David Harris, Hank Schneider, Anita Schneider and Danielle Minson stand behind the Schneider Legacy Garden’s engraved bench

Courtesy of Karen Zanger
David Harris, Hank Schneider, Anita Schneider and Danielle Minson stand behind the Schneider Legacy Garden’s engraved bench

Submitted by Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati

Fifteen years after the creation and initial funding of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati (JCGC), which now serves as a national model for cemetery management, the organization is launching a community-wide capital gifts campaign this month. Hank and Anita Schneider built a solid foundation for the drive with their lead gift of $1 million, called “transformational” by the campaign’s organizers. Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati have quietly made significant gifts, as have several others in our community.  

The effort entitled “Preserve. Honor. Sustain. The Campaign for Jewish Cemeteries of Cincinnati” now invites every member of Cincinnati’s Jewish community to join in the sacred work by making a gift. All funds raised toward the $5 million goal will be placed into the Board-restricted Capital Campaign Preservation Fund of JCGC, and used to maintain and preserve the organization’s 25 area cemeteries — their 35,000 graves, historic structures, grounds, and infrastructure — for generations to come. 

On Sunday, April 30, dozens gathered at Montgomery’s United Jewish Cemetery to dedicate the Anita and Hank Schneider Legacy Garden and celebrate their inspiring leadership in committing to Jewish Cemeteries’ mission. Rabbi Moshe Smolkin, senior rabbi of Adath Israel Congregation, gave the d’var torah, as four generations of the Schneider family and about 50 guests listened. Then a parade of community leaders took turns speaking about the Schneiders’ generosity and Jewish Cemeteries’ work.  

Brian Jaffee, Executive Director of the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, retold how even before receiving proceeds from the sale of Jewish Hospital, it was clear back in 2008 that funding JCGC’s initial endowment felt absolutely correct. 

Danielle V. Minson, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, which is working side-by side with JCGC on this campaign, told of her organization’s commitment to helping Jewish Cemeteries’ meet its financial needs to do its preservation work. Collaboration like this grows naturally from Federation’s ‘Together We Can Do Almost Anything’ ethos.  “We do hope to provide annual support ongoing, because we do believe this is a communal responsibility.” Minson cited JCGC’s leadership role in last year’s Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial, and concluded, “Hank and Anita, your gift is beautiful as we launch this campaign!” 

Finally, Hank and Anita themselves told the story of what inspired them to do such tzedakah. 

Speaking beside the little meditation garden that now commemorates their lead gift, Hank got laughs telling about the day in January when he had just discovered, from then-executive director David Harris, exactly what Jewish Cemeteries is and does. He was excited about all the sacred spaces, history, and memories JCGC is charged to honor and preserve — and he understood how burial fees alone, even with endowment earnings added, cannot now cover the cost of maintaining all 25 widely-dispersed burial grounds. Hank immediately stepped into the hall and called Anita, declaring he wanted them to make a “significant gift.” As is Anita’s approach to most things, she suggested he come home and start a thoughtful dialogue about this new opportunity. In the end, their commitment significantly exceeded Hank’s initial target number.

Anita commanded the crowd’s attention with her concluding remarks.  She praised Jewish Cemeteries’ leadership, and then offered a moving rationale for gifting tzedakah, as they had, to Jewish Cemeteries. Her belief is, “Being born is beyond our control, but how we live is not. Only our legacy is left behind.” These words are engraved on the bench that crowns the garden honoring Anita and Hank Schneider’s gift.