When Lane Schlessel retired in 2013 after 30 years of service to BBYO – an international Jewish youth movement based in Washington, D.C., he said it seemed like a natural transition for him to become executive director of the Ohio chapter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
“When I learned of all the programs FIDF offers for the education and well-being of Israeli soldiers, it was a way for me to follow my passion for Israel,” he said. “I feel as though I’m serving the soldiers while they are serving Israel.”
During the past year, under Schlessel’s leadership, FIDF’s Ohio chapter has been able to increase involvement in and raise awareness of the nonprofit organization not only in Greater Cleveland, but throughout Ohio as well.
“We have been able to change the face of the organization,” he said. “I think everyone should be educated on what we do: the FIDF mission is the soldiers protect Israel, and we protect the soldiers.”
On Jan. 26, Schlessel lost a close friend when Todd Kay, senior regional director of the Ohio Northern Region of BBYO, died suddenly at age 37. In March, BBYO asked Schlessel to step in as a volunteer, part-time leader for the region on an interim basis, and he gladly did so until a replacement for Kay was named in July.
“I helped BBYO through probably the most difficult time it has had,” he said. “I wanted to make sure the kids in Northeast Ohio were still able to have the experience of what Todd would have wanted them to have.”
Schlessel added the support of his wife, Marla, helps make his success possible.
“She is my chief of staff,” he said. “Together we make it happen.”
At a Glance
As a professional: Friends of the Israel Defense Forces
Children: Shawn; stepsons Ethan Hirsh and Adam Hirsh
Synagogue: Solon Chabad
In the community: Shabbos Project Cleveland
Noteworthy: Lane is the vice mayor of the city of Lyndhurst.