Senior Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham said. “Our goal is to be known as the place in the Jewish community where teens want to come and socialize with other teens.”

Having a youth center as part of the synagogue is important for his congregation and critical to helping Jewish youth stay involved in their faith and its tradition, Abraham said. Congregation Agudas Achim has been a part of San Antonio for more than 120 years, and focusing on youth now insures the continuation of a vibrant congregation in the future.

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“There has been a lot of research written about Millennials being less involved in religion in general – and Judaism is no exception,” Abraham said. “However, what has been proven to buck that trend in Judaism is getting teenagers involved through youth groups, Jewish camps, and finding ways to involve teens directly in synagogue life.

“The Kavy Youth Center will create a place and an environment that gets teenagers excited to be Jewish beyond the [formal] learning and [will] allow them to interact with each other in different social situations,” Abraham added.

In addition to open space, meetings rooms, and a full kitchen, the center will include an area that offers group activities along with computer stations, air hockey, ping pong, pool, and foosball tables. That part of the center will be called “Mike’s Clubhouse,”named in honor of Kavy’s husband Jeff’s parents, Leanore and Mike Kavy.

A Legacy of Influence, Respect, Family, and Faith

Friends, professional colleagues, and family say Kavy was a respected attorney, a devoted mother and spouse, and an active participant in her Jewish community’s life and traditions.

“Cary was a brilliant, just brilliant, attorney,” said Deborah Williamson, a senior partner at Dykema Cox Smith. “She was the go-to expert in her field of community banking. Cary was a willing team member and a hard-working colleague, admired by all.”

Jane Bockus, another Dykema Cox Smith senior attorney, spoke admiringly of Kavy both as a valued colleague and a beloved friend. “Cary’s passing was a great loss personally and professionally,” Bockus said. “Cary was a life-long friend. We spent a lot of time together. Our families vacationed together. She was a superb attorney. I miss her very much – every day.

“The day Cary got the diagnosis of glioblastoma, she was told that it was inoperable and that there was a very small chance of survival, with less than a year to live,” Bockus said. “It is the single most aggressive type of brain cancer. We lost her in 10 months. She was an inspiration throughout the remaining time we had with her.”

Both Bockus and Williamson noted that Kavy was an exceptional teacher and mentor to young lawyers in the firm. “Our folks still talk about the impact that Cary had on their careers and how much they learned from her,” Williamson said.

“Cary loved life in every way,” said Jeff Kavy, Cary’s husband for the 30 years before her death. “She was fun, energetic, and open to every kind of adventure. Cary was 58 going on 45 before she became ill.”

Addressing the congregation at the ceremony Sunday, Jeff explained that having a youth center named for Cary was a perfect way to memorialize his wife and her love for Jewish traditions and the Jewish focus on family life.

“The idea of a youth center for Agudas Achim really started with my father, Mike,” Jeff told those present. “When my late father celebrated his 75th birthday he told people who wanted to give him gifts to donate to a fund for youth activities. This new center builds on that start.”

Jeff noted that with the arrival of the congregation’s young and energetic rabbi, there has been an influx of younger families with children. “The time is right for a youth center and to honor Cary is wonderful,” he said.

His late wife loved children and she valued all of the Jewish prayers, ceremonies, rituals, and traditions that supported and celebrated family life, Kavy added.

“Our children are Emily, who is 28, Hannah, 21, and William, who is now 15,” Kavy said. “Family was everything to Cary; her faith was inseparable from that and she drew inspiration from Judaism. Cary and I saw to it that our children were raised in our faith.

“My grandfather and father were both presidents of Agudas Achim. This congregation has been an important part of our family for generations,” Kavy said after the ceremony. “This youth center in Cary’s memory continues our commitment to the life of our Jewish community.”

“We are not here today to break ground for a building,” said Rhonda Gurinsky, the congregation’s president. “We as Jews have been a people for 5,000 years. Today we break ground for the future, for the next 5,000 years. Our youth are our future, and today is our commitment to that future.”

Rabbi Abraham noted that a permanent “Cary Kavy Youth Fund” has been established to provide a way for others to support activities for the youth of the congregation.

“I miss my mom a lot,”15-year-old William Kavy said. “She really helped me learn about my faith and encouraged me in my Bar Mitzvah studies. Having this place for us and our friends here at the synagogue would have made her really happy.”

Edward Speed

Edward Speed holds a Master of Arts in Systematic Theology from St. Mary's University. He reports on religion and spirituality for the Rivard Report.