Shelly Friedman began volunteering at the now-closed Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland when her children were young, as a once-a-week way to get out of the house and serve the community. 

“I never really wanted to hold office or whatever, just do something nice for someone else,” said Friedman. 

However, since retiring, Friedman created somewhat of a second career for herself through volunteering. She attributes her success in making a difference to not only growing up with parents who taught her tikkun olam, but also to being willing to take on unpopular tasks. She retold the example of working as a dressing room chair at the National Council of Jewish Women’s Designer Dress Days, an annual fundraiser, where her job was to reorganize clothes after people try them on. 

“No one wanted to do it because you never get to be outside with everybody,” she said. “I have a lot of fun talking to the people buying the clothes and all of a sudden have become a fashion maven … I don’t mind it, I really enjoy it.” 

Friedman said that her favorite project she is involved with is Judaic outreach, also through NCJW. Cooking and hosting lunch for chronically, mentally ill patients at Jewish Family Service Association several times a year, she said the program helps patients, especially those who no longer have family, enjoy Jewish traditions they previously were not able to celebrate.

“I’ve been doing it 11 years, so I see the difference from even when I started to now of how they enjoy being Jewish,” she said. 

As far as being a Difference Maker, Friedman is humble.

“It could have been anybody, I’m just a hard worker,” she said. “I think this shows other people that you don’t have to be a president of something to be recognized.”

– Amanda Koehn

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