Two-Way Street

Tags: Federation, legacy, Philanthropy

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Making a Long-Term Difference to Strengthen Federation's Community Connections

Jill Miller Zimon grew up in Connecticut, and the town where she lived for the first 12 years of her life had just a handful of other Jewish families. Although she was in the minority, Jill always felt proud of her identity as a Jewish person. She had a strong Jewish upbringing and attended Sunday School, where she learned the lesson of tzedakah – keeping what you need and giving away the rest. She observed her parents’ generosity, such as how they supported family members, even if it was a challenge, and gave back to causes that were meaningful to them, like HIAS (formerly Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), which helped Jill’s grandfather when he came to the US as a stowaway from Poland.

As an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, she encountered fellow students who had never met a Jewish person before. Upon graduation from college, Jill chose to deepen her own understanding of her Jewish identity and moved to Israel for a year.

After a year in Israel, Jill moved to Cleveland to complete her academic pursuits. After earning a law degree from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Law and a master’s degree in social science administration from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at CWRU, Jill began her career at Bellefaire JCB. She also became active in local politics through various citizen committees and was elected to the Pepper Pike City Council in 2009.

Jill actively engaged in both the Jewish and general communities. Jill was selected to be in the first cohort of the Marcus Leadership Program at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation. A few years later, she began her involvement with American Jewish Committee (AJC), where she ultimately served as the president of the Cleveland chapter. And she became a member and eventually a vice chair of the Federation’s Community Relations Committee (CRC). Jill served as the first co-chair of the subcommittee dedicated to improving Jewish Cleveland’s relationship with the Black community. During this time, the CRC participated in its first racial equity training, which convinced Jill that the CRC could most effectively serve its mission by adopting a partnership mindset with other local communities.

Jill came up with the idea of creating a permanent endowment fund to continue this work and asked her mother, Barbara (Bobbi) Miller, to join her. Bobbi enthusiastically shared, “I thought this was a great idea and wanted to be a part of it.”

In 2017, Jill and Bobbi worked with Federation staff to create the Miller Zimon Endowment Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, ensuring that there would always be support for diversity and cultural competency programming. To date, this endowment has helped to fund cultural competency trainings, lectures, and programs such as understanding personal bias training, a tour and discussion of the Undesign the Redline exhibit, a visit to the Cleveland History Center for a tour of The Soul of Philanthropy exhibit, a Zoom discussion about the digital divide, and a conversation about honesty in education and critical race theory with a professor from The Ohio State University. CRC Managing Director Aviva Roland shared, “Jill and Bobbi’s generosity has been invaluable to moving the work of our Community Relations Committee forward in a way that brings a deeper level of understanding to our board members, and we are so grateful to the both of them.”

Jill explained what creating the fund means to her, “As a Jewish person, I felt enriched anytime I was exposed to and could learn about the non-Jewish community around us.” She believes this investment will help enable the CRC and our community to have sincere, meaningful, and authentic relationships throughout Northeast Ohio. Thanks to their generosity, the Miller Zimon Endowment Fund will continue to strengthen and deepen relationships between the Jewish and general communities for years to come.

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