The complimentary forces of nature and nurture have fostered in J. David Heller a deep and longstanding commitment to the Jewish community locally, nationally and internationally. With his father, William Heller, as a role model and primary influence, David grew to find his own place as a leader, but he also is driven by a charitable inclination to extend himself where he can make a difference.
A recent example manifests itself with David feeling compelled to address needs created by the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement on college campuses. He hosted in his backyard a presentation by college students – town-hall style – who addressed a group of 70 local high school students, informing them of the resources available at organizations such as Hillel, Chabad or Buckeyes for Israel to counter messages by campus opposition factions. It was very well received.
“Rather than adults, it was students talking to students. It was genuine and comfortable,” he said.
His appointment by President George W. Bush in 2009 to a five year term on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, the governing board for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, allowed him to lend his voice to actions and decisions that have considerable impact.
His adherence to tikkun olam informs his work, driving him “to do a little piece.” He invokes the wisdom of the ancient sage Rabbi Tarfon when he repeats the rabbi’s well-known interpretation: “It’s not your responsibility to finish the work, and you are not free to desist from it either.”
Heller hopes that by being recognized as one who makes a difference, others will be encouraged to find some of the many ways they can become involved with the community, too.
At a Glance
As a professional: Principal at NRP Group
Children: Lindsey, 19; Ben, 17; Ellie, 14; Sam, 12
Synagogue: Park Synagogue
In the community: Past chairman of Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Campaign for Jewish Needs, incoming chair of the Cleveland AIPAC chapter, Jewish Community Housing, Mount Sinai Health Care Foundation, United Way of Cleveland, Gross Schechter Day School, Campaign for Affordable Housing, editorial advisory board of Affordable Housing Finance magazine
Noteworthy: The Vue apartment complex aims to “mimic a 24/7 lifestyle in a non-24/7 city,” Heller once said.