Federation Inducted Into JDC Wohl Society for Philanthropy
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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News
As the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Israel at 75 mission began its weeklong stay in Israel, the delegation had the opportunity to attend an April 19 induction ceremony at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Center’s Jerusalem campus.
The Federation was inducted into the JDC Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Society, which recognizes individuals and foundations that have achieved the highest level of philanthropic support for JDC, contributing more than $18 million since the society was established in 2015. Members of the Wohl Society are commemorated in the Wohl Garden at JDC’s Jerusalem campus, according to the JDC’s website.
“This is just a recognition of the strong and deep partnership, a significant piece of which are the contributions from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, but I would say that equally significant is the thought partnership and encouragement provided over the years,” Erika Rudin-Luria, Federation president, told the Cleveland Jewish News April 27. “The JDC forgets no one. They are our humanitarian overseas partner.”
She said the Federation has been involved with the JDC since its beginning as it has cared for older adults throughout the former Soviet Union, and even now during the war in Ukraine to provide food and heat for people.
“Whatever the humanitarian need is, the Joint is there, and we’re there through our partnership with the Joint,” she said. “I always say that if we cared about someone yesterday, we care about them today, and we’ll care about them tomorrow. Our work with the JDC is one of our most important expressions of that.”
At the induction ceremony, the delegation heard from Stefan Oscar, executive director for the JDC’s former Soviet Union operation, Mindee Fredman, director of strategic partnerships for JDC, and Dan Zelman, Federation board chair, as they spoke of the partnership and the work taking place.
“Different people have been involved in different aspects of the work. Many people’s lives have been touched by the Joint – their great-grandparents or grandparents when they were in Europe,” Rudin-Luria said. “And so, I think the ceremony was meaningful to everyone that attended.”
As the Federation celebrates Israel’s 75th independence day, it took a delegation of 75 Clevelanders on a mission April 17 through April 26 to Israel, exploring the Jewish state’s past, present and future, meeting with Israel’s top experts, political leaders and thinkers, diving into the arts and cultural scene and more.
Among those 75 Clevelanders was Greg Kestin who jumped at the opportunity to not only travel to Israel for the first time, but during a significant moment in history as the Jewish state celebrates its 75th birthday.
From hearing the sirens and watching as everyone took a collective moment of silence on Yom Hazikaron, to celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut with Jewish federations from across the United States, he said the trip had every emotion, but when it comes down to what was most impactful, it was the people he met.
“The people that we got to meet from all over the world, that came from harrowing circumstances oftentimes, to be in Israel was something that I will never forget,” Kestin, a member of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood and resident of Shaker Heights, told the CJN May 2.
The delegation visited Beit Alfa, an absorption center for Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, Cleveland’s sister city of Beit Shean, The Jewish Agency for Israel and ORT’s Kfar Silver Youth Village, among other places. While Kestin broke away to meet for the first time some of his family members that lives in Israel, some of the delegation attended the judicial reform demonstrations in Tel Aviv.
“It was fascinating to be in Israel on this independence day where essentially the independence itself and its exiting government is being threatened,” Kestin said. “So, I saw a strong society I would say that feels empowered to do all they can to ensure another 75 years of independence.”
He also saw the impact of the Federation through its support of its partners like the JDC and Jewish Agency.
“That was very clear from the partners and the leadership of the JDC, of the Jewish Agency, and more ... that Cleveland, Ohio and it’s Jewish Federation has had an enormous impact on its success,” he said.