Zelman Drives Campaign with Passion
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Article Reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.
By Ed Wittenberg
Dan Zelman considers himself fortunate to have what he believes is one of the best volunteer roles in the Cleveland Jewish community. Zelman, of Moreland Hills, is completing his second year as general chair of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Campaign for Jewish Needs. He will be honored as outgoing chair at the Campaign Closing Celebration at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights.
“I’ve really enjoyed the role,” Zelman said in an interview Dec. 15. “I’ve been privileged to work with such an outstanding group of people – an amazing staff, volunteers, lay leaders and leaders at all the (local Jewish) agencies – and I also have gotten to meet lots of leaders at the agencies we support throughout the world.
“I knew this was a strong Jewish community when I accepted this position, and that has just been reinforced throughout my tenure as chair of the campaign. We just have so many people who are committed to the causes that Federation supports and are willing to work hard on Federation’s behalf.”
Last year under Zelman’s leadership, the campaign raised more than $30.3 million, marking the first time in seven years it had surpassed the $30 million mark. Zelman said he was optimistic that the amount raised in the 2016 campaign – to be announced at the Dec. 16 event – would exceed last year’s total.
“The more we raise, the more people we can help,” he said. “Unfortunately, even with an outstanding campaign such as we have in Cleveland, we can’t satisfy all the needs that exist in the community and throughout the Jewish world.
“So surpassing $30 million (last year) was great. It enabled us to satisfy more of the needs than we could the year before, and hopefully this year, we’ll even do a little bit better.”
“Stronger Together” has been the campaign’s tagline during Zelman’s two years as chair, and Zelman said it has proven to be true.
“The whole community, no matter what denomination or what part of town they live in, has really come together over these couple years and supported the cause and worked hard to generate as much resources as we can toward the cause that we support,” he said.
The Cleveland Jewish community is known as one of the most committed in the United States when it comes to fundraising, Zelman said.
“I don’t really know what to attribute it to, except that we have some families here that have been longtime Clevelanders and have led by example by committing large amounts of time and resources to this campaign,” he said. “So I do think that it’s just a culture here in town.
“We have a longtime president of the Federation in Steve Hoffman, and I think that helps the stability and the relationships within the community. I think this community is just way closer knit than a lot of other Jewish communities in the United States, and it shows in the funds that we’re able to raise and the causes we’re able to support.”
In his role as campaign chair, Zelman has had the opportunity to travel overseas to see many of the Federation’s programs in action throughout the world. Dollars raised from the campaign help feed the hungry, care for the elderly, educate youth and ensure a Jewish future in Greater Cleveland, Israel and 70 countries around the world.
“This job has taken me to Israel numerous times, and it’s taken me to Russia, to Germany, to France, to Greece, and a few other places where I’ve been able to see some of the programs we support here in Cleveland,” he said. “There hasn’t been one single program that I’ve looked at and said, ‘Well, we shouldn’t do that.’
“Every one of them is helping people and is really critical to people’s existence in those areas. It just gives you a lot of satisfaction to see what we do put into motion and to meet some of the people that we’re helping throughout the world.”
Adler next chair
David Adler, one of nine vice chairs of the 2016 campaign, has been chosen to replace Zelman as general campaign chair for the next two years. Adler lives in Pepper Pike.
“The campaign chair is usually picked about six months in advance (of the campaign closing), so that person can learn the campaign from the prior leadership team,” Zelman said. “The goal is once this campaign is over, and the next one starts, David Adler will hit the ground running, and I’m very confident he’ll do a great job.”
Zelman said he would remain involved in the campaign as an adviser next year, as is the custom of campaign chair.
“All of us maintain a significant number of prospects who we solicit each year because we develop relationships throughout the years that make sense to keep intact,” he said. “So I will do that, and I will be available if David needs help.”
Zelman, 59, said he has been involved with the Campaign for Jewish Needs since he was 22. He is CEO of Twinsburg-based Paro Services Corp., which owns chemical businesses, the largest of which is Royal Chemical Co., a manufacturer of cleaning products.
Zelman serves on the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage board of trustees and on the boards of directors of Montefiore and University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center.
His oldest son, Andrew, is chair of the Federation’s Young Leadership Division.
Zelman and his wife, Ellen, have been members of Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike since they were married 36 years ago. They have two other adult children: a son, Brett, and a daughter, Kara.