While they can’t always offer the kind of wealth or seasoned wisdom that some of the older, more experienced community members can bring to a board or committee, today’s young professionals have the kind of energy, enthusiasm, creativity and time that make them perfect candidates for helping organizations become more innovative and in touch. From management and marketing professionals, to financial analysts, educators and health care consultants, there is an increasing pool of talented young people who are getting connected to the Cincinnati Jewish community through programs such as The Mayerson Foundation’s Access initiative for Jewish young professionals, and the Jewish Federation’s LEAD program, that prepare young people to take leadership positions within the Jewish community.
Tapping into this kind of young talent used to be a lot more difficult. However now it’s often just a matter of making a phone call. “With a database of Jewish young professionals nearly 1,000 strong it’s not difficult for us to find people who fit the profile of what many organizations are looking for,” explained Pam Saeks, director of Jewish Giving for the Mayerson Foundation. “We work hard to understand each organization’s expectations and then identify just the right person or persons who will not only bring a certain ability or expertise to the table, but who seem ready to move from simply participating in social events to deepening their connection through Jewish communal service,” she added. “From basketball coaches and youth group advisors, to focus group participants and committee/board members, we are asked to make referrals on a pretty regular basis. We are delighted to be able to play a role in helping to match these organizations with some great future leaders who might not have ever gotten on their radar screens otherwise!”
“Thanks to The Mayerson Foundation’s Access initiative, and the Young Adult Division (YAD) of the Jewish Federation, our community can sleep well at night knowing that some great future leaders are emerging,” said Barbara Miller, director of Planning and Allocations of the Jewish Federation. “Through referrals from both organizations, we have been fortunate to recruit some phenomenally talented young leaders to serve on our local allocations councils,” she explained. “Some work for major corporations such as Procter and Gamble and Children’s Hospital, and others come from fields such as social service, health care and education,” she added. “All are bright, young professionals who bring their current knowledge and expertise to the table when reviewing specific agency programs that are related to their fields. They are contributing so much to making Jewish Cincinnati a vibrant place to live.”
As part of the Jewish Federation’s allocation process, these young professionals are asked to take time out of their busy work and social lives to make site visits to various local programs funded by the Federation’s annual campaign. They not only evaluate and assess the programs being funded, but make keen observations and give tremendous feedback and suggestions on ways to improve programs that often impact the Jewish community’s most vulnerable populations.
According to Miller, their expertise in areas such as product development and evaluation has greatly enhanced and improved the allocations’ evaluation process. A team of young professionals, including Andrew Davis, Heather Kaplan, Jack Rubin and Jessica Goldberg are working on ways to improve assessment and evaluation tools and refine the current program evaluation system by applying the latest knowledge in technology, product evaluation and development to the process. Their goal is to insure that every program that is evaluated is impactful, cost effective, and meets the needs of the target audience.
While involving these young professionals brings a significant benefit to the organizations, their participation reaps just as many personal rewards, including the chance to give back at a high level, network with others and gain valuable leadership experience. One such person is Andrew Davis, a Cincinnati newcomer who has an MBA from Cornell University and is a Senior Associate at River Cities Capital Funds. “Through my involvement with Access, I met Pam Saeks who introduced me to Barbara Miller at the Jewish Federation. Now as a member of the allocations committee, I’ve been able to apply some of my professional experience to my new role. Access helped open the door that enabled me to discover the broader activities available throughout Cincinnati’s Jewish ecosystem for community engagement and service.”
Although Access and YAD make many referrals of this kind to organizations, they also facilitate important connections by introducing young professionals to the various organizations in the Jewish community. “Through partnering with ACTout, a volunteer initiative of Access and the Jewish Federation, on a meaningful Holocaust awareness and remembrance project called Light the Spark last spring, several young Jewish adults have become involved in the work of The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education,” explained Sarah Weiss, CHHE’s executive director.“This helped us connect with this demographic which will insure that our efforts continue,” she added. “Bree Rosen, one of the Light the Spark participants, is now one of CHHE’s newest board members. From exposing young adults to our work and helping to provide us with valuable volunteers, Access and YAD are enormous assets to our young adults as well as to our community agencies. I look forward to continued partnerships that create gateways for young adult involvement in our Jewish community.”
Sometimes, it’s not just staff referrals or being exposed to an organization that is responsible for facilitating a connection between young professionals and organizations, sometimes the best matches are made over a glass of wine, on a volleyball court, at a ‘70s disco party, or at any number of the 50+ events that Access hosts for this demographic throughout the year. Often it’s through the connections the young professionals make with one another at these events that lead to greater involvement in the community. “We know the value that comes from providing networking opportunities of this kind,” said Saeks. “In addition to meeting friends and potential life partners, giving Jewish young professionals the chance to socialize with one another opens the door to lots of other important possibilities.”
“Access was my first introduction to Jewish life in Cincinnati. I started coming to Access programs the week after I moved here,” said Jamie Dalin, a recent transplant from St. Louis via the University of Illinois. “Since my involvement with Access, I have been able to build a foundation for myself in Jewish life. I learned more about LEAD and now am a member of this year’s LEAD class. I was also approached to get involved in BBYO, and am now one of the girls’ advisors. I have also been given an introduction to synagogues within the area thanks to the High Holiday tickets that Access provides. Access offers a lot of ways for Jewish young professionals, both new and native to Cincinnati, to get involved in the community!”
Todd Charna, a Miami University graduate said, “I have always been involved in the social and cultural aspects of the Jewish community, through BBYO in high school, and AEPi and Hillel in college. When I moved to Cincinnati, it was really cool to find Access, an organization devoted to young Jewish adults looking to get to know each other. It was through my association with someone at an Access event that I learned of an opening as a volunteer BBYO advisor and jumped at the opportunity to give back to the next wave of future Jewish young adults.”
From helping Children’s Hospital recruit top young Jewish talent and welcome 20 and 30 something doctors visiting from Israel, to exposing constituents to many important organizations such as Crayons to Computers and the Freestore Foodbank, Access and YAD have helped make a difference in the broader community as well. “I had spent very little time in Over-the Rhine growing up and had never heard of the Peaslee Neighborhood Center prior to attending an ACTout event in 2008,” explained Ed Kuresman, a Financial Analyst with Madison Wealth Management. “The event introduced me to an amazing organization that serves a critical need in the community. To say the least, I was deeply inspired and have served as treasurer of the board ever since. It is unlikely that I would have crossed paths with Peaslee had it not been for ACTout.”