02/20/2017

My #JewishCleveland: Natalie Winer

Tags: Federation, Blog, Young Adult, Overseas, Israel

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My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic. I went to Catholic school from Pre-K through 12th grade. We hardly ever went to synagogue growing up. However, I started attending Shabbat services with my dad during high school and began to feel an extra sense of fulfillment. I went to John Carroll University for college; Hillel was just starting on campus and I got involved in several Jewish activities. That’s also when I was introduced to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and was connected with the Young Leadership Division (YLD).

Then came the game changer: I decided to go on the Federation’s Cleveland Community Birthright trip to Israel with YLD. Stepping off the plane in Tel Aviv, I could feel this was going to be my moment in further discovering my Judaism.

One night for dinner, we traveled to Beit Shean, Cleveland’s sister city. The Federation set up a family to host our meal. This was no ordinary dinner. Walking in the house, the smells of Israeli food filled the air. We sat down to eat with the family and listened to them tell stories of their life in Israel and how Federation has helped Beit Shean. I realized they loved Jewish Cleveland as much as I did.

Natalie Winer (front right) explores Israel’s most remarkable tourist destinations with the Cleveland Community Birthright Trip.

When our ten days were over, I did not want to leave Israel. Returning home to Cleveland, I was so inspired by this trip, I knew I wanted to make Judaism and the Federation a bigger part of my life. I was accepted to the YLD board, which gave me a voice in the decisions affecting the future of Jewish Cleveland. I also became active with YLD’s leadership program, LEADS (Leadership Education Development Series), which has strengthened my professional development skills and allowed me to grow as a business owner.

I continue to learn about my Judaism, and grow as a person because of my experience in Israel. The Jewish Federation of Cleveland has given me so much, but most importantly Federation has given me a sense of who I am as a Jew.

Registration is now open for the Cleveland Community Summer Birthright Trip. For more information, contact Matt Newman at mnewman@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2880, or visit www.ClevelandBirthrightIsrael.com.

To learn more about all of our Israel travel experiences for young adults, contact Mirit Balkan at mbalkan@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2921. 


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