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My Federation Story: When a Community Inspires
One of my first memorable Federation experiences was when I went on a young adult mission to Israel 11 years ago. I’d never been to Israel. I was hesitant to leave my children but something in me said “just go, it will be worth it.” And, it was! Israel was simply beautiful. It moved me.
I still remember, like yesterday, meeting Ethiopian-Israeli kids at one of the schools we visited. The Federation was helping the kids and their parents integrate into Israeli society through an initiative called Parents and Children Together (PACT). Some of them had just made aliyah. Their stories about their journey to Israel were beyond imaginable. And here they were now, in a new place, learning a new culture.
As a former middle school special education teacher working in inner city schools, I had seen the impact of poverty and displacement on young children. In Israel, these Ethiopian-Israeli kids– who were from a very similar background as my students– were getting a chance for new beginnings because of the Federation. It was remarkable.
That experience reminded me why I loved being a special education teacher in the first place. So, when I returned from Israel, I knew it was time for me get back to helping our community.
I was selected to participate in the Federation’s Mandel Symposium Leadership Program and became an active volunteer. I visited our local group homes, and saw first-hand how people with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses were being helped through Federation’s partner agency, JFSA. Every opportunity showed me Federation’s positive widespread impact and inspired me to do more.
When I was asked to chair “Chanukah in a Basket” – a program close to my heart, I happily accepted. Because of this effort, over 2,000 gifts were donated to Jewish Cleveland’s neediest kids and families during the holidays last year. I was so proud of what we could accomplish by working together.
Seeing how we, as community members, can help one another – whether educating kids in Israel or helping families in Cleveland – it’s really inspiring! And it is what inspires me to give back.