My #JewishCleveland: Rick Gross
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We have a sense of belonging here in Cleveland, at Federation, and around the world.
I grew up in #JewishCleveland. I used to go to JCC dances as a teenager, I worked at Camp Wise. I developed this strong Jewish connection. I’m still friends with my friends from when I was younger. However, I’m the only one who entered the military.
As an officer in the Navy, I was given a chance early on to lead and hone in on my leadership skills. I was on the first Navy ship to arrive in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. We were there for about two months as part of the relief efforts. We helped rescue people from their houses; we fed them, we clothed them. We went in and made a difference.
I also was in Japan two days after the Tōhoku tsunami devastated the country in 2011, managing the US response to the disaster. This mission, however, was on a different level - we were on foreign soil. We couldn’t overstep our bounds; this was about diagnosing their needs and establishing priorities.
Being thrown into difficult situations and having to figure them out has helped lend itself to projects I’m working on at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Overseas Connection Committee (OCC). We’re listening to the leadership in Cleveland’s sister cities - St. Petersburg, Russia and Beit Shean, Israel. We’re identifying the needs of the communities and doing what we can to assist.
Being a part of the IDF subcommittee at Federation, I’ve been able to apply my military leadership while working with a contingent of IDF soldiers involved at bases such as Havat Hashomer, where the Federation supports work with youth from at-risk backgrounds. We empower these young adults and enable them to gain tools throughout their time in the IDF to help them succeed in their civilian lives.
We have a sense of belonging here in Cleveland. We have a sense of belonging at the Federation, in Israel, Russia and other countries around the world. So giving back and helping out, it feels good. That is my #JewishCleveland.