09/02/2014

My Federation Story: Fulfillment through Philanthropy

Tags: Women, Blog, Volunteer

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Stephanie Wieder

by Stephanie Wieder

Growing up in Columbus, my family was not nearly as involved in our Jewish community as I am today. Since moving to Cleveland, my husband Adam and I have made Judaism and philanthropy an integral part of our lives. I feel very fortunate to be able to donate, not only monetarily, but also of my time to our Jewish community – a strong passion of mine. I recently concluded my term as WPI’s Women 2 Women co-chair.  Women 2 Women serves as an engaging entry point for women seeking Federation involvement and educational, philanthropic, and social opportunities. It was an honor to lead such impactful work. One story, which has left an impression on my neshama (soul), took place at a Women 2 Women event just over a year ago.

While gathering for a social event, a group of 40 women were given an opportunity to perform a great mitzvah as well. We were informed of Jewish Family Service Association’s (JFSA) roles in our community, including the needs of the Hebrew Shelter Home. Together, we donated hundreds of household items and toiletries to women and children living in the home. Providing some assistance to those forced into emergency temporary housing was such a meaningful experience. What’s even more meaningful, though, is the impact we made that very evening. Through the brief presentation on JFSA’s Hebrew Shelter Home, we were able to help an individual, unaware of this service, who was currently facing a dangerous situation in her own home. It is because of our Federation and its programming that this woman is now in a safe environment. The Federation changes lives every day, not only locally, but also in Israel and 70 countries around the world.

Thanks to that life-changing experience at a Women 2 Women event, I have extended my philanthropic work to JFSA. A large part of my efforts is with JFSA’s campership program, which enables non-affiliated Jewish children to attend Jewish sleepaway camp, not only by providing the finances to attend camp through a foundation donor, but by preparing them for the experience by purchasing basic needs such as bedding, towels, and camping supplies. Another service provided to our youth community that I have taken interest in is Know Abuse™, a program that teaches teens how abuse of power in a relationship (both dating and friendship) diminishes dignity, self-esteem, and spirit. JFSA is an organization that I take pride in being a beneficiary of the Federation, as it provides to families in need, both physically and emotionally.

Adam and I instill volunteerism and philanthropy in our family every day, passing down the traditions we have built to our three children, Daphna, Alyssa, and Nathan, who attend Fuchs Mizrachi School. Our commitment to the community is reflective in our involvement. Besides the local missions we have been a part of, Adam and I led a Young Leadership mission to Israel in the summer of 2011 where we visited agencies that benefit from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Among the mission participants, there were a few young adults for whom this was their first visit to Israel and experiencing this with them was inspirational for me.

I have come to appreciate that in order to have a passion to support something, it begins with knowing how it affects you. Each year my family and I make calls at Super Sunday, volunteer at the YLDay of Caring, support 8th Night of Chanukah by donating tzedakah in place of receiving a Chanukah present, and collect winter necessities for Operation Warm Up to help others stay warm. 

In my new position on Federation’s Jewish Volunteer Network (JVN) Task Force, I hope to facilitate more volunteer opportunities for teens, as well as continue to create family-friendly ways to give back to our community. This work provides me much fulfillment. More so, it is fitting toward my favorite Federation motto, “Me+You=Us” because really, we are Stronger Together.

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